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This subject has vital connection with the whole tone and spirit of preaching and religious experience. On the one system, the poor soul must become penitent and holy, consciously endowed with spiritual life, in order to feel warrauted to come to Christ. On the other, it is invited to come to Christ" that it may have life;” in all its unworthiness, helplessness, and misery, to come at once to him for “ all things pertaining to life and godliness,” sor • wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption.” It it easy to see which system entangles the soul, in its access to Christ and peace and holiness, in inextricable toils, and which system clears the way to him in free and buoyant faith, hope, and love.
Ecclesiology. It is unnecessary to go at any considerable length into our principles of church organization. The cardinal features of our ecclesiastical system are: 1. Representative government by officers chosen by the people, in contrast alike with government by the people in person, or pure democracy, which is congregationalism, and with government by officers not chosen by the people, i. e. by a prelatical and hierarchical government. Both extremes are avoided, not only the despotic, but what is elsewhere found impracticable, that of the people attempting to exercise legislative and judicial functions immediately themselves, instead of through the medium of their representatives. 2. The parity of the ministry as shepherds of Christ's flock, neither as lording it over God's heritage, nor over one another. Herein, again, Presbyterianism contrasts with all prelatical and hierarchical systems. 3. Unity. This binds all particular churches in one organization, composed of representatives of the lower courts. It is opposed to Independency, which, to the eye of a Presbyterian, runs towards disintegration and dissolution. It represents organically the unity of the Church. Al! its members become subject to their brethren in the Lord. The soundness of the whole body can be brought
to bear effectually to heal or expel distempers in particular parts. 4. Closely connected with this is catholicity. Her communion is open to all Christians of all nations. But this is not at the expense of purity. Our ministers and teachers are required to subscribe and conform to her Confession of Faith. This provides for the purity of their teachings, while at the same time, our church debars no credible Christian professor, competent to discern the Lord's body, from communion at the table of the Lord.
In regard to the reasons of the secession of a portion of our ministers and churches a quarter of a century ago, it is only necessary to observe that the main cause was doctrinal. Other influences, however, gave tone and intensity to this. Among them ecclesiastical differences were undoubtedly prominent. Of these, foremost in time, if not in influence, was the position of Old school Presbyterians, that church-work, such as educating ministers, regulating missions etc, should be done by agencies appointed and controlled by the church. On this point, as those who seceded from them are coming rapidly, avowedly, and exultingly to the same ground, there is no need of further remark. Another, and perhaps the most immediately impulsive, reason was the summary elimination of the congregational element from their systern, which, with the best of motives, had been unconstitutionally introduced by the celebrated “ Plan of Union” with Congregationalists in 1801. This alien and incongruous element had become a source of great discord and trouble. In the language of Chief Justice Gibson, in the celebrated opinion given in rendering the decision of the Supreme Court, which ended the legal contest, “ the two systems (Congregational and Presbyterian) are as immiscible as water and oil.” As the same conclusion, theoretically and practically, has been reached by the New school Presbyterians and Congregationalists themselves, no more is necessary to be said on the subject.
A few words on two other points, out of the many that suggest themselves, must close this Article, already too
protracted. First, as to the church-membership of the children of Christians. On this subject Old school Presbyterians are coming more and more into the fullest sympathy with their standards, however they may have, owing to various causes in the present century, lost sight of their precious significance, in placing children on the same footing in the visible church with their parents. The mind of our church is deeply moved on this subject, and is unresting in its efforts to bring her children to the closest intimacy and oneness with herself. She resists with a holy jealousy every effort to loosen this bond, in the utmost stringency of it, as set forth in our Book of Discipline. A striking evidence of this has appeared in connection with the attempt to revise and amend this book, which has for some years been in progress in our body. The committee appointed by the General Assembly to prepare the needed amendments, recominended that a clause be inserted in the article which declares baptized children subject to the government and discipline” of the church, asserting that, before making a profession of religion, they were “not subject to judicial prosecution.” This amendment chiefly prevented the acceptance of the amended Book of Discipline by the assembly of 1860. It has been expurgated from the subsequent revisions of the book, in obedierce to the almost unanimous voice of the church, because it was feared that it would weaken the bond of union between the church and its baptized members. This growing recognition of the churchmembership of the children of Christians, and the consequent treatment of them as persons who are recreant to their position, if they do not think and feel and live and act as becomes the children of God, is producing the happiest results. Much lost ground yet remains to be recovered in this regard. But enough has already been regained to give the highest promise for the future.
Next in regard to the sacraments, we will barely add, that old school Presbyterians, repudiate the opposite ex. tremes of attributing to them, on the one hand, an intrinsic
opus operatum efficacy, and, on the other, a mere emblematic and didactic character. We hold that they are not mere * signs,” intended to illustrate the nature of Christ's salvation, but that they are “ seals ” also, designed to ratify the promises and covenants which, through faith, convey that salvation to the soul (Rom. iv. 11). This stipulatory character of the sacraments we deem of great moment. They are like the seal on a deed, designed to be solemn attestations of the sincerity of the promiser, and of the reality of the benefits stipulated by him. In regard to the efficacy of this, it is to be observed : 1. That, according to the constitution of our nature, such a visible and conspicuous attestation of solemn earnestness in making a promise has a power, beyond the mere word, to assure our faith, so apt to stagger, our hope, so apt to droop. It is analogous to the "oath for confirmation ..... wherein God, willing more abundantly to show unto the heirs of promise the immutability of his counsel, confirmed it by an oath” (Heb. vi. 16, 17). The word of promise is indeed sure in itself. But the seal of the promise makes it “ more abundantly ” sure to us. 2. Not only in their own nature, but as divine ordinances, the sacraments are channels of a peculiar grace to all who receive them aright. If we cannot tell why he has done it, it is enough that God has instituted them, and has been pleased to connect special gracious benefits with their appropriate use. 3. They are not efficacious of themselves, but only as they are received by faith. As Calvin says, we get only so much from them as we take by faith. 4. We admit and insist on the real presence of Christ in the sacra. ments, as we do in his word and ordinances generally, by his Spirit operating in and through them as the instruments or media.of his agency. Any other real presence of Christ's person or body in the bread and wine, whether by transubstantiation, consubstantiation, or otherwise, we deny. 5. We reject: that theory of the person of Christ now advanced in some Protestant communions, according to which Christ is denied to be truly God and truly man, and is
asserted to have a theanthropic nature, produced by confounding and identifying the two natures in a tertium quid, which is neither God nor man, nor God and man, but a divine-human intermediate between the two, whose divinehuman life is deposited in the church, and dispensed, through the sacraments, to men for their salvation. This scheme really gives the sacraments an opus operatum efficacy, and is a kind of modern transcendental sacramentarianism and ritualism which we discard.
Here we pause. Our exposition of the polemical attitude of our church has been prepared under the pressure of extraneous labors and hinderances, brought upon us in divine providence, and wholly unlooked for, when we engaged to furnish it. Such as it is, however, it must speak for itself. While it has been our endeavor to set forth the controverted doctrines of Old school Presbyterians, as we understand them, it has been no less our endeavor to avoid charging the doctrines we oppose upon any specified communion or school of Christians. Thus we have hoped to consult the interests of truth and charity ; with what success our readers must judge. What we insist on for ourselves and others is simply the grand old maxim : In necessariis unitas ; in non necessariis libertas; in omnibus caritas.