CAMERON, AMBERG & CO., PRINTERS.
CHICAGO, October 12, 1886.
On motion of the Rev. Dr. Farrington, of Northern New Jersey, it was
Resolved, That the Secretary be directed to request a copy of the sermon preached by the Right Reverend Gregory T. Bedell, D. D., Bishop of Ohio, at the opening of the Convention, and that fifteen hundred copies be printed for the use of this Convention.
A true copy. Attest:
CHARLES L. HUTCHINS, Secretary.
FATHERS AND BRETHREN: Our subject is the "Continuity of the Church of God."
It is a theme appropriate to our centennial season.
It is a theme akin to the gracious providences which have brought us thus far toward the setting sun, gathering the representatives of our tribes in a city which at the beginning of the century had no name nor place, but which to-day, with a population of over 700,000, stands fourth among the cities of our commonwealth.
It is a thought which, at the basis of all our hope as a missionary church, gives a reason for the effort we are making to endow our missionary bishoprics, and to solidify the foundations of our religious commonwealth.
It is a thought which lies at the root of any clear conception of that problem which now engrosses so many healthy minds and hearts--the organic unity of Christendom.
"The continuity of the church of God." I take the phrase from its latest use in a tract by the Bishop of Northern Texas--a tract so logical, concise, and accurate, in delineating the unbroken history of our particular church since the age of the apostles, that we may well hope that all whom I address are familiar with it. But, Fathers and Brethren, the term has a wider application than to a community which boasts only of eighteen hundred years of life.
 "The house of God, the church of the living God, the pillar of the truth, the ground on which truth stands," can not be the creation of any age for that age. The church of God is firm as the earth on which truth rests; strong as the pillars of heaven which support the throne; living as the living God whom it represents; eternal as the household of the Great Father which it gathers out of all the ages.
And my distinct object is to show, not that the church to which we belong has existed for eighteen hundred years, but that it has always existed on earth, and that its principles of organization, its objects, and its methods have always been the same, and do present an absolute continuity. The inference is that they are unchanged because unchangeable.
This is the practical aspect of the subject. The argument which it presents, to show the obligation of Christian faith on our consciences, is cumulative and of exceeding force. If the church has existed, not for eighteen hundred years alone, but for six thousand; if the ministry have been ambassadors from God since the beginning of time; if the sacraments have been the divinely ordered means by which men have been acknowledged as members of the family of God beyond the memory of man and for a period before history; if the message of the gospel has been one and the same since our first parents heard it in Eden, and no other method of salvation has ever been proclaimed by divine authority, then is the danger infinite of those who neglect that great salvation; then is the happiness supreme of those, who, under that ministry, within the safeguards of those sacraments, shelter themselves in faith upon that Savior who has been the hope of the whole communion of the saints for six thousand years.
Our Lord foreshadowed this idea when he said: "Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad." Abraham was a member of the first form of the church, the Patriarchal. Our Lord presented this idea [4/5] clearly to his three disciples on the mount of transfiguration; for Moses and Elias, who were talking with Him, like Himself, were members of the second form of the church, the Mosaical; while His disciples were to be members of the third form, the Christian. And so you have my thought--three forms, but one holy catholic church.
Our argument is historical. Events hold a similar relation to the philosophy of history that facts bear to the conclusions of science. If it be found that events having no natural relation to each other lie in a constantly recurring series, that they are grouped in a system, that their order is that of regular sequence, the inference, that they have been directed by a Providence acting with wise design, is as well warranted in history as it is in science. We have such an argument before us today. But its weight will depend upon the facts; upon the correctness of their grouping; and upon their unbroken continuity.
For the facts we shall depend on history. For the grouping we shall be guided by that inimitable definition of the church given in our nineteenth article of religion. And for your conviction that the facts exist in unbroken continuity we shall depend upon your judgment. In presence of such an audience it is certain that I shall recall some facts which are familiar, but their statement is necessary to the argument; and he is not a safe advocate who, for fear of repetition, omits any fact which completes the chain on which his conclusion hangs.
The nineteenth article of religion presents four groups of facts:
1. A congregation.
2. Its topic of instruction.
3. Its bond of organization--the sacraments.
4. Its officers--the ministry.
The question is, Does this grouping of facts appear at every age, and are the events implied in it so continuous [5/6] that they can not be referred to natural selection, but can only be explained as designed by Providence and as being the ordinance of God?
