Thursday, June 19, 2014

Some Implications of the Unity of the Catholic Church according to Samuel Hudson

In his book, A Vindication of the Essence and Unity of the Church-Catholick Visible (1658), pp. 254-258, Scottish Presbyterian minister Samuel Hudson puts forward some conclusions that he believes follow from the biblical doctrine of the unity of the Catholic visible church.  He has argued for these conclusions throughout the entire book and states them here at the end in outline form.  So here they are (adjusted a bit in format to fit more nicely in this blog):


1. That there is a Church-Catholick.

2. That the Church-Catholick is but one.

3. That the Church-Catholick is visible.

4. That though the Church-Catholick be alwayes transient and in flux by addition and subtraction of the members thereof, yet it shall never cease to be visible.

5. That if the Church-Catholick be contracted into narrow limits, yet the remaining part thereof conserves both the nature and priviledges of the Church-Catholick, and puts on the notion thereof, more properly then of a particular Church: as a City burnt down or wasted into a few streets, reserves the Charter and Priviledges of the whole; and that which was accounted but a part of it before, now puts on the notion of the whole.

6. That the Church-Catholick is mixt of good and bad, as well as particular Congregations are.

7. That the Church-Catholick may be considered either as Entitive or Organical.

8. That the Church-Catholick is one habitual, organical body, or Integral.

9. That the keys of Discipline are Catholick as well as of Doctrine.

10. That the Church-Catholick is one similar body: if considered as Entitive, the members are similar parts of it, if as organical, the particular Churches are similar parts of it.

11. The Promises, Priviledges, and Ordinances of worship and discipline, belong primarily to the Church-Catholick.

12. That the Church-Catholick is constituted by one Covenant, Charter, and Systeme of Divine Laws.

13. That the Priviledges and Ordinances of the Church arise not from the Nature of it, but from the covenant, denotation, and institution of Christ.

14. That the Church-Catholick is the prime Church.

15. That the Church-Catholick visible is of greater dignity then the particular Churches.

16. That the Church-Catholick visible is more august, and of more large authority then the particular: though the authority differs not in kind.

17. That the Church-Catholick is of greater perfection then the particular Churches.

18. That the Church-Catholick visible is ministerially an instrument to convey the Nature, Priviledges, and Ordinances of the Church to such as are added thereunto.

19. That the whole Church-Catholick is the primary and adequate object (sue genere) of Christ's Offices, and the particular Churches, but as parts thereof, Job. 3:16.

20. That the Notes and Signs of the true Church belong first to the Church-Catholick visible, and therefore are distinctive to that onely.

21. That the Church-Catholick visible hath an existence, accidents, and operations of its own, as it is Catholick.

22. That the Church-Catholick visible hath an head or governour over it, and but one head, even Jesus Christ, who is very Man as well as God.

23. That though Christ be the onely supreme head and ruler of his Church, yet hath it immediate rulers over it under Christ.

24. That the unity of the Church-Catholick requireth not a meeting of the whole body together at any time.


1.That the particular Churches are made up of the members of the Church-Catholick Entitive.

2. That the particular Churches organized, and all visible beleevers make up the Church-Catholick Organicall by aggregation, and the particulars are inferiour thereunto.

3. That the particular divisions of the Church-Catholick visible for convenient enjoyment of public, Ordinances, have the name (Church) and the Priviledges and Ordinances (as far as they are capable of them) secondarily in consideration.

4. That the particular Churches being similar parts of the whole Church, having no essential, specifical differences, are to be distinguished by accidentall differences and circumstances, as their limits of place, &c., though they be heterogeneal to them.

5. Many Congregations may be in the same community of discipline, and be ruled by their Elders in common by coordination, and so be called one church, National, Provincial, or Presbyterial.

6. If the particular Churches claim power of dispensing all the Ordinances of Christ, by virtue of the generall Charter, Covenant and donation, they being parts of the Church, then much more may the whole Church-Catholick, for which they were primarily intended and made.

7. The greater the parts of the Church-Catholick be, and the more united by combination and coordination, the stronger they be, and the smaller the divisions be, the weaker.

8. The divisions of the Church-Catholick into small parcells, to stand alone by themselves without coordination, is dangerous.

9. Yet necessity in regard of distance of place, &c., may cause a particular Church to be Independent, and stand alone in regard of actual, external consociation or combination.

