« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »
THE CREED FORMULATED
The Presbyterian Church has been the The martyr martyr Church of history. Though sword Church. ana sagot are laid aside, she maintains her martyr pre-eminence by continuing to elicit a peculiar hostility. In popular novels, sensational sermons, and the secular press she is made the target of attack. As an acute observer has truly said, “Every heresy in doctrine or morals works itself first or last into a frenzy against Calvinism.”
The persistence of these attacks renders The need of it important that Presbyterians should in- the hour. form themselves of the scriptural warrant and splendid history of that great system
“We love you for your glorious history." Grect.
of doctrine held by their Church, that they may be able to vindicate God's truth against error and give a reason for the faith that is in them. While we are not the only ecclesiastical body that holds this system, yet none will deny that friends and foes alike award to the Presbyterian Church, as its wreath of thorns, or its diadem of glory, the distinction of being the world's historic and leading representative of the creed of Calvinism. In this coronation we rejoice, and we would gladly attribute it to the purity in which we 'hold this “ faith once delivered to the saints ”, and the unflinching fidelity with which in every age we have been ready to champion and to die for it.
Our doctrinal system is known as Calvinism, not because it originated with Calvin; it originated with God; but because Calvin, after Paul and possibly Augustine, was its ablest expounder. Misled by the name, our critics have long been in
Our creed and Calvin
ing of the Methodist Ecumenical Conference to the Pan-Presbyterian Alliance, 1892.
the habit of quoting as part of our faith any and every view held by Calvin. Calvin's beliefs, however, form no part of our creed except in so far as they are incorporated in our Standards, which were framed nearly a century after Calvin's death.
The doctrinal Standards of our Church Our docare three: the Westminster Shorter Cate- trinal Stand
ards. chism, the Westminster Larger Catechism, and the Westminster Confession of Faith. They are not three creeds. They are three statements, varying in form, fulness, and purpose, of one and the same creed. Each is complete in itself. Each contains all the essential truths of Scripture. Each is a complete epitome of the Calvinistic system. Whoever intelligently accepts the teachings of the Shorter Catechism is a true Calvinist. Should he extend his studies to the Larger Catechism and the Confession of Faith he would find in them the same system of doctrine with which the briefer statements of the Shorter Catechism had already acquainted him.
The Stand. Her doctrinal system the Presbyterian ards and
Church accentuates. She is pronouncedly Church membership. and pre-eminently a doctrinal church.
Yet the acceptance of her Standards she never requires of any applicant for admission to her fold. (Her only condition of church membership is a credible profession of faith in Christ. Calvinistic and Arminian believers in Christ she welcomes with equal heartiness. Her door of entrance is
wide as the gate of heaven. The Stand But of her office-bearers she requires ards and
doctrinal soundness. The question asked Office-bear
them at ordination is, “Do you sincerely receive and adopt the Confession of Faith and the Catechisms of our Church as containing the system of doctrine taught in the Holy Scriptures?” This formula of subscription is liberal. It binds only to "all the essential and necessary articles."1 "The use of the words ‘system of doctrine' in the terms of subscription precludes the
1 Adopting Act of 1729.
idea of the necessary acceptance of every statement in the Standards by the subscribers, but involves the acceptance of so much as is vital to the system as a whole." 2
Our doctrinal formularies are known as Name and the Westminster Standards because the fa- era nous Assembly of divines that framed them held their sessions in England's great Abbey of Westminster. Their labors extended over five and a half years, during which time they held nearly twelve hundred sessions. They met in 1643, at a period in the world's history when the human intellect, for reasons known to scholars, appears to have reached the zenith of its power. The era of the Westminster Assembly was the era of Shakespeare,3 whose work stands matchless among the creations of the human imagination. It
* Southern General Assembly's answer to overture of inquiry. Minutes of 1898, p. 223.
8 Collier dates the close of the Elizabethan Era at 1659, Saintsbury and Thomas Arnold at 1660.