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The Koehnken Organ at Covenant Seminary
by the late Robert I. Thomas

cts_organ02smAt the request of Dr. Robert G. Rayburn, then president of Covenant Theological Seminary, a search was launched for a good, used, tracker action pipe organ of suitable size to be located in the chapel which was about to begin construction. Leads were checked out; a two-manual (keyboard) organ at St. Henry’s Roman Catholic Church in Cincinnati, Ohio became the best prospect. The church’s congregation had dwindled, the organ had stood mute for years, and the Gothic building was slated for demolition. Negotiations for its purchase were quickly completed and generous members of the seminary board gave funds for its purchase, moving and rebuilding.

Dismantling was arduous and sometimes dangerous and the marathon of trips up and down the winding stairway of the high balcony to carry thousands of parts for packing was exhausting. The Johann H. Koehnken organ at CTS is believed to be the oldest two-manual organ in the state of Missouri. Restoration and building of 19th-century pipe organs requires special skills, dedication and sympathy for this style of instrument, qualities not shared by all organ builders. Louis IX Associates of St. Louis was selected by the Seminary to complete the job of moving the organ and commencing the first stages of restoration. The organ arrived in St. Louis in two large trucks on November 3, 1976, to be stored until the chapel was ready.

This organ contains about 4,500 moving parts, each of which was cleaned, repaired or replicated with a replacement part when necessary in a time-consuming but careful manner. Most of the parts are beautifully handmade of wood, and will last for centuries if properly maintained, though this type of organ requires a minimum of attention except at 50- to 75-year intervals. This organ, over 100 years old, is so constructed that it is able to peal forth the praises of God for hundreds of years more.

cts_organ03smThe original builder of the organ, Johann H. Koehnken [1819-1901] emigrated from his native Saxony, where he had trained as a cabinetmaker and worked as one for two years, to continue his trade in Wheeling, West Virginia,, for another two years before arriving in Cincinnati in 1839. There he was taught organ building by his employer and fellow German Mathias Schwab, who had come to the United States in 1831. Schwab was the West’s first major organ builder, and he supplied finely wrought instruments over a wide area, including Detroit, Baltimore and St. Louis. Of the hundreds of organs built by Schwab, only two are know to exist in original condition and both are in Kentucky.

When Schwab retired in 1860, he left the firm in the hands of Koehnken, and the business became Koehnken & Company. Schwab had hired Gallus Grimm, a German cabinetmaker with four years of organ building experience, in 1853, which led to a life-long partnership which was reflected in the firm’s name after 1875, when it became known as Koehnken & Grimm. After Koehnken’s death, the first was styled Grimm & Son.

The organ at Covenant Seminary is not the first by Koehnken to be in St. Louis. Research located an account of the instance when Koehnken loaded four organs on a flatboat, brought them to St. Louis, and spent seven months here installing them. The firm’s organs were well known throughout the Ohio Valley and in other parts of the Midwest. Tragically, not many of them remain, with most having been needlessly destroyed or discarded as “old.” Those extant are now recognized for their grand sound.

The Search for the Organ’s History.
The organ was built in 1869, four years after Mathias Schwab’s death, for the Mound Street Temple of the K. K. Benai Israel Congregation in Cincinnati, at a cost of $4,900—the price of a fine organ indeed in that era!

When the organ was removed from St. Henry’s Roman Catholic Church in Cincinnati in the Fall of 1967, no one knew the organ’s history. But organ historians could take one look at the instrument and tell that it was of a style that predated St. Henry’s, which was built in the 1890’s. The obvious clues to the organ’s earlier date include the large amounts of wood ornamentation above the display pipes, the square stop shanks, and the hitch-down Swell pedal. Furthermore, dates written inside the case went as far back as September, 1872, nearly a year before St. Henry’s previous building was begun, and wherein the ceiling height would not have accommodated the organ.

The large, six-pointed star in the center pinnacle of the case was a clue that indicated the organ may have been built for a Hebrew temple. But such stars are sometimes used in Christian settings as double symbols of the Trinity. At any rate, the old Isaac Wise Temple, a few blocks from St. Henry’s Church in Cincinnati, still had its much large 1866 Koehnken organ, and this was the only organ it had ever had. So the CTS organ could not have come from there.

The confusion began to clear when it was learned that the K. K. Benai Israel Congregation (now spelled “Bene”) in Cincinnati had had, in its Mount Street Temple built in 1869, a Koehnken organ of two manuals and thirty stops, which is the very same as the CTS organ. Accounts of the Temple’s 1869 dedication state that the organ case had features of heavily carved black walnut, with the carving gilded and with the display pipes stenciled in bright colors. The CTS organ had these features, though the colorful stenciling had been obscured by several coats of gold paint. The Mound Street Temple was said to have an architectural blend of Gothic and Arabic styles, and this same blending can be readily seen in the CTS organ case, with its pointed and rounded arches.

The names Harris and Johnson are chalked inside the case with the dates 1872 and 1878. Membership rolls from the Temple, as researched by Mr. Willard Kahn of that congregation, include both names in that general era, and a David Israel Johnson helped found this “first Hebrew congregation of the West” in 1819. Through the courtesy of the Archives of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, it was learned that St. Henry’s Church acquired the organ as a gift from their men’s club in 1907, which facts fit beautifully with the Hebrew congregation’s move to a new Rockdale Temple in 1906 or 1907 and their abandonment of the Mound Street Temple and its organ. Edward Grimm, son of Gallus Grimm of Koehnken & Grimm, is likely to have effected the move to St. Henry’s in 1907, for some of his business cards were used for bushing beneath the toe boards on the wind chests.

There can be no doubt that this is the organ which was purchased by the K. K. Benai Israel Congregation in 1869, making it one of the fairly early organs in a Hebrew temple in America, the earliest having been built in 1841 by Henry Erben of New York for Kahal Kadosh Beth Elohim (Holy Congregation House of God) in Charleston, South Carolina. Inside the organ, pencilled on a wind trunk, are the initials “M.S.,” which at first led historians to think that the organ might have had some parts built by Mathias Schwab, who died in 1864. But after the link with the K. K. Benai Congregation was made, the initials confirmed it : the builders very likely had written “M.S.” on the wind trunk for the Mound Street organ to distinguish it from other, similar windiness, under construction at the same time for other organs.

Although a few other organs are known to exist in Missouri, they are all small and with but one manual (keyboard). The 1869 Koehnken organ at Covenant Seminary is believed to be the oldest two-manual organ in the state!

Upon completion of construction and the installation of this magnificent organ, the dedication of the Robert G. Rayburn Chapel took place on May 18, 1979. A litany especially composed by Dr. Rayburn was used in the dedication service.

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Harold Samuel LairdThe Rev. Harold Samuel Laird was a man of great Christian character, always spoken of with the greatest respect. Forgotten now by the current generation, he was in his time a pastor among pastors and a significant leader in the conservative Presbyterian movement in the 20th century. Taking advantage of your pending holiday, we present a longer post today, a sermon by the Rev. Harold S. Laird, preached on the occasion of the annual Thank Offering service of the Women’s Missionary Society, November 25, 1934. We trust you will be edified and challenged by reading of this sermon:—

Our Great Commission

And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the age. Amen.” (Matthew 28:18-20)

These three verses contain what is commonly called “The Great Commission.” On this occasion I have chosen to refer to it as “Our Great Commission,” because of the fact that we are considering it together, as a body of disciples of Him who gave the commission.

In these words I have as a pastor my justification for urging upon you as members of this church, and professed disciples of Christ, a great activity in the work of missions. More than this, in these same words we as the Session of this church have encouragement for the continuance and maintenance of our missionary effort above any other work in which we may be engaged. But still further, in these same words we as a body of professed believers in Christ find a positive obligation and duty to carry the Gospel into every corner of the world.

In order that we might the more clearly see our duty both as a church and as individual members, I ask you to consider carefully with me this Great Commission as we find it in the three verses of our text. Here there are three facts which may be clearly discerned through careful analysis of the verses—the source of the Great Commission, the object of the Great Commission, and the encouragement to those who will obey the Great Commission.

1—THE SOURCE OF THE GREAT COMMISSION

laird_great_commissionWhence did it come? From whom and by whom was it given? I am glad that the Scripture has not left us in doubt as to this. The text declares that it was Jesus who spoke the words. The source of this commission was not Moses, nor one of the prophets, nor even the foremost missionary, Paul. God’ could have given it to the church through any one of these, for all of them “spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost,” but He chose rather to give it through Him who “spake as never man spake,” but “as one having authority.”

It is tremendously significant to note that before our Lord Jesus spoke the words of the commission, He definitely claimed for Himself authority with the statement, “All authority is given unto me in heaven and in earth.” The King James Version translates it “power”, but a careful reading of the Greek makes it clear that what He was really claiming here was authority, and not power as we are familiar with the usage of the word in the New Testament.

I am reminded of the passage in Daniel which speaks of Jehovah as “he (that) doeth according to his will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth: and none can stay his hand, or say unto him, What doest thou?” In this passage the man of God is ascribing authority unto Him that ‘‘sitteth in the heavens. ” It is the same authority which the Lord Jesus claims for Himself as He introduces the Great Commission, saying, “All authority is given unto me in heaven and in earth.”

Because this commission came from Him who had such authority, it came as a command. He did not speak these words as a mere request, suggesting that the Church might go or not, as it pleased. He who possessed such authority was not in the habit of making requests of His subjects. When He speaks, He speaks to command, and why not? Is not this the way of kings? Let us remember that He is a King, the King and Head of His church. Surely He has the right to command the church He purchased with His own blood, and in which are numbered those who bear His name and claim thereby to be His very own.

Occasionally I find a professed Christian who declares that he has no interest in foreign missions. I question such a one’s right to call Jesus Lord. If He is Lord, we must have an interest in the things He commands. Those who make such a statement are often exceedingly zealous about attending the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper. Let us remember that the Great Commission of our Lord is equally as much a command as is His summons to the table of His broken body aid shed blood.

Years ago it was my privilege to attend a great missionary convention in Washington, D. C. On that occasion I listened to the outstanding missionary leaders of the world. One sentence spoken by one of them has lingered with me. It was this: “The question of one’s becoming a Christian is perfectly optional. He may become a Christian or not, as he chooses, and suffer the consequences. But after that one has become a Christian, there is nothing optional about it. He is then duty-bound to be obedient to the Great Commission”.

In view of all this, the first claim of missionary activity does not therefore come from the misery and need of the world. Surely this is a mighty claim, and were you to be transported this morning from your comfortable seat in this auditorium to one of those sections of the world where the Gospel has never yet been preached, and with your own eyes behold the dire need of those who have never heard the story, you would not need further persuasion to create in your heart a missionary zeal.