There is such a church in this age. I need hardly press the point. Eighteen hundred years have not diminished the vigor of its life. Its forms have varied: oriental, occidental, Apostolic, Nicene, mediaeval, reformed. At different eras there has been greater or less simplicity in its ritual. The number of the ranks, (not the orders) of its ministry, has varied. There have been unauthorized additions to its two sacraments. There have been equally unauthorized attempts to simplify its ministry, its ritual, and even its sacraments. But the same church with which we worship today, in all its principles, is described to us in the pages of the pastoral epistles of St. Paul, and in the Acts of the Apostles.
Thirty years previous to the organization of the church in the diocese of Crete, our Lord was living. Of what church was Christ a member? And so we pass to the critical point at issue in this discussion.
Our Lord Jesus Christ lived and died a Jew. He was a member of the community which Moses founded, admitted into it by its significant sacrament of admission; acknowledged as entitled to its privileges; partaking regularly of its sacrament of profession; giving conscientious obedience to all its obligations. Was it, or was it not, the church of God?
We apply the tests by which we are accustomed to discern the Christian church. We find that the subject of the preaching in the congregation of faithful men to which our Saviour belonged was the Messiah, and its basis the written revelation from God. Take Simeon's sermon; it is a commentary on the prophets. Take John the Baptist's sermon; it is an exposition of the prophets. Take the sermon of Jesus in the synagogue; it is an application of the prophecies. Its subject? "A Suffering Messiah."
Listen to the cry from Jordan. It is the mysterious [6/7] prophet in camel's hair vestment and girdle of leather, standing amidst a crowd of excited followers, all baptized into the faith of anticipations, full of Elias' vision of one that is to come, "whose shoe's latchet I am not worthy to unloose." He sees Him coming from Galilee to Jordan, an undistinguished Nazarene. Yet listen, as John points all eyes to him: "Behold the Lamb of God, that taketh away the sins of the world."
Then, as for the preaching of the law within that church, let one sermon of our Lord himself suffice. "Good Master," said one, "what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?" He answered: "Thou knowest the commandments. This do and thou shalt live." And if any one wonders that this new Teacher shall insist upon the old precept, He replies: "I am not come to destroy the law or the prophets. I am come to fulfill." Here is the preaching of the law. "The law, a schoolmaster, to bring men to Christ," in that church, as in this.
That church had its two sacraments, and two only: its sacrament of admission, circumcision; and its sacrament of perpetual obligation, the passover. Our Saviour was circumcised on the eighth day, according to the Law, and so admitted into fellowship with the church of God. When He was 12 years old, old enough to make the journey to the temple at Jerusalem, and enter into the privileges of the church, He became one of the children of the precept, or, as we should say, was confirmed, and took His place openly among professing members of the church of God. After He was 30 years of age, the ordinary record reads, both concerning His disciples and Himself, for they were all Jews alike, that they "went every year to Jerusalem at the Feast of the Passover."
Now this ordinance, the passover, was in every sense a sacrament. It was a memorial of a sacrifice. It celebrated a deliverance. It was a sign of the grace promised in a coming Messiah. It was a divinely appointed pledge of the fulfillment of all God's promises to faithful Israel; and it was a feast upon a sacrifice.
 This church had a ministry, in three orders. I need not press that point as if it were doubtful.
Thus, far away before the Christian church was born, we find the church of God existing, in every essential feature of divine organization. That church was fifteen hundred years old at the Christian era. And it had a history, worthy of the grandeur of the purposes, for which God had ordained its Law and its Gospel, its ritual, its responsive prayers and hymns, its sacrifices, its Sacraments, and its Ministry. It was the guardian of revelation. Within its sacred ark God's law written on the two tables was preserved, until the age should come when it might be inscribed on parchment, and, safer still, be written on the hearts of His children. Samuel taught that law in his schools of the prophets. David and Solomon appointed priests whose special duty was to preserve the sacred rolls. The sweet singer of Israel added to them his immortal songs. The wise preacher appended his inimitable proverbs. Isaiah inscribed on the memories of Jerusalem his evangelical recognitions of Messiah's work. Daniel told the prophetic story of the coming ages to captives of Babylon. Ezra, the priest, brought all the rolls together, and made one "book, of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms." And then crowds of Jewish merchants, who carried Hebrew learning into Alexandria, and there received from Grecian emigrants a knowledge of the graceful language and refinements of Macedon, became instruments, under God" of translating the sacred scriptures for the library of Ptolemy. So the church of God, in Egypt, embalmed its body of truth in imperishable Greek. Thus it happened that Greek took its place beside the Hebrew as a sacred language of the church of God. Our Saviour and His apostles read the scriptures in both languages, while their vernacular was a language mingled of the two. But mark the providence of God! For now that the church of God, founded by Moses, had completed its task, and was about to burst its narrow bonds of national restriction; now that it was about to give place to the church of God founded by Christ; now that it was [8/9] about to admit all nations to its privileges, the very language of the sacred scriptures, through the instrumentality of the church itself, passed from the narrow limits of national Hebrew into universal Greek--the language of the civilized world.
