Chapter 2: Of the Nature of the Catholic Church in General, and in Special, of a Particular Visible Church


Of the nature of the catholic church in general, and in special of a particular visible church.

1. The catholic church is the whole company of those that are elected, redeemed, and in time effectually called from the state of sin and death, unto a state of grace and salvation in Jesus Christ. Eph. i. 22, 23, and v. 25, 26, 30. Heb. xii. 23.

2.This church is either triumphant, or militant. Triumphant, the number of them who are glorified in heaven: militant, the number of them who are conflicting with their enemies upon earth. Rom. viii. 17. 2 Tim. ii. 12, and iv. 8. Eph. vi. 12, 13.

3. This militant church is to be considered as invisible, and visible. Invisible, in respect of their relation wherein they stand to Christ, as a body unto the head, being united unto him by the Spirit of God, and faith in their hearts. Visible, in respect of the profession of their faith, in their persons, and in particular churches. And so there may be acknowledged a universal visible church. 2 Tim. ii. 19. Rev. ii. 17. 1 Cor. vi. 17. Eph. iii. 17. Rom. i. 8. 1Thess. i. 8. Isa. ii. 2. 1 Tim. vi. 12.

4. The members of the militant visible church, considered either as not yet in church-order, or as walking according to the church-order of the gospel. In order, and so besides the spiritual union and communion common to all believers, they enjoy moreover a union and communion ecclesiastical-political. So we deny a universal visible church. Acts, xix. 1. Col. ii. 5. Matt. xviii. 17. 1 Cor. v. 12.

5. The state of the members of the militant visible church walking in order, was either before the law, economical, that is in families; or under the law, national; or since the coming of Christ, only congregational: (The term independent we approve not.) Therefore neither national, provincial nor classical. Gen. xviii. 19. Exod. xix. 6.

6. A Congregational church is by the institution of Christ a part of the militant visible church, consisting of a company of saints by calling, united into one body by a holy covenant, for the public worship of God, and the mutual edification one of another, in the fellowship of the Lord Jesus. 1 Cor. xiv. 23, 36, and i. 2, and xii. 27. Exod. xix. 5, 6. Deut. xxix. 1, and 9-15. Acts, ii. 4.2. 1 Cor. xiv. 26.