I shall never forget the impression made upon the First Church of Lewistown, Pa., during my pastorate there, when during our annual School of Missions we had the privilege of hearing the testimony of Dr. L. E. Smith, a medical missionary under our Board of Foreign Missions. In connection with his address to men only he showed a series of pictures taken of patients whom he had treated, showing something of the awful physical need in a land where Christ is not known. Following the address, a man in the church came to me declaring that never could he go to Africa to do what this doctor was doing. I said to him, “If you cannot go, then certainly you ought to make it possible for those to go who will go”. To this he replied, “I know that I should, and I will.”

When I took Dr. Smith to the train, I had occasion while we were waiting on the platform to introduce him to one of the physicians of our town, and I suggested that Dr. Smith show to this man some copies of the photographs which he had used the night before at the church. As he studied the pictures and heard Dr. Smith relate some of his experiences, he declared, “What a place that would be to practice medicine”! Dr. Smith’s reply was this “No man would be willing to practice medicine in that place unless he had in his heart the love of Christ for dying men.”

But this ought not to be the first claim for your missionary activity. Neither does the first claim of missionary activity arise from the fact of the great blessing of the Gospel to those who hear and receive its truths. Were you to go into certain sections of heathen lands today, comparing Christian communities with non-Christian, you would need no other argument to convince you of the value of missionary work, or of your own obligation as a professed Christian to share in it.

In the year 1833 Charles Darwin, the famous scientist and exponent of the chief theory of evolution, paid a visit while in search of the so-called “missing link” to the South Sea Islands, then inhabited by cannibals. As he studied these people, he was convinced that they were the lowest specimen of humanity in the world, in some ways lower even than the brutes. As he came away, he declared that no power on earth could transform those people into a higher form of civilization. He was right, for no earthly power could do that. Just thirty-four years later, in 1867, Mr. Darwin returned to these same islands and found there churches, schools, and huts from which there came the sound of the singing of hymns. This was after the ministry of John G. Paton. Mr. Darwin returned to England and made out a substantial check to the London Missionary Society, sending it with the testimony that he had seen with his own eyes the power of the Gospel and wished to have some share in its remarkable ministry.

It is a significant thing that that which wrought the transformation in the South Sea Islands was not a program of education or social service, but simply the preaching of the Gospel of the crucified, risen Saviour. It is also significant that our Mission Boards do not undertake a ministry of education among such people as those to whom John G. Paton ministered. They rather carry on such programs in lands where civilization has been for generations.

Surely such blessings as those which the Gospel brings do have a mighty claim, as well as the dire need for that blessing, and these ought to transform any professed believers in Christ into a great missionary people. It is because of my conviction regarding this that we set up an annual School of Missions, where we hear the testimony from missionaries direct from the field regarding both the need and the power of the Gospel to meet that need. But as a matter of fact, evidence like this ought not to be necessary to lead us into great missionary activity. The commission itself should be sufficient.

The first claim of any church’s missionary work ought to arise from the direct command of our Lord Jesus Christ. We ought to be a missionary people not primarily because of the need of the heathen, or the power of the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ to meet that need, but rather first of all because He commands us to be such a people. For this reason the church that neglects foreign missions is disregarding the express orders of her Lord. It is a serious thing to do this, for consider again who He is that we dare thus to disregard. He is the One who claimed, “All authority is given unto me in heaven and in earth.”

II—THE OBJECT OF THE GREAT COMMISSION

The object is quite as clearly declared in the text as is the source of it. We as a church are to go and “make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.” From these words it is first of all clear that the church is not to sit still and wait for the heathen to come to its doors, but it is to go to them. Not only so, but it clearly sets forth that it is the duty of the church to go not to some of them only, but to all of them. We are commanded to “make disciples of all nations.’ That means all people everywhere, be they in the heart of a great continent, or in the middle of the sea upon some forsaken island.

The object of the telling of the story is clearly stated. It is not that those to whom we go may be civilized, or educated, good as these things are. We are to have a greater objective than that. We are commanded to go and make disciples. That is, we are to go with the express purpose of leading men to Christ and baptizing them in His name.

Sometimes I fear that the church is missing the clearly given object of its commission as it throws its effort and money into a program of education and social service, all of which is good, but not the object as stated in the commission. I take it to be the duty of every church that sends out missionaries to see to it that these missionaries are putting “first things first.” To the best of our ability, we have done and are doing this in our church. We are endeavoring to be as true as we know how to the great object of our Lord’s commission, which is to make disciples of all nations, that is, to lead men and women everywhere to a knowledge of Jesus Christ as personal Saviour and Lord.

III—THE ENCOURAGEMENT GIVEN TO OBEDIENCE

This encouragement comes to us as a mighty promise conditioned only upon our obedience. This great promise follows immediately upon our Lord’s command—“lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the age.” Sometimes this verse is detached from the preceding verses. Frequently I have heard it used by those who claimed the Lord’s abiding presence regardless of their attitude towards the Great Commission. I am sure that we have no right to separate this promise from the command which it immediately follows. Let us remember that these verses were spoken together by our Lord and that they should always go together. The fulfillment of the one is conditioned by the obedience of the other. It is only when we go that we may claim the promise.

Consider carefully the force of the little word, “Lo.” “Go ye,” says our Lord, “and, lo, I am with you.” It is used to arrest attention and summons us to the consideration of a marvelous truth, namely, the promise of His presence. Not only so, but of His continuous presence—“alway”, every day, every hour, every moment. What a promise, and what encouragement! What a mighty incentive this ought to be to us as a church to go!

The church that does not go has no right to expect His presence and all that presence means in its life and work. Let me say that the church that does not go does not have His presence. It is the church that goes, the church that has a great missionary passion, and a large missionary activity that has His presence and His consequent blessing. This is why I am so eager that this church shall be a great missionary church— because I KNOW that if we obey and go, He will be with us to bless us, even He who has all power in heaven and in earth, as well as all authority.

The best way for any church to know the richest blessing of heaven is for that church to become missionary-minded. I think a year ago today I called attention to the striking testimony of Phillips Brooks, who early in his ministry made the statement that if ever he were called to serve a church that was financially run-down and unable to meet its bills, he would at once urge that church to undertake the support of a foreign missionary. Such a statement sounds like the height of folly to the unbelieving world, but those of us who have tested this promise of the Lord know that this course is not folly but the very height of wisdom.

That which is true of the church is true also of the individual in the church, for what our Lord Jesus says to the church, He says also to you and to me. “Go ye”…if you go… “Lo, I am with you.” Remember, when He is with us, in the sense of this promise, His presence always brings blessing. It was so in the days of His sojourn in the flesh. As it was then, so it is now, for He is “the same yester-day, and today, and forever.” Do you want that Presence and the blessing it guarantees? If you do, obey the Great Commission. “Go ye”!

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kerr_robertPRev. Robert P. Kerr’s little volume, PRESBYTERIANISM FOR THE PEOPLE, now moves to a short section on Presbyterian theology. There are three chapters in this section: (1) Presbyterian Theology; (2) Peculiarities of Calvinism; and (3) Calvinism and Self-Government. Today we present the first of these three chapters.

Incidentally, Kerr’s book appears to have gone through at least two printings. The PCA Historical Center has a copy with brown cloth boards and gilt lettering, printed in 1883. So much of the work produced for the Southern Presbyterian Church by the Whittet & Shepperson Printing Company had this same appearance—brown boards, typically with beveled edges, and gilt lettering. This then would be the first edition of the book. The Buswell Library at Covenant Seminary also has a copy, but with russet cloth boards and black lettering. This is most likely a later printing, though the same plates were used, as evidenced by the same typographical error in the numbering of Chapter VII. I don’t see that the book has been reprinted since that time.

CHAPTER I.

PRESBYTERIAN THEOLOGY.

“ For we walk by faith, not by sight.”—2 Cor. v. 7.

SALVATION BY FAITH IN A DIVINE SAVIOUR WHO DIED FOR MEN is the great central truth of our holy religion, and it is held by all evangelical Churches. If a man believes this doctrine, he is a Christian, and any denomination which really holds to it is a Christian Church. The differences between evangelical. Churches, while important, are not as the things necessary to the salvation- of the soul.

In the present condition of the world it is well that there should be several denominations. There is more work done, and better work, than if all Christians were in one organization. Now, it would be difficult to maintain the subdivisions necessary for efficiency without differences of opinion. There must be various centres of thought around which men may rally. There is a certain theological system called Arminianism, another called Calvinism, and there are different systems of government and modes of worship, all of which contribute to form the denominations into which, under the providence of God, the Church has been divided. ’The unity of the Church may be sufficiently realized by magnifying our common belief in the great truths of redemption, and in exhibiting at all times a charity, greater than faith and hope, which will shut the mouths of our enemies and command the respect of the world. One of the best signs of our times is the fact that most denominations now recognize one another’s churchship and work together harmoniously for the glory of Christ in the redemption of mankind.

But it is necessary that each division of the great army of Christians should be instructed in the things peculiar to itself, and ought not to be considered uncharitable if it exhibits and defends those distinctive institutions which give it being. There is also need of a brief exposition of Presbyterian doctrines, from the fact that there has been some misunderstanding among other peoples as to what we really believe. For example, we have been accused of teaching the damnation of infants who die in infancy. Though such a statement may seem unnecessary, it is now most emphatically made: The Presbyterian Church holds and teaches that all who die in infancy are saved.

The following is given as a general outline of Presbyterian theology. Some parts of it are taken from an old formula, of unknown authorship, and two articles from the Westminster Catechism;

SUMMARY OF DOCTRINES.

I. There is one God, the Creator, Preserver and Governor of the universe, who is possessed of every natural and moral perfection.

II. This God exists in three Persons, the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost, the same in essence and equal in all divine attributes.

III. The Scriptures contained in the Old and New Testaments were given by inspiration of God and furnish a perfect rule of faith and practice.

IV. God created Adam perfectly holy and constituted him the representative of all his posterity, suspending their moral character and legal relation to his probationary conduct.

V. In consequence of Adam’s fall all mankind are in a state of total moral depravity and are under condemnation.

VI. The Lord Jesus Christ, who is God and man, by his sufferings and death has made atonement for the sins of the whole world.

VII. Through the atonement salvation is freely offered to all sinners in the gospel; and though they are free to accept, yet they naturally reject, this gracious offer, and refuse to come to Christ that they might have eternal life.

VIII. God the Spirit, by an act of special sovereign grace, renews the hearts of all the elect and causes them to accept the salvation of the gospel.

IX. The foundation of the elects’ forgiveness and redemption is the atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ, received and rested on in faith.

X. God promises to preserve from final apostasy all who have been renewed in their souls, and to conduct them, through sanctification and belief of the truth, into the kingdom of glory.

