1902 Encyclopedia > Church


CHURCH. All who call themselves Christians agree in admitting that in the New Testament (and also, though in a more shadowy and less distinct manner, in the Old Testament) there is to be found frequent mention of a corporate body known as the church,—sometimes spoken of more fully as the Church of God, or the Church of Christ. It is referred to by its divine Founder as about to be built upon a rock (Matthew xvi. 18). In the book of Acts it has become a living reality, including apostles, elders, and laity,—holding a council, and making decisions upon most points of doctrine and of practice (Acts xvi. 4-22). In the epistles it is spoken of in terms of great magnificence, akin to the glowing language of prophecy. Christ, in His glorified humanity, is recognized as its head; it is in turn His body, His fulness, and His spouse.
The exact ideas involved in the word church, the questions concerning its powers, its nature and essence and modes of governance and continuance, its relation to Holy Scripture, and its relation to the state—have all been fruitful matters of controversy. These questions have emerged in a marked manner during the controversy with the Gnostics, the controversy with the Novatians and the Donatists, and those arising out of the Reformation. Hence among the writings of the fathers, bearing upon the nature of the church, may be specially named those of St Irenaeus in opposition to the Gnostics, of St Cyprian against the Novatians, and of St Augustine against the Donatists. The relations of the church to the state became subjects of discussion directly Constantine had made
Christianity the religion of the empire. These relations are illustrated by the history of Arianism, Donatism, and Priscillianism, by the career of St Chrysostom, and by the fierce conflicts of the Middle Ages between Guelfs and Ghibellines—the former siding with the Pope, the latter with the emperors. The contest between Philip the Fair and Pope Boniface, and that of Philip Augustus of France and John of England against Pope Innocent III. turned upon the same great controversy, again and again renewed during the Middle Ages. Some of the most striking mediaeval illustrations of the conflict are to be found in the life of Occam, and in the Divina Commedia of Dante. The points in dispute have been keenly discussed by modern historians ;—those of the 18th century, as Hume, Henry, Mably, being strongly on the side of the state; those of the 19th, as Guizot, Voigt, Michelet, Palgrave, Arnold, Bridges, Mill, and even Macaulay, and, to some extent, Milman, more or less emphatically advocating the cause of the mediaeval church during at least a portion of the struggle.
The Reformation in great measure turned upon both sets of questions,—the relation of the church to the Scriptures and its relation to the state. Consequently, they occupy no small portion both of the controversial literature and of the political history of the 16th and 17th centuries. On the religious side they are illustrated by the lives and writings of Martin Luther, Calvin, Melanchthon, and the Continental Reformers generally, as well by those of Knox and of Cranmer in Britain, and of their Roman Catholic opponents, such as Ignatius Loyola, and in a later age by Cardinal Bellarmine and by Hooker, by Andrewes and others; and on the political side by such events as the Thirty Years' War, the Spanish Armada, the Revolution of 1688. The last two centuries have not witnessed any distinctively religious war. But these questions underlie the numerous " concordats " drawn up between the Church of Rome and various states in Europe and America, the entire history of Gallicanism and Jansenism, the Tractarian controversy commencing in England in 1833 A.D., and the contemporary discussion in Scotland, which ended in the Disruption of 1843 and the formation of the powerful and energetic body of Presbyterians, known as the Free Church. The disestablishment of the Anglican Church in Ireland raised cognate questions, and it is evident that disestablishment, already a fact in the United States, in France, in Ireland, and in some of the British colonies, may at any moment become a question of no slight political importance. Among more modern writers who have treated these questions may be named Bishop Warburton, De Maistre, the Rev. Sir W. Palmer, Rothe, Klee, the Abbe Mignet, Mr Gladstone/ Dr Arnold, and many more, especially the commentators on creeds and confessions, as Möhler, Bishop Burnet, Bishop Harold Browne.
It remains to mention a few of the more prominent views and definitions prevalent among leading bodies of Christians.
1. As regards the church triumphant there would probably be little or no controversy. The great bulk of Christians would acknowledge it as " the whole body of the glorified, consisting of the holy angels and of the spirits of the just made perfect who have been redeemed by the merits (whether foreseen or actually wrought) of the divine Head of the church, Jesus Christ, the Incarnate Son of God."