Beyond the year 1491 B. C.--it is 3,377 years ago--our records of the church of God cease to be historically continuous, but they are not less satisfactory. Yet in the prehistoric period the records of church life are fuller than the records of all other life, social or national, and have been confirmed by antiquarian research, especially during the present century. The story of Genesis, as told by Moses, is supported, wherever the same subjects are treated of, by the ancient hieroglyphics of Egypt, or the cruciform writing on the stones, and pottery books of Nineveh. We have indeed only glimpses of this ancient church of God, during the first two thousand years of the world's life. But, seen through fractures in the mists of distant centuries, the continuous existence of the church is no less evident than if the mist were wholly rolled away. As when one looks out from the Catskills, on a summer's morning, before the sun has lifted the veil from the valley of the Hudson, a mighty sea of billowy vapor fills the whole area, across from Catskill mountain rocks to the Berkshire hills, and north and south from the Adirondacks to the gate of the highlands at West Point. It is as if a world of busy life, that but yesterday filled the valley, were blotted from existence. Mysterious mists are the only answer to our eager questioning. But, as the sun-glow wakes the clouds, and they begin to heave, suddenly a rift in them for a moment reveals a silver river here, there, above, below; glimpses only. Yet the observer no more doubts the fragmentary story of the glimpses, than he doubts the uninterrupted noonday vision of the majestic flood. So are prehistoric glimpses of the church of God.
Its first record is in the days of the grandson of Adam, and is singularly like that which notes the formation of the [9/10] Christian church. We read, "the disciples were called Christians first at Antioch." So we read, in the time of Enos: "Then began men (as the margin has it) to call themselves by the name of the Lord.'' It was a gathering of the Church of the Lord, in contradistinction to the children of Cain, who, as the same record reads, had "gone out from the presence of the Lord."
This was in the first century of human history. Now the same church of the Lord existed two thousand years afterward, at the time that Moses was "encamped at the mount of God," and when he was about to form the ecclesiastical system which bears his name. For Jethro, his father-in-law, visited him; and Jethro, "the priest of Midian, took a burnt offering and sacrifices for God; and Aaron came, and all the elders of Israel, to eat bread with Moses' father-in-law before God." This Midianitish priest, a minister of the primal church, offered sacrifice for Moses, the prophet, and Aaron, who was the first high priest. They acknowledged his ecclesiastical authority, accepted his sacred service, and then Jethro led them to the sacramental feast that followed the sacrifice. But this is a long leap across twenty centuries; and even if the argument does not require more detail it may be made more impressive by it.
We trace this patriarchal church then at various points during this period. In the times of Enoch, "the seventh from Adam," as St. Jude records, "who walked with God;" who prophesied of judgments to come; in Noah's days "the eighth from Adam" (as St. Peter records), "that preacher of righteousness;" in the days of Terah, who was a Chaldean, and who, whilst dwelling in Ur, received a revelation from God through Abram, his son, and at once obeyed it; in the days of Abraham and of Lot; in the days of Melchisedek, the king of Salem, who was also "priest of the most high God," who "brought forth bread and wine" for Abram, and "blessed him who was the heir of the promises;" in the times of the Pharaohs, who, when Abraham made his first [10/11] visit to Egypt, and until after Joseph's death, a period of more than two hundred years, are constantly spoken of as worshippers of the true God. We call this church the Patriarchal because its distinguishing characteristic was that it acknowledged a family or tribal head. In this it followed the conditions of civilization. People were living in tribes. Nomadic habits were familiar. Government was paternal. Nations were only being formed, and cities were being gathered. The type of communal life was tribal and patriarchal. Within this church of God were the same groupings that mark the identity of the church in all other ages. It was a visible congregation of men faithful to the one true God, and governed by, and owning allegiance to, the revelation of His will. This church was principally distinguished by its doctrine and practice of sacrifice, which, from the beginning, indicated God's abhorrence of sin, the necessity of atonement, and the efficacy of faith in God's promise through the blood of an innocent sufferer, substituted for the sinner. It practiced circumcision as the sacramental rite of admission into the church. How early this sacrament was introduced we can not say. Our Saviour declares "Moses gave you circumcision, not because it is of Moses, but of the fathers." It was therefore a sacrament of the church before Moses' time. Historically we know that it was the seal of the Lord's covenant with Abraham, and that was five hundred years before Moses.
