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.


Question 1. Is not the Presbyterian Church properly denominated Protestant ?

Answer. It is. Because, in common with other Reformed Churches, it professes to adhere to the solemn protest which was taken by the Reformers of the sixteenth century,  against the errors and corruptions of the Church of Rome.

Q. 2. What are some of those errors in that Church, against which the Reformed Churches protest?

A. They protest, among many other things

·        Against the doctrine of the Pope's supremacy.  Matt. 23:8, 11; Eph. 2:19, 20.

·       Against the doctrine of the infallibility of the Church. Acts 17:11. 2 Cor. 1:24.

·        Against the doctrine of transubstantiation,  and the sacrifice of the mass. Acts 3:20, 21, Heb. 9:24-2; 10:12-14.

·        Against the doctrine that the good works of the saints are meritorious in the sight of God. Isa. 64:6; Eph. 2: 8, 9; Rom. 11:6.

·        Against the doctrine of purgatory and that prayers ought to be offered for the dead. Luke 16:22, 23; 23:43; 2 Cor. 5:8; 1 John 1:7; Rev. 14: 13

·        Against the doctrine that saints, images, and relics, ought to be worshipped.  Exod. 20:4, 5; Rev. 19:10; 22:8, 9.

·        Against the doctrine, that the Scriptures ought not to be read by the laity.  Deut. 6:6, 7; Matt. 22: 29; John 5:39.

·        Against the doctrine, that celibacy and abstinence from certain kinds of meat, are connected with exalted piety, and superior sanctity of character. Lev. 21:10, 13; 1 Cor. 7:2; 1 Tim. 4:3, 3:2; 1 Cor. 8: 8.

The Presbyterian Reformed Churches bear their testimony against these and many other errors of the Church of Rome, as being anti-Christian and destructive to the souls of men.

Q. 3. In what light do Presbyterians view Protestant Established Churches, such as those of England and Ireland?

A. They regard them as Churches of Christ; but, at the same time, so unscriptural in their constitution and administration, as to oblige them to maintain a separate communion.

Q. 4. What is there in the constitution and administration of these Churches, to which Presbyterians object?

A. 1. They object to the power and authority, in spiritual matters, which these churches declare to be vested in the supreme magistrate, ( King or Queen), whether male or female: "That the king hath full power and authority to hear and determine all manner of causes ecclesiastical, and reform and correct all vice, sins, errors, heresies, whatsoever."

2. They object to these Churches, that, according to their constitution, the Parliament of the nation, consisting of Episcopalians, Presbyterians, Independents, Quakers, Papists, and Infidels, have the power of determining how many prelates, and pastors, they shall have.

3. They object that in consequence of this control and authority which these Churches concede to the civil government in religious things, they are rendered incapable of reforming, purifying, or extending themselves, or correcting any errors or abuses in their system.

4. Holding, as Presbyterians do, that Christ has ordained in his word, all the institutions which his infinite wisdom judged necessary for the edification of his spiritual body, and has taught the best possible manner in which they are to be administered and observed, they object to the power claimed by these Churches to decree rites and ceremonies in the worship of God, and to alter the mode in which he has appointed his own institutions to be observed.  Prov. 30:6; Rev. 22:18

Q. 5. What objections have Presbyterians to the Episcopal Church in general?

A. They cannot assent to such ceremonies as the following, which this Church has decreed, and which have no warrant in Scripture:  

·        The numerous festivals appointed and observed by this Church,
·        Sponsors in baptism,
·        The practice of sponsors making vows in the name of the child, and of taking on them obligations which cannot in the nature of things be fulfilled, and which parents alone can fulfil,
·        Using the sign of the cross in baptism,
·        Confirmation by a prelate,
·        Bowing at the name Jesus,
·        Kneeling at the Lord's Supper,  
·        The private administration of the Lord's Supper,
·        Consecration of churches,  burying grounds, and the sacramental elements,
·        The superstitious use made of the bread and wine remaining after the communion,
·        And the absolution of the sick.
Matt.  15:9.

Q. 6. As some of these ceremonies appear unimportant in themselves, why is the observance of them a ground of serious objection ?