2. But concerning the church on earth, definitions vary considerably. In the first place there emerges the impor-tant question, whether it is a visible or an invisible body. This is not the place to discuss which is the view set forth in Holy Scripture,—that being of course the very point at issue. It must here suffice to say that the disciples of

Calvin (followed herein by a very large number, probably the majority, of purely Protestant communities) maintain that it is invisible; while the Lutherans, the Roman Catholics, the Oriental Christians, and the great bulk of the more famous Anglican divines (in accordance with the Anglican formularies) maintain it to be visible. This latter view is, it need hardly be said, the one all but universally adopted by the fathers and the schoolmen. In one passage, however, of his later writings, St Augustine employs an expression at variance with his usual tone, and favourable to the Calvmistic view, by calling the church " the society of the predestined."
3. The relations considered to exist between the visible church and Holy Scripture must necessarily be those of coordination, or of sub-ordination on one side or the other An impartial estimate of the Anglican formularies would probably be found to support that view of co-ordinate authority of Scripture and the church which is taken by a large body of her divines, such as Bishops Pearson, Bull, Kay, Dean Jackson, and others ; though many of her adherents would undoubtedly incline, more or less completely, to that more Protestant view, which subordinates the church to Scripture, a view held most strongly by those bodies whose confessions of faith (as, e.g., the Westminster Confession) seem to imply that the books of Scripture attest themselves as divine. In the Church of Rome there can be no question but that the church is placed above Holy Scripture ; for though Scripture proofs of doctrine are always, if possible, sought by her controversialists, and referred to in her symbolical standards (as, for instance, the Tridentine decrees), yet the traditions preserved in the church are spoken of as to be venerated not merely as comments on the meaning of Scripture, but as deserving equal honour and reverence with Scripture (Décret. Cone. Trident., sessio iv.) On the other hand, the Anglican formularies teach that Holy Scripture contains all things necessary to salvation (Art. vi.), though the church is described as the witness and keeper of Holy Writ and as having authority in controversies of faith (Art. xx. ). The school of Anglicanism represented by Field, Hammond, Pearson, Bull, and Bramhall regards a judgmentof thechurch universal, such as that of the Council of Nice against Arius, as " irrevocable, irreformable, never to be altered." (See Sir W. Palmer's Church of Christ, part iv. ch. iv.) The EasternChurch seems to place the relation of Holy Scripture to itself in almost the same position as this school of Anglicans, though it would perhaps lay somewhat stronger stress on the insufficiency of Scripture without the voice of the teaching and interpreting church. It may be remarked that in this, as in other matters, belief has from time to time been greatly influenced by the course of events. In the first age of Christianity, before the canon of the New Testament was formed, the church is almost everything (as Reuss and others have observed), and the Bible, which chiefly consisted of the Old Testament, was subordinate. By about 200 A.D., when the gospels were becoming better known, the relation between Scripture and the church appears in patristic writings much more like one of co-ordination. During the Middle Ages, as the church's political power increased, Holy Scripture became more and more subordinate, until we find Dante complaining of the way in which not merely creeds and fathers but canon law and the decretals are studied instead of the Gospel (Paradiso, ix. 133). The Reformation necessarily caused a reaction, built, as it was so largely, on new translations and on the circulation of the Bible ; and in the following century we find the successors of the Reformers laying more stress upon what is commonly called the verbal inspiration of the Scripture and its infallible authority than had been done for the most part by the
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fathers (except perhaps St. Augustine) or by the first Reformers, Luther and Calvin, and their contemporaries, who never seem to have sanctioned the famous dictum of Chillingworth, " The Bible, and the Bible only, is the religion of Protestants." Of late years the difficulties arising from science, philology, history, and criticism have tended to modify this view of the supremacy of Scripture. Not only in the unreformed communions and among Anglicans and Lutherans, but even in Calvinistic bodies, is this effect perceived. Thus we find an eminent Presbyterian divine, a minister of the Scottish Establishment, writing as early as 1848, " The living church is more than the dead Bible, for it is the Bible and something more" (Life of Dr Norman MacLeod). The comment made by Kant on the inconsistency of those Lutherans who virtually say " Go to the Bible, but do not find anything there except what we find" is well known (Streit der Facultaten).