XI. All men who hear the good news of the gospel and come to Christ will be saved. God from all eternity has foreordained whatsoever comes to pass, and yet man is free to accept or reject God’s offers of mercy.

XII. God has appointed a day, at the end of the present order of things, in which he will judge the world in righteousness by Jesus Christ, who will receive those that believe on him into everlasting happiness and sentence the wicked unto everlasting punishment.

XIII. The Lord’s Supper is a sacrament, wherein, by giving and receiving bread and wine according to Christ’s appointment, his death is showed forth, and the worthy receivers are, not after a corporal and carnal manner, but by faith, made partakers of his body and blood, with all his benefits, to their spiritual nourishment and growth in grace.

XIV. Baptism is a sacrament wherein the washing with water in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost doth signify and seal our in-grafting into Christ and partaking of the benefits of the covenant of grace, and our engagement to be the Lord’s.

XV. It is required of the officers in the Presbyterian Church to accept the system of doctrines of the Confession of Faith, but persons are admitted as ‘private members on a simple profession of faith in Christ, a promise of obedience to him and conformity to the rules of the Church. Whatever admits a man into heaven ought to admit him into the communion of the Church on earth.

The greater part of this system of doctrine is held by all Christians, but there are a few important points in which we differ from other denominations.

The Presbyterian system of theology has been called Augustinian because it was first fully elaborated by Augustine in the fifth century, and Calvinistic because its greatest modern expositor was John Calvin, in the sixteenth century. The most complete statement of these doctrines was made by the Westminster Assembly of Divines, in the seventeenth century, in a “Confession of Faith ” which has become the standard of nearly all English- speaking Presbyterians.

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We continue today with our Saturday excursions into the little book by the Rev. Robert P. Kerr titled PRESBYTERIANISM FOR THE PEOPLE (1883). Today’s chapter concerns the office of the deacon in the Church.

CHAPTER IX.

DEACONS.

These officers were unknown in the Church of God until the time of the apostles. In Acts vi. is given an account of the election of the first Deacons. Being elected by the people, they come under the definition of Presbyterianism.

The elders, having charge of the spiritual concerns of the Church, could not give to temporal matters the time and attention they deserved; so they called upon the people to select

“seven men of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business. But we will give ourselves continually to prayer and to the ministry of the Word. And the saying pleased the whole multitude; and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Ghost, and Philip and Prochorus, and Nicanor, and Timon and Parmenas and Nicholas, a proselyte of Antioch: whom they set before the apostles; and when they had prayed, they laid their hands on them.” (Acts 6:3-6)

The office thus instituted was extended over the whole Church, and has continued in the Presbyterian body unto this day.

The Deacons are subordinate to the Session, as the Session is subordinate to the Presbytery. Except the highest of all, there is no assembly which is not subject to the review of a higher body The work of the Deacons is to have care of the poor, the sick, prisoners, the property of the church and the money contributed for pious uses. This office has proved of immense benefit in the Church, and should be honored by those who occupy it, as well as by the people whom they serve.

In some branches of the Presbyterian Church godly women have been set apart to assist in the work of the Deacons, as among the sick and the poor there are many duties pertaining to this office which can be better discharged by females.

The divine authority for this office is derived principally from Romans xvi. 1, 2 : “I commend unto you Phoebe our sister, which is a servant” (a “ deacon ” in the original) “ of the church which is at Cenchrea: that ye receive her in the Lord, as becometh saints, and that ye assist her in whatsoever business she hath need of you : for she hath been a succorer of many, and of myself also.”

Because this office was perverted and grievously abused by the Roman Church it was generally abandoned by Protestants at the Reformation, but it is now being slowly reinstated by the Church in various parts of the world.

For more resources on the diaconate, see http://pcahistory.org/bco/fog/09/resources.html

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PRESBYTERIANISM FOR THE PEOPLE.
by Rev. Robert P. Kerr
(1883)

CHAPTER IV.
APOSTOLIC PRESBYTERIANISM.

Such being the government under which the Church was living when the apostles were sent out to Christianize the world, it was natural that they should follow the time-honored customs of God’s people in every land whither they went; so we find that as they journeyed among the nations, preaching the gospel and organizing congregations of converts, they “ordained them elders in every church” (Acts xiv. 23)—that is to say, they carried out the old synagogue system of government by elders, with which the Jews dwelling among the nations were familiar. They were not organizing a new Church, but only extending the old Church of God and proclaiming that the Christ had come. The Jews who rejected Christ cast themselves out and virtually made themselves a new body.

We discover, on the one hand, no traces of Congregationalism, for “every church” was ruled, not by the people directly, but by their representatives; nor, on the other hand, of Episcopacy, for the congregation was committed to the care, not of one man, but of several elders. In Acts xx. 28, where Paul was instructing the elders of the church at Ephesus, whom he had requested to come to Miletus, he said, “Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock over which the Holy Ghost hath made you bishops” (επισκοποι). This word was translated “overseers” in the Old Version, but in the new one—prepared principally by Episcopalians—it is correctly rendered “bishops.” This passage alone shows conclusively that “bishop” was simply another name for elder, for these were elders to whom the apostle was speaking. In the seventeenth verse we read: “And from Miletus, he sent to Ephesus and called the elders of the church.

A grand feature of the Presbyterian system is the perfect equality in rank of all the elders. It is entirely opposed to the Episcopal distinctions of bishops, priests and deacons. Paul shows the equality of all elders in 1 Tim. v. 17: “Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honor, especially they who labor in the word and doctrine.” This shows that the elders had the office of ruling in common, but that some, in addition to ruling, “labored in the word and doctrine.” In 1 Tim. iv. 14 ordination is shown to be, not by one bishop, but by “the laying on of the hands of the Presbytery,” which was composed of several elders, or bishops, as they were indifferently styled. In Jerusalem a General Assembly (Acts xv.), composed of “apostles and elders,” was held to decide a question concerning the observance of the ceremonial law, and the decision of this body was sent out to the churches as authoritative. This is conclusive against both Congregationalism and Episcopacy.

We have found that the governmental principle of Presbyterianism runs throughout the whole Bible history; and now, in the book of Revelation, we can catch a glimpse of the same principle operating in the government of the redeemed in heaven. In chap. iv. 4 we read that “round about the throne were four and twenty seats, and upon the seats were four and twenty elders sitting” (not standing), “clothed in white raiment, and they had upon their heads crowns of gold.” The facts that they were “sitting” and that they wore “crowns” indicate authority. Christ on the throne, and the elders sitting around Him, constituted the governing body of the saints. This is the final endorsement of the grand principle of Church government by elders in “that Holy City, the New Jerusalem,” which shall at last descend out of heaven, when “the tabernacle of God shall be with men.”

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STUDIES IN THE WESTMINSTER SHORTER CATECHISM
by Rev. Leonard T. Van Horn

Q. 22. — How did Christ, being the Son of God, become man?

A. — Christ, the Son of God, became man, by taking to himself a true body and a reasonable soul, being conceived by the power of the Holy Ghost, in the womb of the Virgin Mary, and born of her, yet without sin.

Scripture References: John 1:14; Luke 1:31,35,41,42; Heb. 2:14; Matt. 26:38; Gal. 4:4; Heb. 4:15; Heb. 7:26.

Questions:

1. Was Christ’s birth a voluntary act of Christ?

Yes, it was a voluntary act. He took upon himself the human nature so that he might be fitted to be our Redeemer.

2. Did he assume the nature of a real man?

Yes, he assumed the nature of a real man. He had the two essential parts of a man, possessing a real body of flesh and blood and bones and that of possessing a soul.

3. How can we prove that he had a real body?

The Bible tells us that he is called “Man”. He was subject to hunger, weariness and thirst like other men. He was also crucified, dead and buried and rose again in his body. Luke 24:39 teaches that his was a body, not just mere spirit.

4. How can we prove that he had a soul, a reasonable soul?

The Bible tells that he had such and that his divine nature did not take the place of, or supply the place of, a soul. Matt. 26:38 teaches that his “soul was exceeding sorrowful, even unto death.”

5. Was the birth of Christ like the birth of other men?

No, his birth came about by the miraculous power of the Holy Ghost in the womb of the Virgin Mary.

6. Why was Christ born of a virgin?

Christ was born of a virgin in order that he might be conceived and born without sin, that he might be free of the original sin which was passed on to all Adam’s posterity by natural generation.

7. Is it really important that we believe Christ was born of a virgin?

Yes, this is very important. (This is treated in the article below):

THE IMPORTANCE OF THE VIRGIN BIRTH OF CHRIST

In many church courts today the question is asked, “Is it really necessary for a person to believe in the virgin birth of Christ?” The statement, or sentiment, behind the question is the thought that it is not necessary to believe in this doctrine to become a Christian, or, it is not necessary to believe in this doctrine to be ordained to the Gospel ministry. Actually, the answer to the question is very simple if the one answering regarding his belief in the virgin birth is a member of a church subscribing to the Westminster Standards. Our Bible-founded Standards teach the virgin birth and if a minister does not believe in it he is not qualified to be in the Presbyterian church.

Dr. Benjamin B. Warfield answers these important questions regarding the virgin birth when he says, “It is only in its relation to the New Testament doctrine of redemption that the necessity of the virgin birth of Jesus comes to its full manifestation. For in this Christianity the redemption that is provided is distinctly redemption from sin; and that He might redeem men from sin it certainly was imperative that the Redeemer Himself should not be involved in sin.” Could it be stated in a clearer fashion that the redemptive work of Christ depends upon His virgin birth?

It is very difficult for a person to end up with much at all when he starts to doubt essential doctrines of the Christian system. There are strong connecting links between the different doctrines of Christianity and the doctrine of the Virgin Birth is an integral link. Certainly it is true that a person need not have a perfect understanding or conviction regarding the virgin birth to be saved but anyone that ignores it or denies it is a person that is denying the divinity of Christ and is therefore a person without hope in this world. Such a person has no business in the pulpit, pretending to preach the whole, redeeming Gospel of Jesus Christ.

It is interesting to note that the fourth General Council, convened in Chalcedon in 451 A.D. stated: ” … our Lord Jesus Christ … begotten before all ages of the Father according to the Godhead, and in these latter days, for us and for our salvation, born of Mary, the Virgin Mother of God, according to the manhood; one and the same Christ, Son, Lord, Only begotten … ” Our Confession of Faith affirms the same in Section II. This we believe! And for it we praise God!

Published By:
THE SHIELD and SWORD, INC.
Vol. 2 No. 22 (October 1962)
Rev. Leonard T. Van Horn, Editor

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STUDIES IN THE WESTMINSTER SHORTER CATECHISM
by Rev. Leonard T. Van Horn

Q. 14. — What is sin?

A. — Sin is any want of conformity unto, or transgression of, the law of God.

Scripture References: I Jn. 3:4; Jas. 4:17; Rom. 3.23; Rom 2:15.

