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* The general assembly and Church of the first-born, who are
written in heaven.”—HEBREWS xii. 23. “ God is no respecter of persons; but in every nation he that
feareth Him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with Him."-ACTS X. 34, 35.
UR Ritualistic friends very much dislike to
hear the Church spoken of as a sect, -as merely one among a number of opposed and competing denominations. Now I quite agree with them that a Church is, or should be, something essentially different from a sect. But I do not think they generally see in what the true difference consists, nor all that that difference involves.
The etymology of the terms may help us here. It is as a rule desirable, when we wish to find out the best use of words, to inquire into their
derivation. We are not obliged, of course, to follow this slavishly; but the study of derivations is always suggestive, and generally speaking the root - meaning of the word is the best. Now church comes from the Greek word kúplos, and means therefore that which belongs to the Lord. Sect is derived from the Latin sequi, to follow. A sect consists of those who follow some particular man, as for example Wesleyans, Sandemanians, Swedenborgians, Irvingites; or
gites; or of those who follow some particular tenet, as for example the Baptists, whose leading doctrine is immersion; or the Independents, whose fundamental principle is that every congregation should manage its own affairs. We shall not be far wrong if we say . that the root idea in the word church is God, and the root idea in the word sect is man. It will be worth our while to inquire how far these etymological meanings are borne out in actual fact.
To see this we must first distinguish between the Church and a Church,-between the Church and Churches. What is meant, or rather what should be meant, by the Church? We were most of us, I suppose, brought up to think that
our Church was the Church,—the English Church if we happened to belong to that, or the Romish Church if we chanced to be Roman Catholics. But a little reflection will show the absurdity, or perhaps I should say the blasphemy, of such a thought. This is very well explained in the last chapter of Mark Pattison's Memoirs, where he describes his deliverance from the thraldom of sectarianism. He was brought up originally in the narrow faith and sympathies of Puritanism. But by-and-by he came to believe in the Anglican Church, and afterwards in the Catholic Church, whose members, united by a common creed, were to be found in all parts of the world. This idea at first filled him with enthusiasm. But even in this broader notion he could not ultimately rest. “ The idea of the Catholic Church," he says, "is only a mode of conceiving the dealings of divine Providence with mankind. But reflection gradually convinced me that this theory of the relation of all living beings to the Supreme Being was too narrow and inadequate. It makes an equal Providence, the Father of all, care only for a mere handful of the species, leaving the rest to the chances of eternal misery. If God interferes at all to procure the happiness of mankind, it must be on a far more comprehensive scale than by providing for them a church of which the majority will never hear. It was on this line of thought that I passed out of the Catholic phase to that highest development, in which all religions appear in their historical light as efforts of the human spirit to understand and commune with God.” In other words the Catholic Church, which has only existed for two thousand years, which has only been heard of by a small proportion of the race, is not, as its name would imply, universal; and it should be carefully distinguished from what is properly called the Church. That must be co-extensive with the race.
And so according to the Bible it is. According to the Bible neither creeds nor rituals have anything to do with membership in the Church of God. The Deity, our text says, cares supremely for goodness—and for goodness alone. “In every nation he that worketh righteousness is accepted.” The Church of which he thus becomes a member, though it existed ages before the Christian era, is