Thursday, 24 April 2014

A Catechism on the Government and Discipline of the Presbyterian Church (1849)  Continued...

NOTE: I have changed the Bible quotations to ESV throughout and noted where this differs substantially from the KJV. I have also adopted British spelling rather than the American English of the original.

This section covers the issue of State Endowment of the Church versus Voluntaryism.  At one time in Scotland this was a subject of intense debate, (see “The United Presbyterian Church; a Handbook of its History and Principles” (1888), chapter 10 “The Voluntary Controversy)  I have not had the opportunity to consult the earlier Irish and Scottish editions of this catechism and rather suspect that there might be some differences


Question 1. Is it the duty of Christians to contribute of their substance to the maintenance of religious ordinances ?

Answer. It is both their duty and their privilege.

“Take from among you a contribution to the Lord. Whoever is of a generous heart, let him bring the Lord's contribution: gold, silver, and bronze…” Ex. 35:5 

“Let the one who is taught the word share all good things with the one who teaches.”  Gal.  6:6; see 1 Cor. 9:3-15

Q. 2. In what spirit is such contribution to be made ?

A. It is to be made freely, bountifully, thankfully, and devoutly.

“The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully1 will also reap bountifully.  Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”  2 Cor. 9:6,7

“I will offer to you the sacrifice of thanksgiving and call on the name of the Lord.” Ps 116:17

Q. 3. In circumstances and places where the ordinances and ministry of the pure gospel are already sufficiently provided for, are Christians, for this reason, to withhold their contributions ?

A. No : they ought, in such case, to multiply them in behalf of the heathen and others who have not obtained the same advantage : and thus the gospel of Jesus Christ will be extended, till all nations shall serve him.

Q. 4. Ought rulers and nations, as such, to protect the people in the free and full exercise of their religious privileges ?

A. Yes: because rulers derive their authority from God, and therefore they are bound to use it for his glory : Prov. 8:15.

Nations, also, receive from him national blessings, and therefore they are bound to render unto him national service : Jer. 18:7, 10.

Q. 5. Have you any other reasons to adduce ?

A. Yes. Because the Lord Jesus Christ is, as Mediator, King of kings, and therefore these, officially as well as personally, are required to bow to his sceptre, and to maintain his cause. Rev. 19:16; Ps 2.

2. Because the end of civil government is, not only to repress what is evil, but to cherish what is good : Rom. 13:4.

3d. Because wherever the religion of Christ, especially in its pure Presbyterian form, has been so maintained, there society has been
more orderly, virtuous, and enlightened, than otherwise.

Q. 6. Is it proper or expedient for a government to endow and support any particular form of religion ?

A. No. Experience has demonstrated that such establishments are oppressive to conscience, partial, liable to great abuse, injurious to the spirituality of the Church, by making it a mere appendage to the state. 

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