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us,” but, “ He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh, the Lord shall have them in derision."
Fast Days are becoming to be looked upon as antiquated. It is generally admitted that they were useful in their day, but now the Church has attained to such a degree of advancement as to render them altogether unnecessary. Hence the wide-spread cry for their abolition. The obligation of the Sabbath-law contained in the Fourth Commandment is now very generally regarded as Jewish and designed exclusively for the Jew. The result is that work on the day of God is not now restricted to what arises from the claims of necessity and mercy, but the utmost license is given for many forms of unnecessary labour, and for every kind of pleasure seeking. The Scriptural observance of the Lord's Day is looked upon as among the ancient things to be swept away, although in opposition to this boasted discovery of modern times, the Lord of the Sabbath emphatically declares, “The Sabbath was made for man and not man for the Sabbath, wherefore the Son of Man is Lord also of the Sabbath.”
The Divine Hymnal, the Inspired Songs of Zion, are now all but universally thrust into a corner, and in many cases set aside altogether, also on the ground of being old fashioned, and thus not at all suited to the present dispensation; while the sapless and often trifling, nay sometimes nonsensical effusions of erring man are substituted, although our Lord declares, “ God is a Spirit, and they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth.” And where is truth unmixed with error to be found save in the inspired Word of God? These are only a few out of the many illustrations of the revolutionary process that is at present going on in the Church, but they are sufficient to show that such a process is at work; that the Church presents the aspect of a scene of change, and hence the necessity for watchfulness, and unflinching steadfastness on the part of those who are still clinging to the old paths. But are we to be regarded as enemies of progress because we plead for whatever is Scriptural in the worship and service of God as observed by our ancestors ?
Verily not. On the contrary, we aver that they are the true friends of progress who so far from regarding the attainments of the Church in the past as so much useless material fit only to be cast away, take advantage of these as a solid, well laid foundation on which to build and from which to go on unto perfection. And have they not the strongest possible claim to be so regarded? Equally if not more acquainted with the source of all theology, viz., the Word of God, and equally dependent upon and guided by the illuminating influences of the Holy Spirit, were our godly ancestors with the would-be men of superior enlightenment of our day. If so, what was proved by them to be based upon the Divine Word, and what they were spiritually enlightened to understand, cannot possibly have a different foundation or be the fruit of darkness now. The opinions and conduct of man may change, but the Word of the Lord endureth for ever, and equally unchanging and enduring is any principle, practice, or form of worship, founded upon that word. We cannot better conclude this portion of our subject than by quoting the language of Professor Flint, bearing upon it, in his Introductory Lecture at the opening of the current Session of the Theological Hall of the Edinburgh University. “All true progress in nature brings the new out of the old, by the continuous growth and elaboration of the germs of life into organic completeness. The only true progress in Theology also is that continuous and consistent developement which brings the new out of the old instead of parting with the old for the new, which increases kuowledge for the future through retaining, applying, and utilising the truth which the past has brought down to the present. Among the strongest religious counsellors of our time are those who recommend us to cast to the winds our creeds, our systems, our definite dogmas, our theology, and return to the primitive simplicity of religion as embodied in the New Testament. They do not see that what they would have us cast off is just what the reason and piety of the Christian world have been able to elicit from the original revelation ; that in asking us to return to the point from which it has taken eighteen centuries to advance they virtually affirm that God has not been present to the reasons of His Children in their study of His Word during all these centuries : that it is only through each generation having been called and privileged to bring some truth or aspect of truth into clearer light to counteract some error, to bear its part in unfolding the richness of meaning latent in the Divine Word that the whole circle of Christian teaching will be traversed in its natural order, while no generation will be called upon to undo all that its predecessors have done, or would be able even if it tried, to drive the movement of history backwards. I am firmly persuaded that it is only in the line of what has been done in the past-only in the line of our creeds, of our great doctrinal systems, of our definite dogmas-that there will be, or can be, theological progress in the future; and that to discard these creeds, systems, and dogmas, would be as irrational as to throw off all the laws and institutions, all the countless arrangements of the elaborated civilization in which we live, and retrograde to the rude and simple life of the earliest dwellers in Asia and Europe."
II. The growing opposition to Creeds and Confessions and the consequent desire to be relieved from adherence to them, is another aspect of the tendency under consideration. Steadfast adherence to a particular creed is looked upon as a species of bondage, and for the Church to require subscription to her standards on the part of her ministers and elders is regarded as a reckless invasion upon the right of private judgment and upon liberty of thought. Such a sentiment is current not only among non-professors of godliness but also among the members of the Church, and not unfrequently is the no-creed theory advocated by ministers of the gospel and by professors in our Presbyterian Theological Halls.