Questions:

1. What is the Law of God and where is it to be found?

The Law of God is the commandments God has given for man’s rule of obedience. The Law of God is found written in the Word of God though there was a copy of it on the heart of man in his innocence before the fall. The Word teaches that some part of it is still written on the hearts of men, but to a great extent the knowledge of this Law has become marred or obliterated.

2. How does man show want of conformity unto the Law of God?

By not doing all the things written in the Book of the Law (Gal. 3:10).

3. What sins are included in lack of conformity unto the Law of God?

The sins included are (l) Original sin and that natural enmity in the heart against the Law of God. (2) All sins of omission and commission.

4. How can one prove that transgression of the law is sin?

The Bible teaches this in I John 3:4: “Whosoever committeth sin, transgresseth the law, for sin is the transgression of the law.”

5. Are all the laws mentioned in the Old Testament to be kept today?

No, not all the laws of the Old Testament are to be kept. The ceremonial law is no longer binding since Christ came in the flesh, and many of the judicial laws – as they had reference to the state of the Jewish nation – are laid aside. But the moral law is binding on all mankind (Ps. 119:160).

6. Could you answer the question, “What is sin?” in words I might use in teaching my classes?

You might tell them as Dr. William Childs Robinson states it: “Sin is stepping across one of God’s commandments.” It is not simply a wrong done to one’s fellow man but it includes both guilt and pollution. Sin involves not only outward acts but the thoughts, affections and intents of the heart as well.

THE CHRISTIAN AND SIN

There is a delightful story told of the little boy who heard the thrilling story of Goliath in Sunday School. The next day he came to his Mother and said, “Mother, I am as tall as Goliath.” Naturally his Mother answered him and told him that such would be impossible for Goliath was a giant of a man. But the little boy answered, “But Mother, the Bible says Goliath was six cubits and a span and I made a ruler and I’m six cubits and a span too, so I’m as tall as Goliath!”

Even as the little boy made the ruler himself and could be as tall as he wanted to be, so many Christians make their own yardsticks of measurement in regard to sin. They are very quick to recite what the Catechism says sin is, but in their actions they seem to have an amazing ability to forget God’s definition of sin and make their own standards of right and wrong.

Many Bible scholars throughout the ages have agreed that God’s definition of sin is found in Isaiah 53:6 – “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned everyone to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.” Or, as was illustrated so beautifully by J. Sidlow Baxter one time, “The best picture of sin is that of a little girl stomping her foot on the floor and saying, ‘1 want what I want when I want it!’ “

So much for the outward manifestations of sin. What about the inward and negative sides of sin? Dr. James Benjamin Green once said that the inward and the negative sides of sin are too much ignored, too little regarded. As he put it, the absence of right feeling as well as the presence of wrong feeling is sin. So many Christians sin in failing to “bring into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.” The Christian is constrained to determine every thought, word and deed by the leading of the Spirit through the Word of God. The Christian’s duty is to be constantly conducting himself in the sphere of the Spirit. Otherwise the Christian will be sinning against the Lord.

This is a high standard. This is “walking in the Spirit.” This is our only standard of measurement and it is found in the Word of God. It does not change, it does not suit itself to the environment in which it lives. It leads us to depend solely on Him and such hinders us from “going our own way.” (Rom. 8:1-14)

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If you find this a bit long for your available time today, I would at least urge you to read the first four paragraphs. Forty-eight years earlier, A.A. Hodge’s father, Charles Hodge had delivered his inaugural address [see yesterday’s post, with a link to the full address by Dr. Charles Hodge]. What an interesting study it would be, to compare the two addresses.

The Inaugural Address of Archibald Alexander Hodge,
HodgeAAupon his installation as Associate Professor of Dogmatic and Polemic Theology at Princeton Theological Seminary,
November 8, 1877.

FATHERS AND BRETHREN OF THE BOARD OF DIRECTORS:

In obedience to your call, I am here to assume the solemn trust involved in teaching Christian theology in this Seminary. Doubtless the design of associating an inaugural address with the induction of a new professor into such a charge is to afford him an opportunity of satisfying you, as the responsible guardians of the institution, with respect to his theological convictions and method.

I therefore affirm my belief that the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments in their integrity are the Word of God, as a whole and in every part infallible and binding the conscience, and the only divinely authentic informant and rule of faith in matters of religion. Christian theology is wholly in the Scriptures, and is to be drawn from them only by legitimate interpretation. This is true of systematic as absolutely as of exegetical or of Biblical theology. The system lies in the relations of the facts, and their relations are deteremined by their nature, as that is disclosed by the words of the Holy Ghost. The systematic theologian as well as the exegete is only an interpreter; the one interprets the words and develops the revealed truths; the other interprets these separate lessons in their mutual light and reciprocal relations, and develops the revealed system.

More definitely I affirm, not as a professional propriety, but as a personal conviction, that the Confession and Catechisms of the Westminster Assembly contain the system taught in the Holy Scriptures. Or rather, in the more absolute terms of subscription imposed upon intrants by the Scottish Presbyterian Churches, “I do sincerely own and believe the WHOLE DOCTRINE contained in the Confession of Faith, approved by former General Assemblies of this Church, to be founded upon the Word of God, and do acknowledge the same as the confession of my personal faith, and will firmly and constantly adhere thereunto, and to the utmost of my power will assert, maintain, and defend the same.” This is affirmed, not only because I believe this “whole doctrine” to be true, but because I also believe this “system of doctrine” to be the most complete and adequate presentation as yet attained by the Church of that truth revealed in the Holy Scriptures, which the Holy Ghost has declared to be “the power of God unto salvation.” For therein Christ and His work is exhibited in their relation to human needs, experiences, duties, and destinies, and it is, therefore, the efficient instrument of forming character, of ruling action, and of effecting salvation.

It is precisely this last position which in the present day is so earnestly and in such various quarters denied. Besides the numerous classes of professed unbelievers, who positively reject Christianity, or the integrity and authority of its records, or at least some of its essential doctrines, there are many more, because of their position of professed friendliness, doing incalculably more harm, who, expressing no opinion as to the objective truthfulness of the church system of doctrines, maintain that it is at any rate unessential because impractical and unprofitable. Hence, they insist that the careful elaboration, and the prominent and ceaseless emphasis which the Church gives to doctrine imperils the interests of religion, by dividing those otherwise agreed, by rendering the candid examination of new truth impossible through the bias of foregone conclusions, and by diverting the attention of Christian people from the great practical and moral interests of life to matters of barren speculation. They charge the Church with exalting creed above morals, and faith above character. They insist upon it, that the norm of Christianity is to be found in the Sermon on the Mount, and as such it is proved to be a religion of character, not of creed; and hence, that it is the duty of the Church to regard immoral action as the only heresy.

This tendency to depreciate the importance of clearly discriminated views of religious truth, rests in the case of different objectors upon very different grounds, and is carried to very different degrees. But against this entire tendency, which opposes creed and morals, faith and character, in all its forms and intensities, we protest, and proclaim the opposite principle as fundamental,–that truth is in order to holiness, and that knowledge of the truth is an essential prerequisite to right character and action.

The force of the objections against the importance of clearly discriminated truth in the sphere of religion is mainly the result of the vagueness with which the objections are stated. When it is charged against the Church, as its record stands in history, that it has subordinated moral and practical interests to those of scholastic specualtion and party contests, there is a coloring of truth in the charge which commands attention, and disguises the real animus and ultimate aim of the objectors.

In order to clear the question of accidental complications, which constantly confuse the current discussions of it, we make the following admissions and distinctions:

1st. We concede that one of the sins most easily besetting theologians has been a tendency to over-refinement in speculation, over-formality of definition, and an excess of rigidity of system. Logical notions, creatures of the understanding, have too often been substituted for the concrete form of spiritual truth presented by the Holy Ghost to faith. Theologians have often practiced a rationalism as real as that of their modern opponents, when their ambition to be wise beyond what is written has urged them to explore and explain divine mysteries, to philosphize on the basis of scriptural facts, and to form rational theories, as, for instance, of the relation of the divine and human natures in the person of Christ, and of the concursus of the first with the second causes in Providence.

2d. We admit also that zeal for doctrine has in too many instances been narrow and prejudiced, mingled with the infirmities of personal pride and party spirit, and has hence led to the unnecessary divisions and alienations of those who were in reality one in faith, and to the conditioning of communion, and even of salvation, upon unessential points. Human nature has operated among earnest theological advocates with the uniformity and blindness of a physical law, leading each to choose a position as far as possible from his opponent–to unduly emphasize some Scriptures and depreciate others–to confine his attention to the fragment of truth he champions, exaggerating its proportions, and denying or minimizing the qualifying truths represented by his antagonist. This law has led to the multiplying of special theological tendencies, and to their development in all possible directions and to every possible extent, and has thus been providentially overruled to the extension of our knowledge, and to the ultimate establishment of the truth in wider relations. but the habit is in itself obviously evil, since for the individuals immediately concerned it sacrifices the truth as a whole to special elements, which by exaggeration or dissociation from their natural relations become virtually untruths. This is illustrated in the whole history of controversies, e.g., between Nestorians and Monophysites, Lutherans and Reformed as to the person of Christ, between Supralapsarian Calvinists and Arminians, Churchmen and Puritans, Mystics and Formalists. It is plainly the duty of the individual to understand, as fully as possible the position of his respondent, and to incorporate the other’s fragment of truth with his own into the catholic whole.

3d. We must admit also that some advocates of theological dogma have lacked the courage of their convictions, and have betrayed their want of perfect confidence in the foundations on which they have builded by a disposition to discourage the fearless investigations of new truth in all directions, and to put an ungenerous interpretation upon all opinions to which their own minds were unaccustomed.

We claim to be sincere advocates of free investigation, in the true sense of that word, in every direction open to man. The believer in the supernatural revelation contained in God’s Word is place on a higher and more central point of vision than that of the mere naturalist, and he is thus rendered free of the whole sphere of truth. The true relation of the successive realms of the universe of being and knowledge can be read by one looking upon them from within outward and not from without inward, from above downward and in the direction in which the supreme light of revelation radiates, and not from below upward upon the side on which the shadows fall.

But it is absurd to suppose that true intellectual progress consists in a mere change of opinions, or that it is consistent with the destruction of the foundations which have been laid in the verified knowledge of the past. Truth once adequately established must be held fast forever, while we stand prepared to add to it all new truth substantiated by equal evidence. And it is a law which all educated men should be ready to acknowledge as axiomatic, that truth in any department once established must ever after hold the place of valid presumptions, influencing the course of new investigations in every department. Ruskin well testifies, “It is the law of progressive human life that we shall not build in the air, but in the already high-storied temple of the thoughts of our ancestors,” and that any addition successfully made can “never be without modest submission to the Eternal Wisdom, nor ever in any great degree except by persons trained reverently in some large portion of the wisdom of the past.”

