“In this sense the Church is always a visible society of men . . . “

By the Church therefore in this question we understand no other than only the visible Church. For preservation of Christianity there is not any thing more needful, than that such as are of the visible Church have mutual fellowship and society one with another. In which consideration, as the main body of the sea being one, yet within divers precincts hath divers names; so the Catholic Church is in like sort divided into a number of distinct societies, every of which is termed a Church within itself. In this sense the Church is always a visible society of men; not an assembly, but a Society. For although the name of the Church be given unto Christian assemblies, although any multitude of Christian men congregated may be termed by the name of a Church, yet assemblies properly are rather things that belong to a Church. Men are assembled for performance of public actions; which actions being ended, the assembly dissolveth itself and is no longer in being, whereas the Church which was assembled doth no less continue afterwards than before. “Where but three are, and they of the laity also (saith Tertullian), yet there is the Church;” that is to say, a Christian assembly. But a Church, as now we are to understand it, is a Society; that is a number of men belonging unto some Christian fellowship, the place and limits whereof we are certain. That wherein they have communion in the public exercise of such duties as those mentioned in the Apostle’s Acts, “instruction, breaking of bread and prayer.” As therefore they that are of the mystical body of Christ have those inward graces and virtues, whereby they differ from all others, which are not of the same body; again, whosoever appertain to the visible body of the Church, they have also the notes of external profession, whereby the world knoweth what they are; after the same manner even the several societies of Christian men, unto every of which the name of a Church is given with addition betokening severalty, as the Church of Rome, Corinth, Ephesus, England, and so the rest, must be endued with correspondent general properties belonging unto them as they are public Christian societies.

Richard Hooker, The Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity, Book III.I.14

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One Response to ““In this sense the Church is always a visible society of men . . . “”

  1. mercerd Says:

    interesting material, where such topics do you find? I will often go

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