4, Turning to the constitution and government of the church, it is singular that in none of the symbolical utterances of the leading Christian communities is there found such a definition of the church as would really include all that is bslieved by those respective bodies. Nor is it easy to supply the want by appeal to divines, though many have striven to set forth the " notes" of the true church (see, e.g., Klee, Dogmatik, and many others). Neither the Roman Catholic Tridentine decrees nor the Westminster Confession supply any definition, and the one given in the nineteenth of the Articles of the English Church leaves the questions at issue between Rome and the Reformers, between Episcopacy and Presbyterianism, entirely open. For all would claim to represent that " visible church of Christ" which is there described as " a congregation of faithful men, in the which the pure word of God is preached, and the sacraments be duly ministered according to Christ's ordinance in all those things that of necessity are requisite to the same."
Concerning the question of government there are four leading views. The first is, that no form of government was instituted by the divine Founder of the church or His apostles, that there was originally no distinction between clergy and laity, but that officers were in due time appointed as might happen in any human society, for the sake of order and convenience. This view, which is probably that of the majority of Protestants at the present time, has found a thoughtful, devout, and highly gifted exponent' in the historian Neander; while the difficulties of reconciling it with the New Testament are all set forth by two inde-pendent translators of his work, the Rev. J. H. Rose and Mr Morrison. A second view is, that a government was in such wise instituted as rightly to claim a jus divinum, that this government resides in presbyters, and is handed down by succession through the presbyterate. This view was main-tained by many foreign adherents of the Reformation, and in England by Richard Cartwright, the Puritan opponent of Hooker, and an entire school of his day. They appeal to history, especially that of the Alexandrian Church, and to the fathers, more especially to St Jerome. The third view resembles this in principle, but assigns the governance to a superior order, that of the bishops, and makes the succession pass through them. The Anglican communion acts upon this view, re-ordaining all ministers not episcopally ordained, but accepting Greek or Roman Catholic ordina-tion; and it has been defended by many of the writers of the High Church school, above named, to whom may be added Bishop Bilson, and the able Scottish controversialist Bishop Sage in his work against Gilbert Rule. (See also Bishop Cotterill's Genesis of the Church, and article BISHOP), This school lays great stress on the decisions of the oecumenical councils, of which it recognizes six or (according to Bishop Andrewes) seven before the division of East and West.

This view, though strongly supported by the Eastern churches as well as by an historical and living school of Anglicans, is undoubtedly open to the difficulty, acknow-ledged by Mr Gladstone and others, of making the church as a collective body remain silent for some thirteen centuries and still unable to speak. There remains the fourth, the Roman Catholic view, which subjects the entire episcopate to the bishop of Rome, and makes full communion with him of the essence of churchmanship. This view has been supported ever since the Middle Ages with immense zeal and learning by many able Catholic writers. Although a strong case against it has been made out from the fathers, especially the Eastern ones, and although the state of matters just before the Reformation was everywhere one of gross abuses and much superstition, yet the good points of the Papacy have been fully recognized by Pro-testants and Anglican writers, such as Guizot, Michelet, Comte, Ranke, Sir James Stephen, Dr Arnold, Archbishop Trench, and Bishop Harold Browne. Nevertheless, the increasing development of the Papal claims has been strongly resisted within the pale of that church by the Jansenists, by the Gallican divines such as Bossuet, and by the entire body of the Port Royalists, including such brilliant names as those of St Cyran, De Sacy, Arnauld, and above all Pascal. All these display a Calvinistic element in their teaching, and more or less (as for instance Fleury in his famous Church History) modify the distinctively Roman characteristics most opposed by Protestants, and they place a general council far above the Pope. In our own day the counter-theory among Roman Catholics, of which De Maistre was a leading spokesman, has been seemingly ratified by the Vatican Council and the Pope declared infalli-ble. This extreme step has provoked a schism among Roman Catholics, and alienated some of their most eminent men.
Of the different views entertained concerning the relation
between church and state, it must be enough to say here
that occasional collision seems almost unavoidable. Eor
where two independent societies lay claim to a common
ground, those claims, unless precisely defined, will some-
times militate. No state has yet been known to carry out
the theory of Locke, and confine its attention purely to the
preservation of life and property. But every state which
considers public morality to be within its sphere, and
legislates on such matters as marriage and education, must
of necessity occupy to some extent the same ground as
the various Christian communities which claim to be the
local church. (J. G. c.)

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