It cannot be doubted that what is held by men as truth in any one department of knowledge must, in the long run, be brought into conscious adjustment with all that they hold as truth in every other department. That which is false in philosophy cannot long be believed to be true in religion, and conversely, that which is false in religion can never be rightly regarded true in philosophy. Consequently, in the rapid development of the physical sciences which characterizes the present age, it is inevitable that there should be serious difficulty in so adjusting all the elements as to allow us to become clearly conscious of the congruity in all respects of the new knowledge with the old. It is not to be wondered at even that at several points there is an apparently irreconcilable antagonism. But when we recall the obvious distinction between facts and theories, between established knowledge and provisional hypothesis, we are readily reassured by the recollection it suggests that the historic track of human thought is strewn with the wrecks of systems, of cosmogonies, and anthropologies, as certainly believed and as influential in their day as any of the anti-theological systems of the present day.

We should unquestionably open our doors wide, with a joy equal to her own, for all the facts which science gathers in her harvest-time. But is it not absurd to ask the believers in the great Church Creeds of Christendom to abandon, to modify, or to mask that ancient and coherent mass of knowledge which roots itself in the profoundest depths of human nature, and in all human history, which has verified itself to reason and every phase of experience for two thousand years, which has moulded the noblest charcters, inspired the most exalted lives, and inaugurated the very conditions which made modern science and civilization possible–to modify or abandon all this in deference to one or the other of the variant and transient speculations which each in his little day claims to speak in the venerable name of science?

We admit also that all Christian doctrine, like all other truth, rests on evidence appropriate in kind and adequate in degree. Nor is it denied that human reason legitimately exercised is the organ by which alone this divine truth is to be apprehended and its credentials examined and verified. These evidences ought to be subjected to the most thorough legitimate examination. He is a false or a mistaken advocate of the truth who would impede such investigation or who fears the result. Most of those who depreciate Christian dogma as incapable of certain verification, or as impractical and unprofitable, simply beg the question as to these evidences. All such we refer to the Christian Apologist, who is fully prepared to meet all reasonable demands. At present we assume the truth of our dogma and claim, that being true, every fragment of it is of transcendcent importance as to the God-appointed means of effecting the moral and spiritual regeneration of human character and life.

4th. We moreover admit without hesitation that theologians must themselves be held to their own principle that truth is in order to holiness; that the great end of dogma is not the gratification of the taste for speculation, but the formation of character and the determination of the activities of our inward and outward life in relation to God and our fellow-men. There is a patent distinction between the logical and the moral aspects of truth, between that manner of conceiving and stating it which satisfies the understanding and that which affects the moral nature and determines experience. Neither can be neglected without injury to the other. For if the laws of the understanding are essentially outraged, the moral nature cannot be either healthfully or permanently affected; that which is apprehended as logically incongruous by the understanding, cannot be rested in as certainly true and trusthworthy by the heart and conscience and will. But all the great doctrines of the Scriptures may be apprehended on the side and in the relations which immediately determine the moral attitude of the soul in relation to God. It is possible, for instance, to treat the Biblical teaching as to the sinful estate into which man has fallen and from which he has been redeemed by Christ, as a metaphysical or a psychological problem, in which its reality and bearings, as a matter of experience, may be to a great degree disguised. On the other hand, it may be set forth, as it always is in Scripture, as it is realized in consciousness, and as it enters into all religious experience. If, as is asserted, religious experience is only the personal experience of the truth of the great doctrines of Christianity, as we are personally concerned with them, it follows that they must be conceived and stated in a form in which they admit of being realized in the experience. Any theological method which sacrifices the moral and experiential aspects of the truth to a metaphysical and speculative interest will soon lose its hold upon the consciences of men, and itself experience that law of change which determines the fluctuations of all mere speculative systems.

With these admissions and distinctions, we return to our theme, that the truth revealed in the Scriptures, and embraced in what evangelical Christians style Christian dogma, is the great God-appointed means of producing in men a holy character and life. at present neither the general truth of Christianity nor that of any particular system of theology claiming to represent it, is the question. but the truth of Christianity being assumed, we affirm that the truths set forth in the Word of God in their mutual relations, are necessary means of promoting holiness of heart and life. That is, that dogmatic Christianity is the essential ground of practical Christianity.

1st. This will be made evident when we consider what Christianity really is and what is the essence of Christian doctrine. Unlike all philosophies, it is not a speculative system built up on certain principles or seminal ideas. It is, on the contrary, a divinely authenticated statement of certain facts concerning God, His nature, His attitude towards man as fallen, His purpose with regard to man’s redemption from sin, and several stages of His actual intervention to effect that end. This redemptive work Christ has been, and is now engaged in accomplishing by several actions in chronological succession. The revelation of these purposes and redemptive actions has been evolved through an historic process, the separate facts of which are as definitely ascertainable as those which constitute any other history. Christian doctrine, therefore, is just God’s testimony with regard to certain matters of fact, with which the religious life of the race is bound up. A distinction has been pressed, beyond all reason, between the matter of fact taught in Scripture and doctrines which, it is asserted, men have inferred from or have superadded to the facts, as hypothetical explanations of them. By matters of fact the liberal school means the external events of Christ’s history as these were observed by the bodily senses of human witnesses, and assured to us by their testimony; and these external facts of sense, perception, and nothing more, they admit to be valid objects of faith, forgetful that a more advanced and consistent school of their fellow-rationalists overset these external facts just as confidently as they themselves flippantly relegate dogma to the religion of the unknowable. These men admit, for instance, that we know, as a matter of “fact,” that Christ died on the cross, and rose from the dead the third day; but they hold that the design with which he died or that the relation which His death sustains to man’s restoration to the divine favor are matters of speculative opinion, but no matter of “fact.”

The word “fact” in universal usage signifies not merely an action, a thing done, but as well any objective reality, and by way of eminence, a reality of which we have adequate certainty, in distinction from a matter of opinion or probably reality. Now that Christ died and rose again as our representative, that His death was a vicariously endured penalty, is plainly as purely a matter of fact, i.e., objective reality, as definitely and certainly verifiable on the direct testimony of God, as the dying and rising again themselves. All that a witness in the Hall of Independence on the 4th of July, 1776, would have seen with his bodily eyes would have been the physical acts of certain men subscribing their names to a written paper; that was the optical perception, and nothing more. But no man would be absurd enough to deny that it is just as much a “fact,” and just as certain a “fact,” that they subscribed their names as the representatives of certain political communities, with the design and effect of changing their political constitutions and relations. The sensible transaction, and its legal intent and effect were equally matters of “fact” and ascertainable with equal precision and certainty upon adequate evidence. Now the matter of fact of which Christian dogmas are the revealed expression and attestation are those which more than any other conceivable facts are of transcendent importance and of immediate practical interest to mankind. The tri-personal constitution of the Godhead, and His essential attributes and eternal purposes–His relation to the world as Creator, providential Ruler, and moral Governor–His judgment of man’s present guilt, corruption, and impotence as a sinner–His purposes of grace, and the provision made for their execution, in the incarnation of the Second Person of the Trinity, and in the life, death, resurrection, and ascension to universal dominion of the God-man–the resurrection of the body, the judgment and eternal condemnation of the finally impenitent and glorification of believers–these are the FACTS.

In every department of life all practical experience and activity is constantly determined by the external facts into relation to which we are brought, and upon our knowledge of and voluntary conformity to these facts. All modern life, personal, social, and political, is notoriously being changed through the influence of the facts brought to our knowledge in the advances of the physical sciences. All moral duties spring out of relations, as those of husband and wife, parent and child, citizen and community. All religion is morality lifted up to the sphere of our relations to God, as Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, as Creator, Moral Governor, Redeemer, Sanctifier, and Father. Our question, at present, is not whether our theological dogmas are true, but whether, being true, they are of practical importance. Much of the cavil against their use is only a disingenuous begging the question as to their truth. We prove them to be true in the department of Apologetics, which draws upon all the resources of philosophy and historical criticism. And having proved them to be true, we now assert, in advance, that morality and religion are possible only so far as these facts are recognized, and our inward and outward life adjusted to them. It would be incomparably more reasonable to attempt to accomplish all the offices pertaining to the departments of agriculture, navigation, and manufactures, while ignoring all the ascertained facts of the natural world, than it would be to attempt to accomplish the offices of morality and religion while ignoring the facts of the spiritual world signified and attested to us in Christian dogma.

2d. Again, our proposition that knowledge and belief of scriptural truth is the essential means of the production of holiness in heart and life, may be demonstrated upon universally admitted psychological principles. Knowledge is the act of the subject knowing, apprehending the truth. Truth is the object apprehended and recognized in the act of knowledge. In every act of apprehension there is required the object to be apprehended, and the apprehensive power upon the part of the agent apprehending. “The eye sees only that which it brings with it the power of seeing.” All truth of every kind stands related to the human mind, and the mind is endowed with constitutional faculties adjusted to it, and effecting its apprehension. As an actual fact, however, in the present state of the race, many individuals are found incapable of apprehending and recognizing some kinds of truth. for the apprehension of some truth a special endowment and cultivation of the understanding is necessary; for the recognition of other truth a special temperment and cultivation of tast is requisite, and for the apprehension of other truth again a special condition and habit of the moral and spiritual nature. In the actual condition of human nature the truths revealed in the Scriptures cannot be discerned in their spiritual quality as the things of God. But when the sould is quickened to a new form of spiritual life by the baptism of the Holy Ghost, this very truth, now discerned, becomes the insturment whereby the new spiritual life is sustained and developed. This accords with the analogy of the constitutional action of the soul in every sphere of its activity. The perception of beauty depends upon the possession of the aesthetic faculty. But that being possessed, the aesthetic culture of the soul depends upon the contemplation of beautiful objects, and the knowledge of the law of beauty in the endless variety of its forms. It is a law having no exception that the exercise of the perceptive faculty necessarily precedes and conditions the exercise of the affections and the will. Beauty must be apprehended before it can be appreciated and loved. Moral truth must be apprehended before it can be loved or chosen, and only thus can the moral affections be trained and strengthened. Mere feeling and mere willing without knowledge are absolutely impossible experiences, and if possible, they would be irrational and immoral. It is the grand distinction of Christianity that it is ethical and not magical in all its processes and spirit. It rests on facts. It moves in the sphere of personal relations. It is a spiritual power acting through the instrumentality of truth addressed to the reason, and made effectual upon the soul by the power of the Divine Spirit. And the truth, through the medium of knowledge spiritualized, acts on the emotions and will, and transforms character and governs life.