10. The necessity of an explicit Covenant, as the essential form whereby the particular Church is constituted, implyeth a denial of all other Churches to be true, that are not so constitued, because they must want the essential form.

11. The ordinary and constant operations of the Officers of the Church in dispensation of Christ's Ordinances are in the particular Churches primarily.

12. Any particular Congregation may fall, apostatize, or be dissolved and cease, but should the Church-Catholick be reduced into so narrow limits, and the being thereof be reserved therein, and it sustain the notion of the Church-Catholick, God would not suffer it in such a case to fail or cease, for then the whole must cease also.


1. Every Minister is an Officer of the Church-Catholick visible, and that relation is primary to him, yet the particular relation hee stands in to a particular Congregation, giveth him a more immediate especial call, and charge to administer the Ordinances of God constantly to them.

2. Any single Minister by vertue of his office hath power ministerially to admit a member into the Church-Catholick visible, if hee bee fit.

3. Although the election of a Minister to a particular Congregation bee an act of liberty in the people, yet his mission is from Christ primarily and ministerially by the Presbytery.

4. He doth not administer the Ordinances of God in the name of the Congregation as their servant, but as the servant of Christ.  As a Mayor in a Corporation though chosen by the people, yet executeth his Office in the King's name.

5. If hee administreth any Ordinances out of his own Congregation, hee doth it not as a gifted brother, but by vertue of his office, 2 Cor. 5.20.  And the like may bee said of their dispensation of Ordinances to members of other Congregations that come to their Congregations.

6. Although the particular flock over which a Minister was set be dissolved, yet hee ceaseth not to bee a Minister, because the Church to which hee bare first relation is not dissolved, which is the Catholick.

7. The Elders of several particular Congregations as they may exercise the keys of their office divisim, in their several Congregations, so they may exercise them conjunctim, in combinations, if they bee called thereunto.


1. Particular converts are first converted into the Church-Catholick Entitive, and secondarily conjoyned into particular consociations, for the more oppurtune enjoyment of Ordinances actually and constantly.

2. Every member of a particular Congregation is a member of the Church-Catholick Entitive, and that relation doth primarily belong unto him.

3. External profession of the true faith, and subjection to God's ordinances, is enough to make men capable of beeing a member of the Church-Catholick visible, and so also of a particular Congregation, quo ad externam formam.

4. By Baptism members are visibly and ministerially admitted into the Church-Catholick visible.

5. By excommunication rightly administered an offender is cast out of the Church-Catholick visible, as much as out of a particular Congregation.

6. Federal holiness belongs to none primarily, because born of members of a particular Congregation, but of the Church-Catholick.

7. They that are onely in the Church-Catholick visible, are not without in the Apostle's sense.

8. Children of believing parents have right to Baptism, though their parents were not members of any particular Congregation, and are debarred from their due, if denied it.

9. Every visible beleever is or ought to bee a member of the particular Church, wherein and among whom hee dwelleth.

10. The beeing in the general Covenant gives right to the Ordinances, and not any particular Covenant, neither do wee finde any mention in Scripture of any particular Covenant either urged or used as admission of members into a particular Congregation, or at the Constitution thereof.

11. The invisible members of the Church which have internal communion with Christ, are also visible members, and have external communion in external Ordinances.

12. The departure of a member from a particular Congregation, and removal to another for convenience, or by necessity, is no sin, but departing from the Church-Catholick, and ceasing to bee a member thereof, is a sin.

Before closing, I thought I'd copy a quotation that occurs on the very next page of Hudson's book, p. 259, where he describes how the principles of the independents rend the Body of Christ into pieces.  It's a good description not only of classic congregationalism but also of semi-congregationalism (or denominationalism):

Yea, there be others of our honoured and beloved brethren, whom I forbear to name among the former [he's just listed various heretical groups who rend the unity of the church in various ways]; who, though they acknowledge us as true churches, yet deny us to be one Church, and would have us rent into a thousand pieces and parcels, and these to stand as so many entire, compleat bodies, without any coordination, as so many Spouses of Christ, as so many Queens appointing their own orders and Officers, with liberty to censure both Officers and members within themselves, by the votes of the whole body; and not to be accountable unto any Churches as coordinate members, except arbitrarily.

For more, see here, here, here, here, and in general here.  I've copied other quotations from Hudson's books here and here, and in general under the label "Samuel Hudson."

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