Now it is very intelligible to deny that there is any divinely established, divinely commissioned, Church at all; but to hold that the one Church is realized and perfected in each of a thousand independent corporate units, co-ordinate, bound by no necessary intercommunion, adjusted into no divine organized whole, is a tenet, not merely unknown to Scripture, but so plainly impossible to carry out practically, as to make it clear that it never would have been devised, except by men, who conscientiously believing in a visible Church and also conscientiously opposed to Rome, had nothing left for them, whether they would or would not, but to entrench themselves in the paradox, that the Church was one indeed, and the Church was Catholic indeed, but that the one Church was not the Catholic, and the Catholic Church was not the one.
1. First, as to the scriptural view of the subject. That the writers of the New Testament speak of many local Christian bodies, called churches, is indisputable; but the question is, whether these various local bodies, so-called, were, or were not, brought together by divine command into a higher unity than any local association, and into a union rendered imperative by the special privileges attached to its observance; whether by the word "Church" was not properly and really denoted, not any local body, but one and only one large association extending as widely as the Christian name, including in it all merely local bodies, having one organization, a necessary intercommunion, fixed mutual relations between its portions, and supernatural powers and gifts lodged primarily in it, the association itself, and thence communicated, by aggregation and incorporation, to each subdivision and each individual member of it. This latter view is the teaching of Scripture.
That is, in the lifetime of the Apostles, according to the Scripture record, the Church of the promises, the Church of Christ, was a body, (1)visible; (2) one; (3) Catholic, and (4) organized.
Essays Critical and Historical 2