In both cases, opposition to creeds and confessions is grossly inconsistent. It is so in the case of those without the pale of the Church with all their boasting about freedom of thought and religious toleration, inasmuch as despite their opposition to all creeds, they have a creed, and none are so bigoted and intolerant as they in maintaining it. Their creed is the negation of all creeds, and they put down as bigots all who are not as liberal as themselves. All toleration for latitudinarians like themselves is allowed, but none for the bigots. The utmost liberty of judgment and freedom of speech is granted to the no-creed supporters, but the so-called bigots have no right to judge for themselves. They are expected to surrender their judgment into the hands and adopt the creed of the negationists. Verily the toleration of the advanced men is uncharitable. Liberal toleration thus becomes another name for intolerance. But if those who make no profession of adherence to a particular Church are inconsistent, still
inconsistent must those be who have already given in their adherence to a creed. In addition to the inconsistency common to all deniers of creeds, they act inconsistently with their own voluntary engagements. Truly he is a foolish man who stultifies himself. He very much resembles the man who would deliberately thrust his hand into the fire, or put coals of fire into his bosom, and then complain of being burned. Precisely similar to the conduct of such a man is that of those ministers of Presbyterian churches who have signed the Westminster Confession of Faith and yet in the most bitter and unsparing manner condemn it. They do so, not on account of its teaching being opposed to any part of the Bible, but to what forsooth! they consider the Bible should teach. Conspicuous among the reckless declaimers against the Westminster Confession is the U. P. minister of Gourock, who, at a recent meeting of the Greenock Presbytery of his church, made a grossly unjust and flippant attack upon it. His utterances on that occasion were more those of a fool than of a sane man.
Is it to be credited, that only five years ago he subscribed the whole Confession (with the usual exception in the United Presbyterian forumla to make room for Voluntaryism) as the
Confession of his faith, and that now he coolly turns round and tells his Presbytery, that the God of that Confession which he with his own hand deliberately signed, is not the God of the Bible? That is to say he professed before the Church and the world to believe in one God, but really worshipped and served another; for we could not possibly suppose, that he would even acknowledge any other god than the God of the Bible. Mr. Macrae had thus his professional Deity and his real Deity, and the one opposed to the other. It would not surprise us, although on his next appearance we were to find him placing the God of the Confession and the God of the Bible on the same level and becoming a god to himself. But the United Presbyterian minister of Gourock is not alone. He has many sympathizers in his own and in the other larger sections of the Presbyterian Church. We can scarcely lift a newspaper that does not contain a condemnatory harangue upon the Confession, generally too by its professed supporters.
What more common than the sentiment, have no creed but the Bible.” “No other creed is needed.” No other creed than the Bible, however different, yea heterodox, their views of Bible truth may be. l'pon this principle, we might have in one Church, even at one Communion table, men holding every variety of doctrinal belief, for Papist and Protestant, Socinian, and Trinitarian, every heterodox sect professing Christianity, all take their stand on the Bible. A definite creed is thus absolutely necessary, not only in order to the maintenance of purity of doctrine and worship in the Church, but for the preservation of unity and harmony among her members. It is further stated in defence of the no-creed theory, that “the Bible contains no systematic form of doctrine, and why should we be fettered by such hard and fast lines as are laid down in the Confession of Faith ?"
It does seem somewhat strange that while fixed systems and formulae are desiderated, yea regarded as indispensable in the philosophical and scientific departments, hazy and undefined speculations are reckoned quite sufficient to serve the purpose of theology or religion. We are told, the Bible does not contain any system of theology. It might be sufficient to reply to this, that it at least contains all the elements of a system. And if this is to be regarded as a sufficient argument against regular creeds or systems of theology, equally strong is it against systems of philosophy or science, for we do not find the world of matter or of mind arranged in a systematic form any more than, nay, not so much as, Divine Revelation. They contain nothing more than the elements required to make up a system, whereas the Bible contains more than the mere elements of a system. In some cases we have a definite and well arranged system of doctrine laid down. Thus in Rom. viii, 29, 30, we have described
in a systematic form the whole Gospel scheme of mercy, “For whom He did foreknow, He also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom He did predestinate, them He also called ; and whom He called, them He also justified; and whom He justified, them He also glorified.” Further, in proof of a regular Confession of Faith, or system of doctrine, being acknowledged in the Word, we find Paul thus exhorting Timothy, “Hold fast the form of sound words.” But we find a greater than Paul requiring a regular profession Confession of Faith from his disciples. To them Jesus said, “Whom do men say that I the Son of man am ?" but becoming more pointed to elicit their own Confession of Faith in Him, He repeats the question and puts it directly to themselves, “ But whom do ye say that I am ?” In his own name and that of the others Peter thus confessed, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God." This may be said to be the foundation of Systematic Theology, and but for the errors of men, this, along with the Fatherhood of God and the personality and work of the Holy Spirit, would have been a sufficient Confession. Where, however, there is a believing, heartfelt Confession of Christ as the eternal Son of God, and as the Mediator of the New Covenant, there is implied in it an acknowledgement of these cognate doctrines, for as Christ declares, “No man can come to me except the Father who hath sent me draw him," and further it is affirmed, “No one can say that Jesus Christ is Lord, but by the Holy Spirit.” From all these things then, and from others that might be mentioned, we are warranted in affirming that not only have we all the elements required to make up a system in the Divine Word, but we really have a system, and as we have already hinted, a system the articles of which have been increased to refute the errors of men. Loud complaints are made about the bulkiness of the Westminster Confession, but this is to be attributed not to its diffuseness in stating truth, but to the necessity there is for defending the truth against the attacks of its enemies; and as new phases of error arise new defences become necessary. It is plain then, that not until the Church is purged from error, can the Confession be diminished. The Confession stands in the same relation to truth, that the walls and fortresses of a city do to the city. And as no one save an enemy would ever regard the walls and fortresses as an obstruction, and none save an enemy would ever wish and plan for their demolition, so none speak so loudly against or labour so assiduously for the abolition of all Creeds and Confessions as those most bent upon invading and plundering the territory of Scripture truth. The
cry for the revision of the Westminster Standards is becoming