Presbyterianism: a reply to "The Church and the Pulpit."

J. N. Darby.

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An Address delivered at the opening of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church of New South Wales, October 23rd, 1867, by the Rev. Dr. Steel, Moderator of the General Assembly. Sydney, 1867.


"Fathers and brethren,

"The spirit of union in the larger corporation of the Church has fostered other fellowships within our Zion. Our Sabbath school teachers in Sydney and its suburbs have formed an association for their mutual improvement and the more effective conduct of the schools under their care. With laudable zeal and perseverance they have instituted courses of lectures for teachers, arranged common lessons for scholars, and collected statistics of schools - all of which cannot fail to be beneficial to themselves and to the Church. Young Men's Mutual Improvement Societies - now happily connected with almost every congregation in the city - have also formed a union for promoting their intellectual and Christian advancement, and for cherishing that esprit de corps which young men of a church like ours - so rich with historic memories and apostolic glories - should always realize. It is interesting and refreshing to mark these hopeful phases of young life in the Church, and it would be well if fathers and brethren gave their encouragement and aid to associations so calculated to maintain the doctrine and order of our ancestral church in this new land. Since our faith and polity are generally so consistent with the holy scriptures and the primitive Church, we have everything to gain and nothing to lose by the enlightenment of the young, alike in our creed and our history.

"Fathers and Brethren - Our church polity is apostolical. It 'is founded upon the word of God, and agreeable thereto,' as our Confession so well states the matter. It is framed upon the practice of the apostolic age, while yet inspired men were in the Church to give authority to its doctrines, and accuracy to its history. From these halcyon days of Christianity our church derives its constitution. There we get the principles that regulate all our polity. We admit, as our Confession does, 'that there are some circumstances concerning the worship of God and the government of the Church, common to human actions and societies, which are to be ordered by the light of nature and Christian prudence, according to the general rules of the word, which are always to be observed.' But we also hold 'That the scriptural proof of any arrangement or practice having existed in the apostolic churches, ordinarily and primâ facie imposes an obligation on all churches to adopt it - an obligation that is imperative and unlimited in regard to all those things which obviously enter into the substance of the government and worship of the Church, and the mode in which they are administered.'* In the scriptures, then, we read that a church comprehended a society of the people of God, either in a single congregation, as in the house of Nymphas (Col. 4:15), or in a city, as in Jerusalem (Acts 2:22), where there were at least eight thousand persons; or the whole community of a nation, as in Acts 7:38, where St. Stephen speaks of 'the church in the wilderness,' or all the Christians in the world, as where the apostle says (1 Cor. 12:28), 'God hath set some in the church'; or, finally, all the people of God in heaven and on earth, as in Ephesians 5:25: 'Christ also loved the church.' The word has only one meaning everywhere, but capable of any extension. In the scripture we read that the office-bearers of the Church were elected by the people. Whether it was the election of an apostle to fill the vacant bishopric of Judas (Acts 1:23), or of deacons to look after the temporal affairs of the early Church (Acts 6), it was a popular choice. There we read what will not now be controverted by any scholar, that bishops and presbyters or elders were identical. In the apostolic Church, and in the many references of the inspired epistles to this office, there was no difference between bishop and presbyter. The names expressed the same office, and are used interchangeably by the sacred writers. In the New Testament we read that there was a plurality of bishops or elders in every church, in Ephesus, Philippi, Colosse, Derbe, Lystra, Iconium, as well as in the larger congregations of the greater cities. There, too, we read that ordination to the office of the ministry was an act of the presbytery, of a plurality of elders. This was preferred by the apostles themselves when they were all together in Jerusalem (Acts 6). Thus SS. Paul and Barnabas were ordained at Antioch (Acts 13:3). Thus Timothy was ordained (1 Tim. 1:14). And after this model it is most scriptural to set apart men to sacred office. There we learn that there was a right of appeal allowed to members of the church, or single congregations, from a decision among themselves to an assembly of apostles and elders, as the office-bearers of the Church. Apostolic dicta pronounced by inspired lips did not settle the controversies of the early Church. The appeal from Antioch was discussed in an assembly convened for the purpose, and in which the apostles were members. The decision was authoritative and final. The decrees of the assembly at Jerusalem were binding upon the churches of Antioch, Syria, and Cilicia, and were received with submission. The government of the Church was representative, and final decisions were given by the assembly of bishops or elders. There, too, we read that supreme power was lodged nowhere else, not in an apostle, or a prince of apostles, a president of assembly, still less in an earthly potentate, but that the Lord Jesus Christ was the sole King and Head of the Church. His revealed will was the only standard, and His officers the only court of appeal in all matters ecclesiastical. There was a gradation of judicatories; but the Church was possessed of an inherent right to settle all spiritual causes. There, too, we read that there were elders who ruled, as distinct from those who also laboured in word and doctrine (1 Tim. 5:17). They all had equal status, but not equal functions.