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The following discourse on baptism is from the Rev. John Black [1768-1849], of whom we spoke earlier in the weekRev. Black was a contemporary and close associate of the Rev. Alexander MacLeod, and would as well have known and been conversant with many other notable Presbyterians such as Samuel Miller, Jacob J. Janeway, and Ashbel Green. Rev. Black served as the first Stated Clerk of the Reformed Presbyterian Church in North America (New Light). As that body, through a series of mergers, eventually became part of the PCA, I suppose we could with a bit of stretching say that Rev. Black was the first Stated Clerk of the PCA. Or maybe not.

The opening portion only of this discourse is presented below. To read the full treatise, click the embedded link in the title:

THE SUBSTANCE OF SOME DISCOURSES ON BAPTISM;
delivered in the
First Reformed Presbyterian Church, in Pittsburgh.
By JOHN BLACK, D. D.
(1846.)

DISCOURSE.

Black_John_1768-1849Then Peter said unto them. Repent, and be baptized every one of yon in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call.” Acts ii. 38, 39.

The feast of Pentecost was one of the three solemn feasts, in which all the males in Israel were commanded to appear before the Lord, in the course of the year, in the place which he should choose. Deut. xvi. 16. It is also called the feast of weeks, because forty-nine days, or a week of weeks, must be complete after the passover, and on the fiftieth day it was celebrated; hence called Pentecost, or the fiftieth day. It was also called the feast of harvest, because, at that time, the wheat harvest was ripe, and the first fruits were to be offered to the Lord. The object appears to have been, to render thanks to God for his mercies, and to commemorate the giving of the law from Mount Sinai. Did it not also prefigure the descent of the Holy Ghost in such plentiful effusion upon the disciples of Christ on the day of Pentecost, and how plentifully the first fruits of the Gentiles should give themselves unto the Lord? It is worthy of observation, that it was on the day of Pentecost—the fiftieth day from the Israelites’ departure from Egypt—that God gave the law from Sinai, and on that very day—the day of Pentecost, he caused the gospel law to be promulgated.

The Savior, before he ascended, commanded his apostles to remain at Jerusalem, until they should obtain the promise of the Father, and be baptized with the Holy Ghost; for which, he assured them, they would not have to wait many days. This promise was fulfilled ten days after his departure. Then was displayed a remarkable manifestation of the divine power. A sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, is suddenly heard, which filled the whole house where the disciples were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues, like as of fire, one of which sat down upon the head of each of them—an emblem of the diversified languages which they were now to speak. At the building of Babel, the language of the people was confounded and divided, and thereby the builders were scattered; but here the gift of various languages was given, that the scattered nations might be gathered to Jesus Christ, the shepherd and bishop of souls. The solemn occasion had gathered to Jerusalem strangers in multitudes, who, it appears, spoke fifteen different languages, all of which the disciples now perfectly understood, and distinctly and fluently spoke, as if they had been their mother tongue, although they had never learned them. This filled all with amazement; but some mocked, and ridiculed the whole transaction, ascribing it to inebriation. The apostles resented this invidious reproach, and Peter, who was the chief speaker, shewed plainly, that this was the fulfilment of the prophecy of Joel, ii. 28—31, and preached unto them Jesus whom they had crucified, in such a powerful, moving, and effectual manner, the Holy Spirit setting it home upon their hearts, that they said unto Peter, and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do? To which Peter answered, “ Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call.” In considering these words, we propose the following method:

1. Offer some remarks on the nature of baptism. 2. Inquire who are its proper subjects? 3. The Scripture mode of baptism.

I. THE NATURE OF BAPTISM.

1. Baptism is a washing with water as a sacramental act. It had been long in use by the Jews in receiving their proselytes, but not by divine institution. Baptism supposes impurity in the subject. Indeed, all washing necessarily supposes this. That which is clean may be wet, but can- not properly be washed. But baptism is called washing. Eph. v. 26, “ That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word.” The symbol is water only. It represents the blood of Christ applied by the Holy Spirit, Rev. i. 5: “Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood.” The application of that blood is by the Spirit of Christ, Titus iii. 5: “ According to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost.” The blood of Christ cleanses meritoriously, 1 John i. 7: “The blood of Jesus Christ, his Son, cleanseth us from all sin.” The Spirit of Christ cleanseth us from all sin, by the effi- cacious application of the blood of Christ to the conscience. By the blood of Christ the guilt of sin is, at once, taken away in justification. The Spirit of Christ removes the blot and stain of sin gradually in sanctification. As water, free to all by the gift of heaven, when applied, washes and makes clean that which before was physically foul and unclean; so the blood of Christ, freely offered to all who hear the gospel, when applied by the Spirit, purifies from the guilt and pollution of sin, those who are morally defiled, and spiritually unclean. The instrumental administrators of baptism must be ministers of the gospel lawfully ordained, and no others. None have a right to act as commissioners, but such as have received a commission. The steward of a family is appointed by the head of the family. Jesus Christ, who alone is Lord in his own house, made all its laws, appointed all its offices and officers, and commissioned those whom he authorized to preach and baptize Before he ascended into heaven, he enlarged the commission of his apostles, which before his death had been restricted to the Jews: but now he authorizes them to go into all nations, whether Jews or Gentiles, and convert them to the faith of Christ, and promises to be with them always, even to the end of the world. The apostles were not to live to the end of the world. It could not, therefore, mean the apostles personally. Yet he says you. It must there- fore mean the officers, and that too, without the possibility of suffering the office to die, or the officers to become extinct to the end of time. The limit is the end of the world- the intermediate time, always. There never shall be an interregnum, or the office without an occupant, while the world stands. The apostles, as such, had no successors. The office, like that of the prophets, was altogether ex- traordinary. The claims of the Pope, and the no less groundless claims of diocesan bishops, to be the successors of the apostles, spring from ignorance of the gospel, and the government of the Church of God, as established by the Redeemer. The apostles possessed the ministerial, as well as the apostolical character; the ordinary office of the ministry, along with the apostolate. This is evident from the declaration of Peter in his 1st Epistle, v. 1: “The elders which are among you, I exhort, who am also an elder”—presbyter, or minister of the gospel. Now, to such characters, Christ gave the commission to preach and baptize. How daring, then, must it be for any who have not this commission, to undertake to preach and baptize. In 1 Cor. iv. 1, the ministers of Christ are called “stewards of the mysteries of God.” Are stewards self-appointed?

Or may they who are not appointed, act the part of stewards, as well as those who are? Since the extraordi- nary granting of commissions, in the days of the apostles, has ceased, the Scripture speaks of no way by which a commission is given, but by “the laying on of the hands of the presbytery.” 1 Tim. iv. 14. As a blessing was prayed for by our Lord, to attend the administration of the sacramental supper, so, by parity of reason, a blessing is to be prayed for, to attend the administration of the sacrament of baptism. This prayer sets apart the “sensible sign” in the sacrament, from a common to a sacred use. The water in baptism should, in this way, be blessed, as the bread and wine in the Lord’s supper, by praying for a blessing thereon.

2. Baptism is to be administered in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, to whom the baptized person is dedicated as covenant property. But as to immediate authority, like all other Church ordinances, it is administered in the name of Jesus Christ. Many mistakes have been made about baptizing in the name of Christ, and baptizing in the name of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, as if they were different modes of baptizing. The truth is, both apply to every baptism. The mistake is in applying the same meaning to the word name, in both cases. Sometimes the word name means authority; thus a civil Court is opened in the name, that is, by the authority of the Commonwealth; and an ecclesiastical Court is opened in the name, by the authority of the Lord Jesus Christ. Again, name sometimes means property, or pos- session; thus a deed is made out in the name, or for the use, and as the property of some one. In the first sense, no ordinance is administered in the name of the Trinity. No ecclesiastical Court is opened in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. True it is, that all power, and authority originally belong to God, Father, Son and Holy Ghost; but there is, by the God-head, a delegated authority and headship committed to the Lord Jesus Christ, that the preaching of the gospel, the administration of sacraments, and all church ordinances, shall be done in his name, and by virtue of his authority. Thus all who are baptized, are baptized in the name of Jesus. They are also baptized in the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, solemnly dedicated, and devoted, to be the covenant property of a three one God, to be for him soul and body, wholly and forever. Their engagement is to be the Lord’s and to take him as their portion forever.

3. Teaching must precede and accompany baptism. If the persons to be baptized were heathens, they must first be proselyted, and instructed in the faith. Mat. xxviii. 19: and all adults should be so indoctrinated, and instructed in the knowledge of Christ, and of the system of grace, that they shall be able to give a reason of the hope that is in them. It is the doctrine of Anti-Christ, that ignorance is the mother of devotion, while the Bible plainly declares, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.” Hos. iv. 6. An ignorant man is represented as more stupid than the ox, or the ass. Is. i. 3: “The ox knoweth his owner, and the ass his master’s crib, but Israel doth not know, my people doth not consider.” Unless the person be previously instructed, he cannot have a firm persuasion that it is an ordinance of God. He cannot have a serious and thankful consideration of the nature of it, and of the end for which Christ instituted it. Every sacrament must be received by faith. But faith supposes knowledge. “How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed, and how shall they believe in him whom they have not heard, and how shall they hear without a preacher?” Rom. x. 14.

4. As baptism is an enrolment of a new member of the church—an initiating into the visible society of the worshippers of the Lord Jesus Christ, it ought to be done publicly, in the face of the congregation. It is a declaration of visible membership, a distinguishing badge of discipleship, a sign whereby the followers of Christ are distinguished from pagans, or heathens, as the Israelites of old were distinguished from the uncircumcised nations around them. Private baptism is therefore contrary to the nature of the ordinance, a mean, and clandestine intruding of members into visible communion, as if by stealth. There is something in the very nature of the ordinance, that requires its public administration. The body of Christ is one, and the members of that body are also, “members, one of another.” Rom. xii. 5. And the apostle says, 1 Cor. xii. 13: “By one spirit are we all baptized into one body.” Baptism, therefore, presents to the body, another member initiated into their fellowship, and having a claim upon their prayers, their brotherly affection, their sympathy, and all good offices. Besides, the solemn ordinance, the vows and engagements of the person baptized, while calling for the accompanying prayers of the congregation, will also remind them of their own vows and engagements, and thereby excite to the improving their own baptism, and thus promoting their sanctification. Baptism, while in a certain sense, it is an initiating ordinance, yet does not originate the fact of church membership. Baptism supposes church membership, and yet it confers a membership which the unbaptized member did not enjoy. The fact of membership abstractly, is obtained, by making a profession of the faith of the gospel, or by being the infant seed of church members. This entitles to being recognized as a member of the organized visible church, to which the person is initiated by baptism. If attention is paid to the distinction between the kind of membership which is required to entitle to baptism, and the membership which baptism confers, it will refute the charge which is sometimes brought, of arguing in a circle, making membership the cause of baptism, and baptism the cause of membership. The distinction is obvious.

