Friday, September 23, 2005

the Church visible and invisible

We may consider the Church, in two ways.
1. As visible, and visibly professing Christ, and worshipping Him in ordinances.
2. Consider her as invisible, having true faith in christ, real spiritual union with Him, and real exercise of graces

That distinction of the Church visible and invisible, is not a distribution of a whole into distinct parts, as, suppose one would divide a heap of chaff and corn, into corn and chaff. But this is a distinct uptaking of the same whole, (to wit, the Church) under two distinct considerations; as, suppose one would consider the foresaid heap, as it is a heap, comprehending both corn and chaff, or as it is only comprehensive of corn; so the Church thus distinguished, is but one, considered in whole, as having both renewed and unrenewed in it, and as having renewed only. Yet so, as the renewed are a part of the whole, under one consideration, to wit, as they are visible professors; and also, are the invisible Church, being distinctly considered, as they have more than a visible profession. Therefore, the likeness being so great and near, it is no marvel they be frequently conjoined, so as they must be distinguished in respect of these distinct considerations, seeing the visible Church in its consideration as such, comprehends the visible militant Church under it, but not contrarily.

It is ordinary upon this ground, thus to conjoin them in other Scriptures, as when an epistle is written to a Church, some things are said of it, and to it, as visible, some things again are peculiarly applicable to believers, who are members of the invisible Church in it; as by looking to these epistles, Rev. 2. and 3. is clear, all are comprehended in every epistle, yet is the matter diversely to be applied, and these who have ears to hear, (that is, are real members of the invisible Church also) are particularly spoken unto, although indefinitely.

If we consider either the visible, or invisible Church, as whole or Catholic, something is spoken to her under that consideration, namely as Catholic; so she is said to be one, Song. 6:9. made up of many, the Mother having many Daughters, a Vineyard intrusted to all the Keepers.

[We can also consider individual] members, either, 1. as professors of the visible Church, and one of them are distinct from another, or, 2. as members in particular of the invisible Church. Neither will this be thought strange, if we consider, that the Church however understood, and the particular and individual members thereof (especially of this invisible Church) are of an homogenous nature; so that what may be said of the whole, may be said of all its parts, and what may be predicated concerning the whole essentially, may be predicated of every part, etc.

James Durham from Commentary on Song of Solomon