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Of the Church,


The Church of Christ in this world is the general congregation, or assembly, or the whole number of assemblies collectively, of those who (according to the derivation of the original word Ecclesia-the term church signifying, merely, of or belonging to the Lord) are called out and separated from the great body of mankind as the subjects of divine grace and special mercy : to all of whom are offered, and many of whom actually receive all the benefits of the redemption purchased by the sacrifice of the Son of God for the sins of the whole world, and also of the sanctification intended to be wrought by the influence of the Holy Spirit. In this Church the name of Christ is professed; the uncorrupted doctrines of the Gospel are taught; and the Sacraments ordained by Christ are administered according to his ordination.

§ 2. In the visible Church,-that Church which is seen and known to profess the fundamental principles of


Christianity, the Son of God, as its Ruler and Guide, empowers his people to work out their own salvation by the ministry of the Gospel, and the accompanying efficacy of the Spirit; and many believing and obedient members are in all ages thus led forward to eternal life : but many also are admitted and continue within the pale who either are or become hypocritical professors and unworthy members; for the wicked in this world will always be mingled with the good. It is a part only, therefore, of the visible church, of those who are nominally and by initiation Christians, that are lively members of the body of Christ, and as such predestinated to salvation: it is comparatively a few that are chosen out of the many that are called. Of these true Christians, whose perseverance in faith and holiness, foreseen by God only, shall entitle them through the merits of their Saviour to the promises of the Gospel, and the covenanted blessings of a future life;of such as these, who can only be judged of imperfectly by their external character and works, but cannot be certainly known to any human eyes, the invisible Church is formed,—that glorious Church, not having spot or wrinkle, or any such thing, but which is holy and without blemish.

§ 3. There is but one catholic, or universal, Church of Christ, which has existed from the beginning, and will continue to exist till the end of time, under various degrees of illumination and different dispensations,-composed of many branches situate in distant countries, of people of all nations and languages. As one body is composed of many members, so is the universal Church of many individual churches.

It is not confined to time or place; nor is it limited now as formerly to a few families or a single people; it now overspreads the civilized world, and is esta blished in every quarter of the globe.

Of this one universal Church a part is militant here on earth, fighting the good fight of faith, contending against the great enemy of man, exercised in that spiritual warfare, in which, through Christ, it shall be more than conqueror; another part is even now triumphant in heaven, where it consists of the elect angels, and spirits of just men made perfect; and no longer needs the outward forms and distinctions which are its signs and tokens here, being actually united to Christ its head, in the presence of God for


§ 4. The visible Church is denominated holy in this life by a figure of speech, putting that part over which the Son of God exercises an effective rule, and which is truly sanctified by the Spirit-that part which consists of faithful and lively members-for the whole. Those who are not holy, are dead members, and do not affect the general Character of the Church which is holy in itself, as being chosen by God; as being established and preserved for the dominion and glory of the Son, having been cleansed and purified by his blood; and as being sanctified by the Holy Ghost, who is the efficient cause of every grace which can now adorn its members, and serve as a preparation for a state of perfect holiness hereafter.

§ 5. In like manner all who are admitted into the Church, and remain in communion and outward fel

lowship with it, are to be regarded as members of the true Church; and are addressed generally in the Apostolical writings as saints, chosen, elect, and beloved; being actually sanctified, and made children of God at Baptism, though all do not retain the grace conferred upon them. Yet the phrase, the communion of saints may more especially refer to that spiritual and invisible union and fellowship which subsists between the sincere and faithful members of Christ's mystical body not only upon earth, but also between the inhabitants of earth and the inheritors of heaven. It may also be supposed to have regard to that act of communion, the celebration of the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper, which most immediately unites all worthy communicants with Christ their head, and in love and charity with each other.

§ 6. This one holy Catholic Church is also called the body, the family, the kingdom, of which Christ is the head. It is the spiritual body of which particular churches are integral parts; and individuals members. It is the family and household of God over which the Son, the heir of all things has pre-eminence and charge. It is the kingdom of God, or of heaven, in which all authority is derived from Christ as supreme governor and legislator; which is sustained and protected against all assaults of the devil, by the intercession and power of Christ,-directed by the ministry of the Gospel,—and preserved for the possession of future glory by the love and faithfulness of Him who purchased it with the price of his precious blood, and triumphed over sin and death, that he might endue it with holiness and immortality.

§7. That is a true Church, or constituent part of the Catholic Church of Christ, in which the same signs are observable, namely, consent in the uncorrupted doctrine of the Gospel with respect to fundamental matters, the right use of the Sacraments according to the ordinance of Christ,-and such a discipline with respect to ministration as is required by the Gospel. These are essential to the constitution of a true Church, and to its unity with the universal Church; but a perfect similarity or an inviolable rule, under different circumstances, with regard to rites and ceremonies which are imposed by human authority, is not required. Neither are they, individuals or churches, to be excluded from the Christian community, who may not be able from unavoidable circumstances, such as persecution or local remoteness, to participate in the sacraments, and benefit by the public ministry of the Gospel.

§8. A Church may err in minor points of doctrine and yet not affect its title to be considered a true Church; but if it deny the faith as it is in Jesus, or fall into extreme abominations, it ceases to be a part of that universal Church, which, as a whole, cannot err in fundamental doctrines, or utterly fall away.

§ 9. Every national Church has authority to decree or alter rites and ceremonies, so long as they are not inconsistent with the word of God, and tend to the fulfilment of the Apostolical precept that all things be done decently and in order. The Church has also power to decide controversies of faith by interpretation according to the Analogy of Scripture, of which the Church is constituted witness and keeper; but not to

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