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PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH.

BY JOHN M. KREBS, D.D., PASTOR OF THE RUTGERS STREET CHURCH, NEW YORK, AND PERMANENT CLERK OF THE

GENERAL ASSEMBLY.

I. DOCTRINE, WORSHIP, AND GOVERNMENT.

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The published “Constitution of the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America," sets forth at large the system of doctrine, mode of worship, and form of government, adopted by this church.

The Doctrines are contained in the Confession of Faith," and in the “ Larger and Shorter Catechisms,” and are those which are popularly denominated “Calvinistic.” This distinctive title is appropriated to this system, not because Calvin invented it, but because, among the modern advocates of it, he was undoubtedly the most profound and able, and because it has suited the policy of some to endeavour to convey the idea that this system was unknown until Calvin began to propagate and defend it.

In the Confession of Faith there are many doctrines in which the Presbyterians agree with their brethren of other denominations. In regard to all that is embraced in that formula concerning the being and perfections of God, the Trinity of persons in the Godhead, the divinity, incarnation and atoning sacrifice of the Son of God, &c., they may be said to hold substantially in common with all sects who deserve the Christian name. But with respect to the true state of human nature before God, the doctrine of sovereign, unconditional election to eternal life, the doctrine that Christ died in a special sense for his elect people, the doctrine of justification by the imputed righteousness of Christ alone, of sanctification by the special and invincible power of the Holy Spirit, and of the perseverance of the saints in holiness, they differ very materially from many who bear the Christian name. In short, with regard to what are commonly called the “ five points" discussed and decided in the Synod of Dort, the Consession is opposed to Arminianism, and coincides with the Calvinistic system maintained by that body.

These evangelical doctrines, as they are taught in the Word of God, were revived and held with singular unanimity by all the churches which arose out of the Reformation, as appears very evidently from a comparison of the various creeds and confessions which were framed and published by them. Those who on the Continent adhered to Martin Luther in his ritual views and observances, and the Anglican prelatists as well as the Reformed Churches of France, Germany, Switzerland, Holland and Scotland, equally adopted the tenets since denominated Calvinistic, their differences having relation mainly to the administration of ecclesiastical affairs, the parity of the Christian ministry, and their subordinate topics. And the history of the church and of the world, (as a constant developement of this great principle, that truth is in order to goodness, its great touchstone, in its tendency to produce holiness, and that there is an inseparable connexion between faith and practice, truth and duty,) together with the admissions of some of the most eminent scholars and divines, and eloquent writers of later days, even of those who by no means favoured Calvinism, are an irrefragable testimony to the benign influence exerted by this much-abused system, on the illumination and salvation of those who cordially embrace it, and on the moral character and deportment, the knowledge and freedom, and the general prosperity and happiness of every community where it has prevailed. *

* “By many ignorant and prejudiced persons a very foul, but a very false, allegation, both before the time of the Synod of Dort, and also down to the present day, has occa. sionally been advanced against the Calvinistic system. That system has been set forth as offering a premium for gross immorality, as inculcating in the case of the vainly presumptuous, an unhallowed security, and as advocating, to the certain ruin of the consti. tutionally despondent, all the wild recklessness of utter and uncontrolled desperation. Hence, in the way of summary, we have been gravely assured that, according to the Calvinistic scheme of interpretation, the elect, no matter what may be the obstinate ungodliness of their lives, must be finally saved even in their impenitence, while the reprobate, no matter what may be the devoted holiness of their conversation, even in their godly penitence must be finally damned. Nothing can be more unfounded than this vulgar allegation.

“Calvinism really teaches, that the elect, even though they may be humbly doubtful of their own individual election, after their effectual calling, however speckled with the remains of human corruption, will always lead holy and devoted and godly lives; while the reprobate, even though they may madly and contemptuously presume upon their own imagined security, will always show their true character, either by an indulgence in habitually unhallowed practice, or by an utter deadness to every sentiment of vitally influential religion.”—Judic. Synod. Dordrech. Conclus. Cap. V.

“ This invariable association of holiness with election, and of unholiness with reproba. tion, is assuredly the special badge of Calvinism; and for the abuse of the system by the profanely licentious, that scheme is no more responsible, than any other scheme can justly be made responsible for its own particular and disallowed perversion.

