Matt. xvi. 18. “Upon this rock I will build My Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” Now I am certain, any unprejudiced mind, who knew nothing of controversy, considering the Greek word [ekklesia] means simply an assembly, would have no doubt at all that it meant in this passage a visible body. What right have we to disturb the plain sense? why do we impose a meaning, arising from some system of our own? And this view is altogether confirmed by the other occasion of our LORD’S using it, where it can only denote the Visible Church. Matt. xviii. 17. “If he (thy brother) shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the Church; but if he neglect to hear the Church, let him be unto thee as a heathen man and a publican.”
Observe then what we gain by these two passages;—the grant of power to the Church; and the promise of permanence. Now look at the fact. The body then begun has continued; and has always claimed and exercised the power of a corporation or society. Consider merely the article in the Creed, “The Holy Catholic Church;” which embodies this notion. Do not Scripture and History illustrate each other?
I end this first draught of my argument, with the text in 1 Tim. iii. 15 , in which St. Paul calls the Church “the pillar and ground of the truth,”—which can refer to nothing but a Visible Body; else martyrs may be invisible, and preachers, and teachers, and the whole order of the Ministry.