{*Cunningham's Historical Theology, vol. 1, p. 68.}

320 "These features of the apostolic Church are clearly revealed in the primitive ideal as represented in the holy scriptures, though in the actual realization they were speedily obscured by the corruptions which affected Christianity in the Roman Empire. They were however discerned, and copied with more or less exactness, in the great Reformation of the sixteenth century, when the word of God was recovered from the dust of ages, and perused with all the freshness of a new discovery. Every national church in Christendom except the English, and in a very modified degree the Danish and Swedish, returned in their reform to the general principles of polity as practised in the apostolic age. The case of Denmark and Sweden will not bear argument, and the exception of England was an anomaly caused by the Crown. Lord Macaulay, in his history, states that 'the English reformers were eager to go as far as their brethren on the Continent.' And he further avers of the Protestant party in that church, that 'it cannot be doubted that, if the general sense of that party had been followed, the work of reform would have been carried on as unsparingly in England as in Scotland.' (Hist., vol. 1, p. 50.)

321 "These features of the apostolical polity have been apparent, with varied degrees of clearness, in different ages of our church. The election of all office-bearers is vested in the people, and even where patronage has been imposed, as in established churches, the call of the people is recognized. There is no distinction between bishop and presbyter; and though every church court has its moderator, he is primus inter pares. There are several elders in every congregation, who constitute a governing body in all spiritual affairs. There is the right of appeal from local presbyters, whose judgment may have been biassed by party feeling or personal animosities, to a district or provincial synod, or assembly of elders duly elected and lawfully convened, whose decision is held to be final, and subject to no appeal to co-ordinate courts in the State. This polity protects the rights of the people on the one hand, and the rights of the members of presbytery on the other, and when properly worked is calculated to preserve the discipline of the church, and promote the welfare of the people.

"This mode of presbyterial action is specially adapted to a new country. In some of its features it is being followed by all disestablished churches. Synods are sought by the Episcopal church in all places beyond the United Kingdom. The synod is becoming the supreme power of that church to which all officers are subject. The synod is the court of appeal where all grievances of doctrine or discipline are to be settled. The synod is the free assembly where all parties can express their sentiments and exercise their suffrages. Congregationalists are gravitating to the same mode of corporate action. Their writers of highest authority on ecclesiastical polity, such as Davidson and Stoughton, declare that 'they are wrong in splitting up what ought to be one church, the company of believers in modern towns, into several churches, each with its own pastor, which in their independent individuality are patches and shreds, often incapable of a right government, because they have lost sight of the unity and kind of government existing in the earliest churches.'* Wesleyan Methodists have always had certain of these elements, and their difficulties of administration have chiefly arisen from the rules of a society, designed to be temporary, becoming the laws of a permanent and widespread church.