“ The dogma, if such a dogma be held even by the wildest Antinomian, that an indi. vidual fearlessly and securely may sin, because without evidence, or rather against evi. As the most powerful body of European refugees from prelatical cruelty, who originally settled in the United States, were inflexible Calvinists; and as they have impressed their character upon

The forms of worship are simple and scriptural, consisting in praise, prayer, and the reading and preaching of the word of God. They are regulated according to a prescribed “ Directory,” but are

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dence, he has fondly persuaded himself that he is one of the elect—that dogma is a mere perversion of the Genevan system. A pious Calvinist—and among doctrinal Calvinists have been numbered some of the best and the wisest and the most holy men who have ever adorned the Catholic Church—a pious Calvinist would shrink from it with horror and disgust. So far from sanctioning the blasphemous absurdity, on the real principles of his own scheme, he would be the first and the foremost to consider its maintainance, by any pretended Calvinist, as a black mark indicative of the wretched perverter's own reprobation. He would say—Whatever may be the secret purpose of God in regard to effectual calling, no man can claim to be of the number of the elect to glory, unless as a clear evidence of his election, he can show a life devoted to his Saviour and instinct with fruit. producing holiness. As honest men, we are bound, in the measure of our opportunity, faithfully to investigate doctrinal truth; but then, we are equally bound to abstain from the offensive shamelessness of unmerited calumny."— Faber's Primitive Doctrine of Elec. tion, B. I., chap. vi. sec. 2.

all the national attributes of our republic: it is indispensable accurately to comprehend the cardinal principles of Calvinism in its operation and results, among the entire body of its genuine disciples in this country-the original Anglican Puritans, the Scottish and Irish Presbyterians, the Baptists, and the Reformed Dutch and Germans. In addition, therefore, to the previous testimony of Mr. Faber, three separate witnesses are adduced; and as neither of them are Calvinists, the four combined historiographers must be admitted as proof equivalent to moral demonstration.

Calvin.—The author of the biographical notice of “Calvin,” in the Encyclopedia Bri. tannica, among other expressions laudatory of the exalted virtues, noble talents, and trans. cendant erudition of the French Reformer, thus characterizes him and his most illustrious compeer. Luther and Calvin are “twin stars, the brightest of that constellation of lights by whose effulgence were dispelled the long night of darkness, under the cloud of which the energies of mankind suffered eclipse; and having emerged, they shone forth with a brilliance and glory unparalleled in the history of the world.”

The same writer also mentions, among the chief points which distinguish the system of Calvin from that of the other Reformed Churches,—the independence of the church of the civil power, and the spiritual presence of Christ in the sacrament “of the Lord's Supper."-Encyclopædia Britannica, article Calvin.

The Purilans.-Mr. Bancroft, in his History of the United States, exactly coincides with Mr. Macaulay and other critics, who have illumined the world by their splendid lucubrations in the Edinburgh Review. The American narrator's evidence being so un. exceptionable, a few sentences are extracted. It must be premised, however, that he uses the terms Calvinism and Puritanism, in the doctrinal view, as identical.

“ Puritanism was religion struggling for the people; the shelter, said its enemy, for the noble principle of liberty. It was its office to engraft the new institutions of popular energy upon the old European system of a feudal aristocracy and popular servitude. The good was permanent. The outward emblems were of transient duration. The effects of Puritanism display its true character. Ecclesiastical tyranny is of all kinds the worst. Its fruits are cowardice, idleness, and poverty. Puritanism was a life-giving spirit. Activity, thrift, and intelligence followed in its train."

“The political character of Calvinism, which with one consent, and with instinctive judgment, the monarchs of that day feared as republicanism, and which Charles II.

not minutely controlled by the stereotyped forms of any authorized or commanded liturgy. Not condemning either the principle or the use of a liturgy, the Presbyterian Church, nevertheless, from a conviction that the practice of confining ministers to set or fixed forms of prayer for public worship, derives no warrant from the spirit and examples of the word of God, nor from the practice of the primitive church, and that it is, moreover, unprofitable, burdensome to Christian liberty, and otherwise inexpedient, disapproves of such restriction; but she has, at the same time, made such provision in her “ Directory" for the service, that it may be performed with dignity

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declared a 'religion unfit for a gentleman,' is expressed in a single word-Predestination. Did a proud aristocracy trace its lineage through generations of a high-born ancestry, the republican Reformer brought down the record of the noblest enfranchisement from the book of life.' His converts defied the opposing world; and standing serenely amid the crumbling fabrics of centuries of superstition, they had faith in one another; and the martyrdoms of Cambray, the fires of Smithfield, and the surrender of benefices by two thousand nonconformist Presbyterians, attest their perseverance. Such was the system which for a century and a half assumed the guardianship and liberty for the English world.