It may be properly affirmed that the sacrifices ordained by God and constantly used in this patriarchal church were of the nature of a sacrament, and served a similar purpose with the later Passover feast among the Jews, and the still later Lord's supper among Christians. So far as the record indicates, in the earliest ages a feast always followed the sacrifice. It was a pledge of brotherly love and fellowship in the worship of the one God. But the more essential fact is, that wherever the records give any indication of purpose, the patriarchal sacrifice prefigured "the Lamb of God, that taketh away the sins of the world," and was a divinely-appointed "sign and seal" of grace to those who trusted on [11/12] the promises announced through the "seed" of the woman, who should "bruise" the serpent's "head." These sacrifices were links in the chain that connected the Passover and the day of atonement with the Cross of Christ, and with all the precious mercies that are signified by it.
That patriarchal church had its ministry. As the organization of society was tribal and family, the organization of the ministry necessarily followed the same rule. All sacrificial, prophetical, and executive offices in the patriarchal church were executed by the family priest.
And so we have gone back, step by step, in reviewing the history of God's people from this day in the nineteenth century, to the first century of the world, four thousand years before Christ. At every step we encounter the same groupings of facts. No essential principle has been changed. There have been three forms of organization--the Patriarchal, the Mosaical, and the Christian; these only. But these varieties of form involve no variation of principle. They merely followed the developments of society, and the progress of the Messianic work. It remains, then, only to show how the one form passed into the other, without shock to religion, and so secured the continuity of the church.
It is a curious fact, that, at each change in dispensation the churches overlapped each other. For a time they existed together, each retaining its position as a church, until, in the progress of religious opinion, the elder gradually lapsed and the newer became dominant. As I have shown, the authority of the patriarchal church in Midian was acknowledged by Moses, even at the time when he was preparing to establish the Jewish system. And it continued many years after. Barak was probably a representative of that church; evidently was a worshipper of the true God, although beginning to mingle the customs of the worshippers of the fire and the sun with his simpler patriarchal ritual. He sent to Balaam of Pethor, who was a prophet of the true God, and acknowledged as such. [12/13] Nearly one hundred years after the establishment of the Jewish church we find Heber the Kenite, who had separated himself from the then idolatrous Midianites, dwelling among the Israelites, but not as yet part of their body. Indeed, we trace the continued influence of the patriarchal religion and the power of its divine traditions among many people who survived the era of the Exodus; some now extinct, but some existing to the present day, like the Shemitic races, who were pushed further east into Hindostan and China. A curious illustration is given in the historical books of the Maccabees, for, on an occasion, Jonathan sent an ambassage to the Lacedemonians, claiming them as kindred to the Jews because they were the descendants of Abraham. Some of the patriarchal tribes were providentially separated from the neighborhood of the Jewish church; but those who remained in contact with it were gradually absorbed by it. The faith being the same, the less powerful gradually accepted the forms of the stronger; and so without a shock the continuity of the church was preserved.
Still more significant is the history of the passage of the Jewish into the Christian church. The Apostles were all children of the covenant, and remained professed Jews for many years after the crucifixion. The "five hundred brethren" who formed the nucleus of the Christian church were all Jews, either native or proselytes. The "three thousand" who were converted at the Pentecost had all come up to Jerusalem to "worship at the feast." For eight years or more, until St. Peter admitted Cornelius the Centurion, into the church, none but Jews were Christians, the two churches coalescing. Prejudices were naturally aroused when Gentiles were permitted to enter by baptism only, without circumcision. But public opinion, divinely guided, and definitely shaped by decree of the Council of Jerusalem, settled that incipient controversy--as enlightened public opinion has always settled contentions in the church. Those who were Jews continued in the customs wherein they were brought up. They continued to worship in the [13/14] synagogues, and observed the ancient Sabbath. Those who were converted from among the Gentiles recognized only Christian customs. After the destruction of Jerusalem and the dispersion of the Jewish nation, Jewish customs gradually disappeared from the church of Christ, and Christian modes absorbed all others. There was no jar in passing from one to the other.
