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true meaning of the term is universal or general, and in this sense we find it variously applied to other subjects. Thus, in the canon of Scripture, the epistles of St. James, St. Peter, St. John, and St. Jude, were called catholic epistles, and are still distinguished by this title in all our Greek Testaments, because these epistles were addressed, not to particular churches, as those of St. Paul, but to Christians over the whole earth—Christians UNIVERSALLY. In our ordinary translation of the Bible, this word is interpreted by the correspondent term GENERAL, as the epistle general of James, the epistle general of Peter, and so on; but the original word is the very same as that which is translated catholic in the Creed. So, too, the ancient fathers speak of the catholic resurrection, meaning the resurrection of all mert, the catholic opinion, which is the general opinion, or the opinion of all men. And when the word was applied to the Church, the interpretation of it varied so as to accord with the sense in which the term Church was employed. Thus when they spoke of the buildings erected for the worship of God, as there were monasteries and other private sanctuaries in use for particular companies of Christians, some for females and others for males, the catholic Church was an expression which frequently signified the public parish church to which all were at liberty to resort without distinction. And, lastly, the word was sornetimes applied to signify the faith of the orthodox portion of professing Christians, in contradistinction from heretics or schismatics ; as the Catholic Church at Alexandria, the Catholic Church at Corinth, was to be understood of the sound portion of the Christian community in those places who agreed in doctrine with the Church at large.
From this simple explanation it results very manifestly, that when we say, •I believe in the Catholic Church,
we mean that we believe in the Church of Christ, as Catholic or Universal; not as confined to any particular time or place, but as generally diffused and to be diffused through all time and place; not as confined to any particular set of doctrines, but as holding the doctrines of Christ set forth in sacred writ, as they are generally understood by Christians universally ; not as limited to this sect or that denomination, but as containing within its bosom all sects and denominations, who truly acknowledge Christ as their head, and his Word as their law. It will also appear, from these considerations, how unfounded is the claim which the Church of Rome asserts to be considered exclusively as the Catholic Church, since, in fact, that Church never was any thing more than a part or portion of the Church Universal, and at the time when the Apostolic Creed was adopted, and during some centuries afterwards, the unscriptural and erroneous doctrines, which forced our ancestors to leave her communion, had no existence whatever. In fact, the word Catholic was introduced into the Creed by the Fathers of the Greek Church. And if we recur to the history of Christianity in that early day for an account of the true Catholic Church as then understood, we shall find our own branch of the Church to be in far more close accordance with it, than any other portion of Christendom.
But as this subject is not one of frequent recurrence, it may be well, before we dismiss it, to state some of the various reasons assigned by the ancient fathers, why the Church of Christ should be called Catholic or Universal.
1. And first, the Church is Catholic or universal, on account of the universality of the apostolic commission given by our Lord, 'Go ye into all the world, and preach the Gospel to every creature. The Church is the general assembly of men who believe the Gospel ; and a catholic
or universal Gospel must produce, in due time, a catholic or universal Church. This explication bore especial reference to the characteristic distinction between the Mosaic and the Christian dispensations, the first being designed only for a peculiar nation, the second for all the world. Under the law the Church of God was restricted or confined; under the Gospel it is catholic or universal. . 2. Secondly, however, the ancients conceived that the Church was well called catholic, because it teaches universal truth, that is, all truths necessary for the salvation and happiness of man in time and throughout eternity.
3. In the third place, it might be called catholic because of the universality of the obedience which it demands, extending to all persons, all ages, and each sex, and embracing the entire compass of life, in thought, word, and action.
4. And fourthly, the Church was called catholic, because in it were given all the promises of God, and all the gifts and graces by which the diseases of the soul are healed, spiritual virtues established, and an abundant entrance opened to the kingdom of heaven.
III. Having now shown for what reasons the term catholic or universal was introduced into our venerable Creed, that it was done by the Greek and not the Latin fathers, at a period many centuries before the peculiar corruptions and the exclusive claims of the Church of Rome had any being, and that the word itself has no application to any particular Church, except in so far as that Church is a true member of the general Church of Christ, we proceed to the third subject proposed for our consideration, namely, the constitution of the catholic or universal Church which designates it as Holy and Apostolic, under which head we shall treat of its government, its laws, its worship, and its discipline.
• 1. The Church is holy in its government, because the Lord Jesus Christ is its King. He is the head of all things to the body, which is the Church,' saith the Apostle ; and to intimate the close connexion between him and his people, he is graciously pleased to style himself the Bridegroom, and the Church the Bride. Hence, as the conjugal relation presumes the utmost agreement of interest and affection, the Church is holy, because her sovereign and her spouse is so. Be ye holy, for I am holy; "Be ye perfect, because your heavenly Father is perfect;' these, and rules like these, flow necessarily from the first principle of her constitution, and, therefore, for this reason the Church is called holy, because designed to be the kingdom and the body of the Holy One of Israel. The Church is, farther, holy in her government, because her officers, their powers, and their duties, are holy in their origin, which is God, and holy in their object, which is to reconcile men to God. The deacon, who is the lowest amongst the clergy, is solemnly set apart to that office of the ministry in which the peculiar care of the poor and the public reading of the Scriptures are especially committed to him. The presbyter or priest undergoes a second and more solemn dedication to the cause of the Gospel, in which he is pledged to concentrate all his powers in the service of the Redeemer, to administer the sacraments, and to instruct the people in Divine truth, in godliness, and righteousness, and all holy conversation. The Bishop passes through a distinct and most solemn ordination, which binds him to exercise the chief authority of government under Christ, to seek for the sheep of the flock, and to feed them with the bread of life, to take care of that portion of the Lord's vineyard over which the Holy Spirit has made him a ruler, as a father would watch over his family, and to set the chief example for the inferior clergy to follow, in zeal, in piety, in godly learning, and in every Christian grace and virtue. Thus the Church is holy in her government,—the Lord himself being head over all, the King, the Spouse, the great Master of the household; the Bishops and other clergy being officers under him, holding their powers from him, depending for their proper exercise upon his grace, solemnly dedicated to him for the express end of establishing his kingdom amongst men, and engaged by the highest and most awful sanctions, to be guided by his Spirit and to walk in his steps..
But amongst the laity, also, there is a distinction designed to aid the pastors materially in the government of the Church; for a certain number of every congregation seem to have been appointed, from time immemorial, to promote the welfare and guard the interests of each particular parish. In our branch of the Catholic or universal Church, these officers are elected annually by the people, and are known by the names of wardens and vestry-men; the wardens being charged with the special care of the house of worship, and the property belonging to it, and the vestry with the wardens composing a board of internal regulation, over which it is the duty of the minister to preside. This board directs the corporate powers of the congregation, having authority to make contracts, assess Church rates, establish rules with regard to the occupancy of the building, elect delegates to the convention, and order every other matter which concerns the parish, provided it be not of a Spiritual or ministerial nature. From this proviso, however, which confines the Spiritual authority to the ordained ministers of Christ, an inference has been often drawn of a very questionable character. It has been said, that the office of warden and vestry-man is purely secular, and may be holden with perfect propriety by men who make no profession of