The Church -- By: Daniel T. Fiske

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 057:226 (Apr 1900)
Article: The Church
Author: Daniel T. Fiske


The Church

Rev. Daniel T. Fiske

It is one of the imperfections of the English language, that in so many instances the same word has several and widely diverse meanings. This is a fruitful source of confusion, misunderstanding, and controversy. If the word “church” had but a single definite meaning,—if it always stood for one and the same thing,—the world would be saved a great deal of confusion of thought, and of ecclesiastical warfare. But unfortunately such is not the case. By writers and speakers generally the word is used in a variety of senses. This would not be so great an evil, if writers and speakers were only careful to discriminate, and make it evident, in every case, in which of the various senses it is used. This they sadly fail to do; passing unconsciously from one meaning of the word to another: often jumbling several meanings together in inextricable confusion. It is surprising how often we meet with this indiscriminate use of the word “church” in the writings even of eminent thinkers and authors. We are sometimes reminded of the criticism which Ian Maclaren tells us Mrs. Macfadyen passed upon a certain Highland preacher at Drumtochty. The text was, “The trumpet shall be blown, and they shall come from Assyria and Egypt.” “There are fower trumpets,” said the preacher. “First, a leeteral trumpet; second, a heestorical trumpet; third, a metaphorical trumpet; fourth, a speritual trumpet.” “Well, will ye believe me,” says the critic, “he barely mentioned the ‘leeteral,’ till he was off tae the ‘speritual,’ and then

back to the ‘heestorical,’ and in five minutes he had the hale fower trumpets blawing thegither.” Sometimes on the same page we find such an indiscriminate mixing up of the different meanings of the word “church,” that we seem to hear the simultaneous “blawing of the hale fower trumpets” of the Highland Scotchman.

Different Meanings Of The Word “Church.”

The lexicographers derive the English church, the Scottish kirk, the Danish kirke, the Dutch kerk, the Swedish kurka, from the Greek κυριακον (κύριος), something pertaining to or belonging to a lord,—our Lord, Jesus Christ. Whatever it is, whether a society or a building, it is in some special sense the Lord’s.

1. I begin with the meaning of the word that is most remote from its primitive meaning, that was the last to come into use, and is less generally used than any other, viz., a place of public worship. Christians build a house where they statedly meet to pray, sing praises, and hear the word of God, and this house of worship is often called a “church....

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