The faith was not changed--and those whose hearts were one in Christ Jesus learned that forms are not of the substance of religion, and may, and ought to be unified, in such wise as to produce peace and love among brethren.
Few more impressive lessons are taught by this review of history than that forms are not of the substance of the faith, a lesson which must pass beyond the creed of the lips, into the creed of the heart, of every body of Christians, before there can be a reasonable hope that the spiritual unity, for which our Saviour prayed, can be manifested to the world by any sufficient organic union of Christendom. It must become a principle, so controlling and energetic that it will not be thwarted by the necessity of sacrificing cherished prejudices, valuable economies, or established habits.
Forms are not of the substance of the faith. Forms have changed, but the substance never. And each form, in its day, has been thoroughly successful for maintaining the truth. Even the forms of the Sacraments were changed without disturbing the substance. The cutting off the sins of the flesh is only another way of describing the new birth; and the passover lamb prefigured what the Lord's supper recalls to mind--the one great sacrifice on which faith has always reposed.
At three changes of dispensation the churches lived for long years in harmony. At last at each era the new absorbed the older without observation, and the continuity of the church remained unbroken.
Is not this the church of the living God? This community unbroken in continuity of fellowship from the first age [14/15] to the six thousandth? Facts presented in the same groups at every age, and events occurring in precisely similar sequences, are not to be reasonably accounted for unless as evidences of design. They reveal, a purpose in the mind of a wise superintending providence. If they designate the church of God in this nineteenth Christian century, they designate, as certainly and precisely, the same church of God through all centuries, back to the first in human history. These facts could not group themselves, nor could these events follow in precisely the same series, from natural causes only. Take one illustration. The law of division of time by weeks of seven days has been general, and is traceable through the earliest traditions of national or tribal life. I know of no principle of natural selection which could have produced this constant series of events. Until the Christian era the seventh day in the series was the Sabbath. Since the close of the first century Christians have made the first day their Sabbath. And since the seventh century Mohammedans have celebrated their Sabbath on the sixth day (Friday). But this variation in applying the principle arose not from natural selection, but from voluntary choice. So that in the three great religious bodies which now unite in revering the law of the ten commandments--Christians, Jews, and Mohammedans--while each calculates its week by sevens of days, each observes a different Sabbath; but the variations have a known cause. Can the principle, the foundation of them all, be without a cause? Is it reasonable to attribute its existence to any cause less omnipotent than the divine will?
It may be granted that a natural reason has led God's servants to found congregations--i. e., as a means of preserving the integrity of religion, and defending themselves from an irreligious world. But what natural cause will account for the development of two sacraments within those separate congregations, in each of these three dispensations, and the stoppage of the development of sacraments at that point; so that the true church of God has never acknowledged more than two sacraments, through six thousand [15/16] years. Or by what natural selection has the Ministry exhibited precisely three orders, and only three, during three thousand years? Other ranks have appeared at various times, but no other orders.
And what account shall be given of the wonderful fact that the ministry has devoted itself wholly to the preservation of the revelation of God's will, and has taught one only gospel of Messiah, and one only Law.
If history teaches any religious philosophy, it teaches that this ecclesiastical system was founded, and has been preserved, by the wisdom and the will of God. And the unbroken continuity of the church through nearly six thousand years, becomes a ponderous fact, in the scales of men's judgment, concerning matters of religion.