"To advance intellectual freedom, Calvinism absolutely denied the sacrament' of ordi. nation : thus breaking up the great monopoly of priestcraft, and scattering the ranks of superstition. To restrain absolute monarchy in France, in Scotland, and in England, it allied itself with the decaying feudal aristocracy which it was sure to outlive; to protect itself against the feudal aristocracy it infused itself into the mercantile class and the inferior gentry; and to secure a life in the public mind, in Geneva, and in Scotland, Therever it gained dominion, it invoked intelligence for the people, and in every parish planted the common school.

“ Calvinism overthrew priestcraft; Calvinism saw in goodness infinite joy, in evil infinite wo; and recognising no other abiding distinctions, opposed secretly, but surely, here. ditary monarchy, aristocracy, and bondage. Massachusetts owned no king but the King of heaven; no aristocracy but of the redeemed; and no bondage but the hopeless, infinite, and eternal bondage of sin. Calvinism invoked intelligence against Satan, the great enemy of the human race; and the farmers and seamen of Massachusetts nourished its college with corn and strings of wampum, and in every village built the free school. Thus had the principle of freedom of mind first asserted for the common people, under a religious form, by Wiclif, been pursued ; until at last it reached a perfect developement, coinciding with the highest attainment of European philosophy."—Bancroft's History of the United States, vol. i. pp. 279, 289, 290, 460, 469 ; vol. ji. pp. 459-463.

One more testimony is appended. It is of the highest value ; because it is the conclu. sion of an essay, the design of which is this : expressly to invalidate and disprove the Calvinistic theory of the divine government both in providence and grace.

Practical Tendency of Calvinism.—"From the earliest ages down to our own days, if we consider the character of the ancient Stoics, the Jewish Essenes, the modern Calvinists, and Jansenists; when compared with that of the Epicureans, the Sadducees, Arminians, and the Jesuits; we shall find that they have ever excelled in no small degree in the practice of the most rigid and respectable virtues; and have been the highest honour of their own ages, and the best models for imitation to every age succeeding.”—Encyclopædia Britannica, article PREDESTINATION.

and propriety, as well as profit, to those who join in it, and that it may not be disgraced by mean, irregular, or extravagant effusions.

The Presbyterian Church, moreover, prescribes no canonical vestments for her ministers; possesses no altar, but only a communion table; and instead of kneeling at the Lord's Supper, the communicants sit; she rejects lay-baptism, and godfathers and godmothers, and the sign of the cross in baptism ; and she repudiates all saints' days, and observes the Lord's day as the sabbath and as the only season of holy time commanded to Christians.

In all these matters, it is believed that she is sanctioned by the scriptures, the practice of the primitive church, and the principles of the purest churches of the Reformation ; while her own history and experience furnish a confirmation of the value of her practice, which she fears not to compare with that of any other religious community, in its influence, as well as the influence of her doctrines and disciplinc,) on the order and decorum of public worship, on the purity in the faith of her ministers, on the edification of the worshippers, and on the sanctification of their hearts and lives.

The plan of government rests on these avowed and cardinal principles :—That God alone is Lord of the conscience, and hath left it free from the doctrine and commandments of men, which are in any thing contrary to his word, or beside it in matters of faith or worship. That the rights of private judgment, in all matters that respect religion, are universal and unalienable. That it is not even desirable to see any religious constitution aided by the civil power, farther than may be necessary for protection and security, and at the same time be equal and common to all others. That, in perfect consistency with the above principle of common right, every Christian church or union or association of particular churches, is entitled to declare the terms of admission into its communion, and the qualifications of its ministers and members, as well as the whole system of its internal government which Christ hath appointed. That our blessed Saviour, for the edification of the visible church, hath appointed officers, not only to preach the gospel and administer the sacraments, but also to exercise discipline, for the preservation both of truth and duty, by censuring or casting out the erroneous or scandalous, according to the rules contained in the word of God; that, nevertheless, there are truths and forms with respect to which men of good characters may differ, and in all these it is the duty both of private Christians and societies, to exercise mutual forbearance towards each other. That the character, qualifications, and authority of church officers are laid down in the holy scriptures, as well as the proper method of their

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