5. Baptism is not only a sign of church membership, as well as of Christ and his benefits; it is also a seal of the covenant of grace. A seal is used as a confirmation of bonds or deeds. Such was circumcision in the covenant made with Abraham, a “seal of the righteousness of faith.” Rom. iv. 11; and such is the seal of baptism, which comes in the room of circumcision, to all belivers, who are the spiritual seed of Abraham. By this seal Christ and his benefits are confirmed to the believer. These benefits are all the blessings contained in the promises of the new covenant, all embraced in grace here, and glory hereafter; Ps. lxxxiv. 11: “For the Lord God is a sun and shield, the Lord will give grace and glory.” A seal to a deed, covenant, or agreement, supposes the agreement made, the seal is a ratification of what the parties have agreed upon. A seal would be of no use without this agreement. None are agreed to God’s covenant but believers. I speak now of adults. Therefore, baptism seals nothing to any but believers. God promises every blessing to believers, and baptism is a seal of the covenant on God’s part, not to make the promise of the covenant more sure, for it is impossible for God to lie, his faithfulness is inviolable, and unchangeable; but to make the faith of the believer stronger. It is God’s ratifying to believers their right to covenant blessings with infallible certainty. And thus God, for the strengthening the faith, and removing the doubts of believers, condescends to bind himself in the most solemn manner, by bond and seal. Like as in Heb. vi. 18, where accommodating himself to the weakness of his people, he seals his promise with the solemnity of an oath. The blessings that are sealed to believers in baptism, are “remission of sins by the blood of Christ, regeneration by his spirit, adoption, and resurrection to everlasting life.” In baptism there is, as in every sacrament, an engagement to be the Lord’s—a renouncing the devil, the world, and the flesh, and an engagement to devote all that we are, soul and body, and all that we have, our gifts, graces, time, talents, com- forts and joys, to the glory of God. And this requires, to “deny all ungodliness and worldly lusts, to live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world.” In baptism the believer “sets to his seal that God is true,” John iii. 33, by believing his promises, receiving his testimony, and taking his law in the hand of the Mediator, as the rule of his faith, and obedience in all things. Adults in baptism, take these vows directly, and in their own persons. Children impliedly, through the representation of their parents. Parents are the natural guardians of their children. They are the most suitable persons to be their moral guardians, and representatives. Children are bound by the act of their representatives in civil things, and why not in the vows of baptism, if these vows are right—what the law of God requires? None can be bound by what is morally wrong, for all obligation is founded in the moral law, and what it forbids, can have in it no obligation—nothing binding on the conscience. Parents, in the baptism of their children, do not promise what their children will do, but what they themselves will do, in the discharge of the duties incumbent upon them, as Christian parents to their Christian offspring. Through their representation, the child receives the sacrament of baptism, and in that sacrament is contained the engagement to be the Lord’s, which, as we have seen, binds to all the duties which God’s law makes incumbent as a rule of life, to every one in their several places and relations, as superiors, inferiors or equals.

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HodgeAA

It was on this day, November 8th, in 1877, that the Rev. Dr. Archibald Alexander Hodge was inaugurated as Associate Professor of Didactic and Polemic Theology at the Princeton Theological Seminary. With an eye to the value of the tradition, some schools, like Westminster Theological Seminary, continue the practice of the inaugural address. As Dr. Hodge notes in his opening paragraph, the address makes for an opportunity to display both theological convictions and theological method of the teacher.

While perhaps a bit long for a weekday post, hopefully the busy reader will at least bookmark the page and return over the weekend. As one could only expect from A.A. Hodge, this is an excellent composition, worthy of serious, careful consideration.

Dogmatic Christianity, the Essential Ground of Practical Christianity

The Inaugural Address of Archibald Alexander Hodge,
upon his installation as Associate Professor of Dogmatic and Polemic Theology
at Princeton Theological Seminary, November 8, 1877.

FATHERS AND BRETHREN OF THE BOARD OF DIRECTORS:

In obedience to your call, I am here to assume the solemn trust involved in teaching Christian theology in this Seminary. Doubtless the design of associating an inaugural address with the induction of a new professor into such a charge is to afford him an opportunity of satisfying you, as the responsible guardians of the institution, with respect to his theological convictions and method.

I therefore affirm my belief that the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments in their integrity are the Word of God, as a whole and in every part infallible and binding the conscience, and the only divinely authentic informant and rule of faith in matters of religion. Christian theology is wholly in the Scriptures, and is to be drawn from them only by legitimate interpretation. This is true of systematic as absolutely as of exegetical or of Biblical theology. The system lies in the relations of the facts, and their relations are deteremined by their nature, as that is disclosed by the words of the Holy Ghost. The systematic theologian as well as the exegete is only an interpreter; the one interprets the words and develops the revealed truths; the other interprets these separate lessons in their mutual light and reciprocal relations, and develops the revealed system.

More definitely I affirm, not as a professional propriety, but as a personal conviction, that the Confession and Catechisms of the Westminster Assembly contain the system taught in the Holy Scriptures. Or rather, in the more absolute terms of subscription imposed upon intrants by the Scottish Presbyterian Churches, “I do sincerely own and believe the WHOLE DOCTRINE contained in the Confession of Faith, approved by former General Assemblies of this Church, to be founded upon the Word of God, and do acknowledge the same as the confession of my personal faith, and will firmly and constantly adhere thereunto, and to the utmost of my power will assert, maintain, and defend the same.” This is affirmed, not only because I believe this “whole doctrine” to be true, but because I also believe this “system of doctrine” to be the most complete and adequate presentation as yet attained by the Church of that truth revealed in the Holy Scriptures, which the Holy Ghost has declared to be “the power of God unto salvation.” For therein Christ and His work is exhibited in their relation to human needs, experiences, duties, and destinies, and it is, therefore, the efficient instrument of forming character, of ruling action, and of effecting salvation.

It is precisely this last position which in the present day is so earnestly and in such various quarters denied. Besides the numerous classes of professed unbelievers, who positively reject Christianity, or the integrity and authority of its records, or at least some of its essential doctrines, there are many more, because of their position of professed friendliness, doing incalculably more harm, who, expressing no opinion as to the objective truthfulness of the church system of doctrines, maintain that it is at any rate unessential because impractical and unprofitable. Hence, they insist that the careful elaboration, and the prominent and ceaseless emphasis which the Church gives to doctrine imperils the interests of religion, by dividing those otherwise agreed, by rendering the candid examination of new truth impossible through the bias of foregone conclusions, and by diverting the attention of Christian people from the great practical and moral interests of life to matters of barren speculation. They charge the Church with exalting creed above morals, and faith above character. They insist upon it, that the norm of Christianity is to be found in the Sermon on the Mount, and as such it is proved to be a religion of character, not of creed; and hence, that it is the duty of the Church to regard immoral action as the only heresy.

This tendency to depreciate the importance of clearly discriminated views of religious truth, rests in the case of different objectors upon very different grounds, and is carried to very different degrees. But against this entire tendency, which opposes creed and morals, faith and character, in all its forms and intensities, we protest, and proclaim the opposite principle as fundamental,–that truth is in order to holiness, and that knowledge of the truth is an essential prerequisite to right character and action.

The force of the objections against the importance of clearly discriminated truth in the sphere of religion is mainly the result of the vagueness with which the objections are stated. When it is charged against the Church, as its record stands in history, that it has subordinated moral and practical interests to those of scholastic specualtion and party contests, there is a coloring of truth in the charge which commands attention, and disguises the real animus and ultimate aim of the objectors.

In order to clear the question of accidental complications, which constantly confuse the current discussions of it, we make the following admissions and distinctions:

1st. We concede that one of the sins most easily besetting theologians has been a tendency to over-refinement in speculation, over-formality of definition, and an excess of rigidity of system. Logical notions, creatures of the understanding, have too often been substituted for the concrete form of spiritual truth presented by the Holy Ghost to faith. Theologians have often practiced a rationalism as real as that of their modern opponents, when their ambition to be wise beyond what is written has urged them to explore and explain divine mysteries, to philosphize on the basis of scriptural facts, and to form rational theories, as, for instance, of the relation of the divine and human natures in the person of Christ, and of the concursus of the first with the second causes in Providence.

2d. We admit also that zeal for doctrine has in too many instances been narrow and prejudiced, mingled with the infirmities of personal pride and party spirit, and has hence led to the unnecessary divisions and alienations of those who were in reality one in faith, and to the conditioning of communion, and even of salvation, upon unessential points. Human nature has operated among earnest theological advocates with the uniformity and blindness of a physical law, leading each to choose a position as far as possible from his opponent–to unduly emphasize some Scriptures and depreciate others–to confine his attention to the fragment of truth he champions, exaggerating its proportions, and denying or minimizing the qualifying truths represented by his antagonist. This law has led to the multiplying of special theological tendencies, and to their development in all possible directions and to every possible extent, and has thus been providentially overruled to the extension of our knowledge, and to the ultimate establishment of the truth in wider relations. but the habit is in itself obviously evil, since for the individuals immediately concerned it sacrifices the truth as a whole to special elements, which by exaggeration or dissociation from their natural relations become virtually untruths. This is illustrated in the whole history of controversies, e.g., between Nestorians and Monophysites, Lutherans and Reformed as to the person of Christ, between Supralapsarian Calvinists and Arminians, Churchmen and Puritans, Mystics and Formalists. It is plainly the duty of the individual to understand, as fully as possible the position of his respondent, and to incorporate the other’s fragment of truth with his own into the catholic whole.

3d. We must admit also that some advocates of theological dogma have lacked the courage of their convictions, and have betrayed their want of perfect confidence in the foundations on which they have builded by a disposition to discourage the fearless investigations of new truth in all directions, and to put an ungenerous interpretation upon all opinions to which their own minds were unaccustomed.

We claim to be sincere advocates of free investigation, in the true sense of that word, in every direction open to man. The believer in the supernatural revelation contained in God’s Word is place on a higher and more central point of vision than that of the mere naturalist, and he is thus rendered free of the whole sphere of truth. The true relation of the successive realms of the universe of being and knowledge can be read by one looking upon them from within outward and not from without inward, from above downward and in the direction in which the supreme light of revelation radiates, and not from below upward upon the side on which the shadows fall.

But it is absurd to suppose that true intellectual progress consists in a mere change of opinions, or that it is consistent with the destruction of the foundations which have been laid in the verified knowledge of the past. Truth once adequately established must be held fast forever, while we stand prepared to add to it all new truth substantiated by equal evidence. And it is a law which all educated men should be ready to acknowledge as axiomatic, that truth in any department once established must ever after hold the place of valid presumptions, influencing the course of new investigations in every department. Ruskin well testifies, “It is the law of progressive human life that we shall not build in the air, but in the already high-storied temple of the thoughts of our ancestors,” and that any addition successfully made can “never be without modest submission to the Eternal Wisdom, nor ever in any great degree except by persons trained reverently in some large portion of the wisdom of the past.”

