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I.- NATURE OF THE CHRISTIAN CHURCH.
The words "life" and “organism ” are the principal terms in the definition of the Christian Church. Without the regenerate life which flows into the world from the truth and spiritual presence of the Redeemer, only the semblance of a Christian Church can exist. On the other hand, this life, apart from an organism, lacks the proper means of its own conservation and dissemination. With life, fellowship and certain bonds of fellowship must be conjoined. The Church is not genuine believers taken individually and disjunctively, but genuine believers united into a brotherhood. The apostolic figure is not that of stones, however beautiful and polished, lying scattered and separate ; but of a “building fitly framed together,” or, more emphatically still, of a living body with its intimate and sympathetic connection of members.
From the terms of the definition it is speedily apparent how the Christian Church is related to the Jewish. There is at once a resemblance and a contrast. The same factors are combined, but not in the same ratio. The old dispensation was not characterized by such ful
ness of life as is the new. It beheld only prophetically the day when the Spirit in his plenitude should be outpoured upon all flesh. Life in the Jewish Church was initial and preparatory, like the life of nature before the vernal sun has reached the maximum of his quickening power. Also, in respect of organism, the Christian appears plainly distinguished from the Jewish Church. The latter recognized no separation between civil and religious institutions. The bounds of the nation were at the same time the bounds of the Church (at least, prior to the dispersion). State and Church were one. Far different the position of the former. The Christian Church, as established by Christ and His apostles, was purely a religious institution. The Church may hold of necessity certain relations to the civil power, it may make alliances there with more or less intimate ; but in its proper character it is a religious or
; ganism. This was demanded by the universal office of Christianity. Civil organization is fractional, belongs to nations. Christianity was designed for the whole, for mankind. Hence, released from all shackles of civil and national restrictions, it was left free as a spiritual kingdom to extend its dominion over all souls.
Corresponding to the two elements in the idea of the Church, it has both an invisible and a visible side. As a life, its hidden spring is the spirit of Christ in the hearts of believers. As a fellowship or brotherhood, it has, of practical necessity, certain outward bonds of unity. Christ himself appointed such in the authority of the apostles, in the rite of baptism, and in the eucharist.
Evidently both of these aspects must be duly re
garded in any just and well-balanced view of the Church. Let the first receive the sole emphasis, let it be said that Christian life in the heart of the believer is every thing, and the outward organization is nothing, and you have a false, dismembering independence. This is the error of an ultra Protestant spirit which tends to convert Christianity into a sandbank of incoherent particles, or at least to apportion the Christian realm into petty, ill-related provinces. On the other hand, let the latter receive an undue emphasis, let the life be absolutely conditioned upon institutions and officers, and you have worship of form and debasing dependence upon human authority. This is the error of Roman Catholicism, going on with continued increase and issuing in a practical deification of the church ceremonial and the hierarchy. Common-sense, as well as history, teaches that either extreme caricatures the true conception of the Church. The Christian Church in its earthly office must have both life and organization, as the individual must have both soul and body. The soul is truly of greater worth than the body; but still the body has claims to consideration.
In a minute definition, much might be said about each of the two factors which enter into the idea of the Church, as well as about their mutual relations. In this connection, however, we will give space to only two or three cardinal points. And first, as respects the life element, while it is not to be made unduly dependent upon dogma, it is not to be regarded as wholly independent of dogma, — that is, of doctrine measurably distinct and settled. The test of spiritual life is, no doubt, likeness to Christ. To feel toward God and to