Volume 2: 1771 Edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica!


Church, has different significations, according to the different subjects to which it is applied.

1. It is understood of the collective body of Christians, or all those over the face of the whole earth who profess to believe in Christ, and acknowledge him to be the Saviour of mankind. This is what the ancient writers call the catholic or universal church. Sometimes the word church is considered in a more extensive sense, and divided into several branches; as the church militant, is the assembly of the faithful on earth; the church triumphant, that of the the faithful already in glory; to which the Papists add the church patient, which, according to their doctrines, is that of the faithful in purgatory.

2. Church is applied to any particular congregation of Christians, who associate together and concur in the participation of all the institutions of Jesus Christ, with their proper pastors and ministers. Thus we read of the church of Antioch, the church of Alexandria, the church of Thessalonica, and the like.

3. Church denotes a particular sect of Christians distinguished by particular doctrines and ceremonies. In this sense, we speak of the Romish church, the Greek church, the reformed church, the church of England, etc.

The Latin or western church, comprehends all the churches of Italy, France, Spain, Africa, the north, and all other countries whither the Romans carried their language. G. Britain, part of the Netherlands, of Germany, and of the North, have been separated from hence ever since the time of Henry VIII, and constitute what we call the reformed church, and what the Romanists call the western schism.

The Greek or eastern church, comprehends the churches of all the countries anciently subject to the Greek or eastern empire, and through which their language was carried; that is, all the space extended from Greece to Mesopotamia and Persia, and thence into Egypt. This church has been divided from the Roman, ever since the time of the emperor Phocas.

The Gallican church, denotes the church of France, under the government and direction of their respective bishops and pastors. This church has always enjoyed certain franchises and immunities, not as grants from popes, but as derived to her from her first original, and which she has taken care never to relinquish. These liberties depend upon two maxims; the first, that the pope has no authority or right to command or order any thing either in general or in particular, in which the temporalities and civil rights of the kingdom are concerned; the second, that notwithstanding the pope's supremacy is owned in cases purely spiritual, yet, in France, his power is limited and regulated by the decrees and canons of ancient councils received in that realm.

4. The word church is used to signify the body of ecclesiastics, or the clergy, in contradistinction to the laity. See Clergy.

5. Church is used for the place where a particular congregation or society of Christians assemble for the celebration of divine service. In this sense, churches are variously denominated, according to the rank, degree, discipline, etc. as metropolitan church, patriarchal church, cathedral church, parochial church, collegiate church, etc. See Metropolis, Patriarch, etc.

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