It cannot be doubted that what is held by men as truth in any one department of knowledge must, in the long run, be brought into conscious adjustment with all that they hold as truth in every other department. That which is false in philosophy cannot long be believed to be true in religion, and conversely, that which is false in religion can never be rightly regarded true in philosophy. Consequently, in the rapid development of the physical sciences which characterizes the present age, it is inevitable that there should be serious difficulty in so adjusting all the elements as to allow us to become clearly conscious of the congruity in all respects of the new knowledge with the old. It is not to be wondered at even that at several points there is an apparently irreconcilable antagonism. But when we recall the obvious distinction between facts and theories, between established knowledge and provisional hypothesis, we are readily reassured by the recollection it suggests that the historic track of human thought is strewn with the wrecks of systems, of cosmogonies, and anthropologies, as certainly believed and as influential in their day as any of the anti-theological systems of the present day.

We should unquestionably open our doors wide, with a joy equal to her own, for all the facts which science gathers in her harvest-time. But is it not absurd to ask the believers in the great Church Creeds of Christendom to abandon, to modify, or to mask that ancient and coherent mass of knowledge which roots itself in the profoundest depths of human nature, and in all human history, which has verified itself to reason and every phase of experience for two thousand years, which has moulded the noblest charcters, inspired the most exalted lives, and inaugurated the very conditions which made modern science and civilization possible–to modify or abandon all this in deference to one or the other of the variant and transient speculations which each in his little day claims to speak in the venerable name of science?

We admit also that all Christian doctrine, like all other truth, rests on evidence appropriate in kind and adequate in degree. Nor is it denied that human reason legitimately exercised is the organ by which alone this divine truth is to be apprehended and its credentials examined and verified. These evidences ought to be subjected to the most thorough legitimate examination. He is a false or a mistaken advocate of the truth who would impede such investigation or who fears the result. Most of those who depreciate Christian dogma as incapable of certain verification, or as impractical and unprofitable, simply beg the question as to these evidences. All such we refer to the Christian Apologist, who is fully prepared to meet all reasonable demands. At present we assume the truth of our dogma and claim, that being true, every fragment of it is of transcendcent importance as to the God-appointed means of effecting the moral and spiritual regeneration of human character and life.

4th. We moreover admit without hesitation that theologians must themselves be held to their own principle that truth is in order to holiness; that the great end of dogma is not the gratification of the taste for speculation, but the formation of character and the determination of the activities of our inward and outward life in relation to God and our fellow-men. There is a patent distinction between the logical and the moral aspects of truth, between that manner of conceiving and stating it which satisfies the understanding and that which affects the moral nature and determines experience. Neither can be neglected without injury to the other. For if the laws of the understanding are essentially outraged, the moral nature cannot be either healthfully or permanently affected; that which is apprehended as logically incongruous by the understanding, cannot be rested in as certainly true and trusthworthy by the heart and conscience and will. But all the great doctrines of the Scriptures may be apprehended on the side and in the relations which immediately determine the moral attitude of the soul in relation to God. It is possible, for instance, to treat the Biblical teaching as to the sinful estate into which man has fallen and from which he has been redeemed by Christ, as a metaphysical or a psychological problem, in which its reality and bearings, as a matter of experience, may be to a great degree disguised. On the other hand, it may be set forth, as it always is in Scripture, as it is realized in consciousness, and as it enters into all religious experience. If, as is asserted, religious experience is only the personal experience of the truth of the great doctrines of Christianity, as we are personally concerned with them, it follows that they must be conceived and stated in a form in which they admit of being realized in the experience. Any theological method which sacrifices the moral and experiential aspects of the truth to a metaphysical and speculative interest will soon lose its hold upon the consciences of men, and itself experience that law of change which determines the fluctuations of all mere speculative systems.

With these admissions and distinctions, we return to our theme, that the truth revealed in the Scriptures, and embraced in what evangelical Christians style Christian dogma, is the great God-appointed means of producing in men a holy character and life. at present neither the general truth of Christianity nor that of any particular system of theology claiming to represent it, is the question. but the truth of Christianity being assumed, we affirm that the truths set forth in the Word of God in their mutual relations, are necessary means of promoting holiness of heart and life. That is, that dogmatic Christianity is the essential ground of practical Christianity.

1st. This will be made evident when we consider what Christianity really is and what is the essence of Christian doctrine. Unlike all philosophies, it is not a speculative system built up on certain principles or seminal ideas. It is, on the contrary, a divinely authenticated statement of certain facts concerning God, His nature, His attitude towards man as fallen, His purpose with regard to man’s redemption from sin, and several stages of His actual intervention to effect that end. This redemptive work Christ has been, and is now engaged in accomplishing by several actions in chronological succession. The revelation of these purposes and redemptive actions has been evolved through an historic process, the separate facts of which are as definitely ascertainable as those which constitute any other history. Christian doctrine, therefore, is just God’s testimony with regard to certain matters of fact, with which the religious life of the race is bound up. A distinction has been pressed, beyond all reason, between the matter of fact taught in Scripture and doctrines which, it is asserted, men have inferred from or have superadded to the facts, as hypothetical explanations of them. By matters of fact the liberal school means the external events of Christ’s history as these were observed by the bodily senses of human witnesses, and assured to us by their testimony; and these external facts of sense, perception, and nothing more, they admit to be valid objects of faith, forgetful that a more advanced and consistent school of their fellow-rationalists overset these external facts just as confidently as they themselves flippantly relegate dogma to the religion of the unknowable. These men admit, for instance, that we know, as a matter of “fact,” that Christ died on the cross, and rose from the dead the third day; but they hold that the design with which he died or that the relation which His death sustains to man’s restoration to the divine favor are matters of speculative opinion, but no matter of “fact.”

The word “fact” in universal usage signifies not merely an action, a thing done, but as well any objective reality, and by way of eminence, a reality of which we have adequate certainty, in distinction from a matter of opinion or probably reality. Now that Christ died and rose again as our representative, that His death was a vicariously endured penalty, is plainly as purely a matter of fact, i.e., objective reality, as definitely and certainly verifiable on the direct testimony of God, as the dying and rising again themselves. All that a witness in the Hall of Independence on the 4th of July, 1776, would have seen with his bodily eyes would have been the physical acts of certain men subscribing their names to a written paper; that was the optical perception, and nothing more. But no man would be absurd enough to deny that it is just as much a “fact,” and just as certain a “fact,” that they subscribed their names as the representatives of certain political communities, with the design and effect of changing their political constitutions and relations. The sensible transaction, and its legal intent and effect were equally matters of “fact” and ascertainable with equal precision and certainty upon adequate evidence. Now the matter of fact of which Christian dogmas are the revealed expression and attestation are those which more than any other conceivable facts are of transcendent importance and of immediate practical interest to mankind. The tri-personal constitution of the Godhead, and His essential attributes and eternal purposes–His relation to the world as Creator, providential Ruler, and moral Governor–His judgment of man’s present guilt, corruption, and impotence as a sinner–His purposes of grace, and the provision made for their execution, in the incarnation of the Second Person of the Trinity, and in the life, death, resurrection, and ascension to universal dominion of the God-man–the resurrection of the body, the judgment and eternal condemnation of the finally impenitent and glorification of believers–these are the FACTS.

In every department of life all practical experience and activity is constantly determined by the external facts into relation to which we are brought, and upon our knowledge of and voluntary conformity to these facts. All modern life, personal, social, and political, is notoriously being changed through the influence of the facts brought to our knowledge in the advances of the physical sciences. All moral duties spring out of relations, as those of husband and wife, parent and child, citizen and community. All religion is morality lifted up to the sphere of our relations to God, as Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, as Creator, Moral Governor, Redeemer, Sanctifier, and Father. Our question, at present, is not whether our theological dogmas are true, but whether, being true, they are of practical importance. Much of the cavil against their use is only a disingenuous begging the question as to their truth. We prove them to be true in the department of Apologetics, which draws upon all the resources of philosophy and historical criticism. And having proved them to be true, we now assert, in advance, that morality and religion are possible only so far as these facts are recognized, and our inward and outward life adjusted to them. It would be incomparably more reasonable to attempt to accomplish all the offices pertaining to the departments of agriculture, navigation, and manufactures, while ignoring all the ascertained facts of the natural world, than it would be to attempt to accomplish the offices of morality and religion while ignoring the facts of the spiritual world signified and attested to us in Christian dogma.

2d. Again, our proposition that knowledge and belief of scriptural truth is the essential means of the production of holiness in heart and life, may be demonstrated upon universally admitted psychological principles. Knowledge is the act of the subject knowing, apprehending the truth. Truth is the object apprehended and recognized in the act of knowledge. In every act of apprehension there is required the object to be apprehended, and the apprehensive power upon the part of the agent apprehending. “The eye sees only that which it brings with it the power of seeing.” All truth of every kind stands related to the human mind, and the mind is endowed with constitutional faculties adjusted to it, and effecting its apprehension. As an actual fact, however, in the present state of the race, many individuals are found incapable of apprehending and recognizing some kinds of truth. for the apprehension of some truth a special endowment and cultivation of the understanding is necessary; for the recognition of other truth a special temperment and cultivation of tast is requisite, and for the apprehension of other truth again a special condition and habit of the moral and spiritual nature. In the actual condition of human nature the truths revealed in the Scriptures cannot be discerned in their spiritual quality as the things of God. But when the sould is quickened to a new form of spiritual life by the baptism of the Holy Ghost, this very truth, now discerned, becomes the insturment whereby the new spiritual life is sustained and developed. This accords with the analogy of the constitutional action of the soul in every sphere of its activity. The perception of beauty depends upon the possession of the aesthetic faculty. But that being possessed, the aesthetic culture of the soul depends upon the contemplation of beautiful objects, and the knowledge of the law of beauty in the endless variety of its forms. It is a law having no exception that the exercise of the perceptive faculty necessarily precedes and conditions the exercise of the affections and the will. Beauty must be apprehended before it can be appreciated and loved. Moral truth must be apprehended before it can be loved or chosen, and only thus can the moral affections be trained and strengthened. Mere feeling and mere willing without knowledge are absolutely impossible experiences, and if possible, they would be irrational and immoral. It is the grand distinction of Christianity that it is ethical and not magical in all its processes and spirit. It rests on facts. It moves in the sphere of personal relations. It is a spiritual power acting through the instrumentality of truth addressed to the reason, and made effectual upon the soul by the power of the Divine Spirit. And the truth, through the medium of knowledge spiritualized, acts on the emotions and will, and transforms character and governs life.

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