That is a grand thought! The continuity of the church of God! Among every generation of the human race this church has been winding its way, in unbroken line. A golden thread, that glistens in and glorifies the web of human history. A silver chain, that links every generation with the throne of God. A noble procession of immortal men, passing grandly through the changes of a mortal life into eternity with God. Men of one idea, possessed of one great conception, pledged to one high service, signed and sealed for one beloved Master. How majestically they move through the aisles of the past, sometimes in mysterious silence, sometimes amidst jarring elements of thought; now, whilst quiet peace prevails; now, whilst war and tumult and persecution crowd upon the path. Continuously they move. No alternations of joy or danger shake the steady ongoing. We see a martyr at the very gates of paradise. We hear a preacher in the streets of ancient Enos. A veteran in the service of God stands, with his three sons, at the base of Ararat, to pledge them to Messiah beside his altar of sacrifice, as they go forth to re-people a world. It is the pilgrim from Ur who at one hundred years of a life of faith presses to his bosom
the heir of Messianic promises. A bright-eyed youth [16/17] drives in Pharaoh's chariot through the streets of Mizraim; and while Egyptians bow before him as the favorite of Pharaoh, the church knows him as the representative of Messiah's line. Out of ruined Egypt, amidst darkness that might be felt, whilst cries of desolate hearts are shaking every household, the church of God, saved by a great deliverance, is pressing toward freedom and Messianic promises. Emerging from the cloud on Sinai, one of the grandest forms in history descends the mount to join the procession--a man whose face is veiled, because the glory of God is still flashing on his brow. In his hands are tablets written by the very finger of the Almighty. He walks awhile amidst the church; his eye undimmed at one hundred and twenty years and his natural force in no whit abated. He leaves it; but leaves behind him, for all ages that are to follow, a law which, for absoluteness, universality, and reach of its principles, has no parallel among the works of human lawgivers.
There is no conceivable act of righteousness which is not included in its precepts. There is no possible form of sin which is not forbidden by its edicts.
This lawgiver ascends Mount Pisgah and is lost to sight; but the Law, which he has left, is the "schoolmaster" to bring a world to Christ.
But now the mists of tradition begin to clear, and history takes its place.
There is a judge within the church who, walking through life without a stain, at its end could call a whole nation to witness his integrity. But before he has passed away his aged eyes have discerned the ancestor of Messiah, and anointed him as the founder of Messiah's line.
There is a shepherd boy who exchanges a plaintive reed and merry harp for a scepter and a throne; but whose immortal songs both as sheep-herd and as king, the church has always interpreted as praises of Messiah.
There is the austere prophet who gathers Israel on Mount Carmel for a day of reformation, and, as the evening [17/18] shadows fall, fills the River Kishon with the blood of idolatrous priests.
This Elijah, we are taught by Christ Himself, was the acknowledged type of the forerunner of Messiah.
There is the prophet whose evangelical messages cause the narrow ways of Jerusalem to ring with the hopes of a Messiah.
There is the prophet always in tears for the woes that are coming on his city, but who yet can see Messiah clearly amidst all his lamentations.
There is a ruler of men who, though a Jew, governs Babylon, and holds the key to the fate of Chaldea. He pictures in the visions of the night an image which contains within its mysterious members the whole story of the future succession of earthly kingdoms, until the "stone cut out without hands" shall fall upon them all and become the last great kingdom, the church of the Messiah. And then in rapid succession there press upon our vision apostolic men, and martyr men, great teachers, master preachers, grand reformers of the Christian age. Learned men, men who have measured the heavens, men who have traced the pathways of the stars, men who have discovered the laws by which the harmony of worlds is governed. Philosophic men, who have revealed the deeper mysteries of mind. Poets, historians, teachers, advocates, and defenders of the faith, who, golden-mouthed or silver-tongued, have wielded the mental forces of their age. All of them signed and sealed for Christ; all of them consecrating their powers for Christ; all of them saved by the precious blood of Christ; all of them trusting and rejoicing in their faith in Christ. They have passed and are passing into immortality with God. It is the continuous procession of the church.
Am I speaking to any man or woman this day who is not a member of this glorious company? I pray you be not left one side. It is pressing with unbroken faith through the infidelities of these degenerate days. Its principles [18/19] have never altered. Its elements remain unchanged. It worships one name, the Triune God. It follows one guide, the book of God's revealed will. It knows one baptism, in "the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost." It shares in one sacramental feast. It carries one symbol, the cross. It recites one creed, in which all apostolic truth is crystallized--salvation by the atoning blood of Christ, who was crucified. Can any one hope to be saved by any other name? Is there a gospel under heaven given among men, if it be not that to which the church has witnessed for six thousand years?
The unbroken communion of the children of God by faith! The one fellowship with the Saviour of men! The unsevered chain of brotherhood, from the first day of promise until now. This is "the Holy Catholic Church; the communion of the saints." This is "the house of God;" the ever-continuing "church of the living God;" the "pillar" which through all ages has upheld the "truth," and the immovable "ground" on which that truth shall stand forever!