{*Davidson's Ecclesiastical Polity of the New Testament, p. 123; Stoughton's Ages of Christendom, p. 31.}

322 "In all new countries the apostolic principles of church polity have been proved to be most adapted to the new circumstances. In America our own church has advanced from a single presbytery, with a few members in the year 1705, to six thousand clergymen at the present day. Canada has already five hundred Presbyterian clergy; and Australasia, in less than half a century, and while the pioneer and father of our colonial Presbyterian church is still alive and vigorous, possesses three hundred clergy. Nor are our congregations in bondage, though bound to the church and submissive to its laws. Their liberty is not interfered with in all the minor details of their services or their finances. So long as they act in harmony with the general principles of the church, they are as independent of one another as if they were unconnected by ecclesiastical ties. More and more it appears that towards the apostolical polity of our church all Protestant churches are gravitating and in this we rejoice, not because we expect in the pre-millennial age an incorporation of all churches into one, but because by corporate action freer scope is afforded for the maintenance and diffusion of truth, and for the exercise of a healthy discipline.

"Our church is Catholic. The spirit of catholicity belongs to its apostolical constitution. It is not exclusive. It professes to be a branch of the holy Catholic Church. It does not unchurch other communions not so scriptural in doctrine or so apostolical in polity as we profess to be. It does not deny the validity of ordination by other churches, or attempt to re-ordain those who have been already set apart to the holy ministry. It does not repeat the sacrament by which Christians have been initiated into the fellowship of the Church of Christ. It does not shut its pulpits to the ministers of other Reformed churches, though it has not been free from occasional bigotry and exclusiveness, both when established and when dissenting. It is not bound by consecrated buildings or by a clergy supposed to possess a transmissive virtue in their ordination which belongs to no one else, from holding intercourse with ministers and members of other branches of the Church. It has had its seasons of defection and of unfaithfulness, as all others have had; but it has never sanctioned as a principle that which cuts it off from the communion of saints who worship in other forms, and listen to other and somewhat differently appointed teachers. It has recognized and encouraged the fellowship of all the Reformed churches, and has permitted its candidates for the ministry to frequent the universities and theological halls of Protestant Christendom. It claims to be a branch of the holy Catholic and apostolic Church, and lifts up its testimony to the word of God both in doctrine and polity, but holds out the hand of Christian fellowship to all, 'who in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours.' And we hope and pray for the return of all other branches of the one holy Catholic and apostolic Church to similar principles and the exercise of similar reciprocal charity.

323 "Fathers and Brethren - There are two other points to which I would also advert, as they are the glories of our Zion.

"1. The intelligent unity of doctrine believed by an Anglo-Saxon Presbyterian Churches. Amidst the separations which have been temporarily occasioned in the application of questions of our polity to relations to the State, there has been unbroken unity in the faith. The Confession of faith has been the standard of all. But it is no mere bond of peace. It is a bonâ fide creed. There has never been a debate as to its doctrinal meaning. It has never been questioned whether the clergy might hold opposite sentiments on doctrinal points. Hypocrisy might occasion and unfaithfulness might tolerate doctrinal variations, but these have been rare anomalies, and never an acknowledged boast. Any man teaching any divergence from the common creed would forfeit his office. That creed may be more definite and even more minute than those of other communions, but it has been rarely belied or outraged, and never glossed over by other documentary standards or liturgical forms.

"The constitution of the church, and the free exercise of Christian rights, and the open character of all ecclesiastical courts, have prevented the imposition of a creed that was not believed, and the toleration of error that was openly acknowledged or capable of being proved against any preacher. The doctrine of all our clergy must, like the virtue of Caesar's wife, be above suspicion. Our people have a guarantee that their preachers will not follow any doctrine contrary to the grammatical meaning of the Confession. All who receive the imprimatur of the Presbytery are orthodox divines.

"2. The paramount importance of preaching is another glory of our church. Our church does not depend upon gorgeous ceremonies, or prescribed liturgies, or a lordly hierarchy for its influence over the people, but upon its office of preaching - the exercise of scriptural instruction. This was the great feature of the apostolical Church. The founder of Christianity was a preacher. Its first apostles went everywhere preaching the word. Christianity owes its greatest social influence to the pulpit. … Our church has recognized this apostolic view - the dependence of the people upon the preacher, and has sought to provide able ministers of the word of God to expound saving truth to their congregations. If we have not preachers of ability, we cannot keep our people. There are no other adventitious aids by which congregations will be sustained. They depend upon the minister alike for the public prayer as for the sermon, and therefore require men of high spiritual character, and of intellectual gifts and popular adaptation. It has ever been a glory of our Zion to possess an educated ministry.