A. Because such observance encourages superstition and will-worship; is opposed to the sufficiency of the Scriptures, as the only rule of faith and practice; and upholds the unscriptural and pernicious principle, that men may innocently and profitably add to the institutions of Christ, and the terms of communion in his Church. Col. 2:20,23

Q. 7. Have Presbyterians any further objections to the Episcopal Church ?

A. Yes. They cannot approve of ' The Book of Common Prayer,' considering that the obligatory use of it tends to prevent the exercise of spiritual gifts, and induce formality and deadness in devotion ; and that, in its general form and construction, it is imperfect and erroneous, containing useless repetitions,  unsuitable petitions,  lessons from the Apocrypha, a confused and irregular arrangement of the prayers, and bears so general a resemblance to the mass-book, from which many of its prayers are taken.

They object to the exercise of Church government, and the power of ordination being vested exclusively in prelates. 1 Tim. 4:14.

They cannot admit the doctrine, distinctly taught in the Prayer Book, that by water baptism an infant is ' regenerated,' ' made a member of Christ,' and ' the child of God.'  Jas. 1 :15; 1 Pet. 1:23.

They lament the extreme laxity of these churches, in reference to discipline.

Q. 8. In what light do Presbyterians view those Churches called Independent, or Congregational?

A. They regard all of them who profess what are termed the doctrines of grace, as being also churches of Christ; but object to their peculiar constitution,  the principle of which is, that particular congregations are Churches independent of each other, and not subordinate to superior courts, and that all the members of the Church have authority to exercise government, and to vote in every case of discipline on which the Church is called to decide.

Q. 9. Why do they object to this system of Church government?

1.  It is inconsistent with the oneness of the Church, as founded on the oneness of her Divine Head, her faith, her baptism, and the whole system of her laws and ordinances, and with the description given of her in Scripture, by allusion to the human body, 1 Cor.
12:12, 26, 27; to a kingdom, John 18:36 ; and to an army under one commander, Rev. 20:9.

2. It is opposed to the constitution of the primitive Church. (See chapter I, question 3, section 4.)

3. It confounds the distinction plainly expressed in Scripture, between the rulers of the Church, and those who are ruled. Heb. 13: 17, 24.

4. Because of the disadvantages to which it is liable.

4.1. From the undue control which people have it in their power to exercise over their pastor.  Should he, by faithfully preaching some truth disliked by them, or by reproving some sin to which they were addicted, give any offence, or should the people at any time take a fancy for another preacher, he is liable at once to be expelled from his oifice.

4.2. From the want of any court of review to which an individual might appeal, in case of being aggrieved in judgment, through prejudice or party feeling, or improper influence in the congregation of which he is pastor or member, Acts 15:2

4.3. From the inability of separate congregations to accomplish one of the most important purposes for which the Church has been established on earth, that is, to extend the kingdom of Christ. Independents, when making efforts to propagate the gospel, are obliged to act, not in the character of a Church, but as members of promiscuous societies.


Q. 10. What then are the general considerations which should attach Presbyterians with zealous affection to their own church?

A. Its Scripture character, its freedom from those many and weighty objections which lie against other systems, and the religious privileges and advantages which its members enjoy.

Q. 11. What are these privileges and advantages?

·        Having the right of choosing their own pastors and rulers, freedom from despotic power on the one hand, and anarchy on the other, in the government of their Church
·        The means and opportunities of bringing before the rulers of the church, for investigation and judgment, unfaithfulness in Ministers and Elders, offences of Church members, and errors in doctrine
·        The privilege and power of appeal from one Church
·        Court to another, when their rights as citizens of Zion are injured or assailed ;
·        And such an ecclesiastical constitution and arrangement of their church, that it contains within itself the capacity of reforming abuses and errors, and has the best machinery for extending the boundaries of the Redeemer's kingdom, and perfecting the body of Christ.

Q. 12. How should Presbyterians employ and improve these privileges?

A. They should use them thankfully and faithfully for their own edification, the bringing other churches to conformity to the laws of Christ's house, and for prosecuting Missionary labours in their own land, and throughout the world, until all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of God.


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