324 "The pulpit of our time is in different circumstances from those it has ever before experienced. The press has been gaining while the pulpit has been losing popular power. This has not been because the press has usurped the place of the pulpit, for it rarely writes on religion, but because it has sustained its work with more ability, with better adaptation to the wants of the people, and with more equitable rewards for the talent enlisted in its service. Accustomed to read well-written, intellectual, and instructive papers, periodicals, and books, whose style captivates, whose themes interest, and whose thoughts enlighten and elevate, people cease to admire and listen to preachers of feeble mind or of listless manner. It is also not to be denied that much of the preaching is too academic and dry, and too weak and coarse. Clerical education has lacked an element which brings the religious teacher into sympathy with the common people, and has paid too little attention to the art of speaking, which is ever an effective aid to popular instruction. People complain that they hear only good men, who do not command their attention or stimulate their thought … The pulpit needs higher intellect. The theme with which it is occupied is worthy of the noblest thought - has the loftiest elevation and the most extensive range, and grasps the two eternities of the past and the future with the grand area that lies between them … But preaching must also be adapted to the age and to the circumstances of the people," pp. 310.

325 [REPLY]

However unfeignedly one may rejoice in the prosperity of Christians, wherever they may be placed, as we clearly ought, and as I trust I do; however much we may desire the influence of Christian truth over the youths of a country, in contrast with the infidelity and popery now so influential and popular, and this is assuredly near my heart; yet in the volcanic heavings of the present day, when Christian bodies are so much mixed up with the world, and when, even among Christian professors, man and man's advancement are so displacing Christ, it is well to learn how to separate the precious from the vile, to learn what is the path in which the patient Christian should walk, and how far what is held out to us as good is good according to God.

The paper I am now reviewing affords me an opportunity of examining principles whose activity I have seen displayed in other countries, and whose working it is of moment to inquire into, as very prevalent in the present day, and at the same time of investigating the claims of a system free from the grosser elements of ecclesiastical corruption, and hence not unfrequently affording a kind of asylum and resting-place for those whose consciences make it impossible for them to remain in what is in its fundamental principles popish, if not Roman, but who at the same time have not faith to walk on the water to meet Christ, if they cannot remain in the ship. It cannot be for a moment supposed that the working or success of the system I refer to in so distant a land can be an object of jealousy, or that there I can have any motive of attack, save as that system embodies principles which have their importance everywhere, and in these days especially come home to every conscience. It is as able a presentation of the system, in a brief compass, as I am acquainted with, and presents Presbyterianism in its fairest colours, and says as much for it as can well be said. As a general maintenance of the gospel and protestant truth against allied popery and infidelity, the system may have its value; and I can wish it success as a providential instrument. I believe that in the colonies Presbyterianism is the body which makes some counterpoise to Romanism and its infidel power and allies. The Episcopal body, having its distinctive importance from an ecclesiastical constitution analogous to Romanism, and not from truth of doctrine, forms none; or allies itself with only the popish influence, though for its own objects. I should therefore not write in the spirit of attack; but I shall discuss freely the pretensions and principles of the system advocated in the Moderator's speech to the General Assembly of New South Wales.

326 There are some general principles more important to me than the ecclesiastical ones, which are taken for granted in the speech, but which I cannot pass over, as they are the key to a large movement among Christian men now, and involve most serious questions, trying to the heart even when they are clearly resolved to spiritual understanding and conscience by scripture. To a very great extent these have no more to do with Presbyterianism than with other denominations. They involve the mixture of the Church and the world. The true character of Christianity is in question in them. I am not here to call in question any needed improvement or culture when the will of God has placed us in the path of such culture. If it be an end, it is evil, it is not Christ. If it be a means of doing God's will, it may be a dangerous path, and is so; but it has its place, and if it be to be done, it should, as everything else, be done well; not in the case of a Christian, I repeat, as an object: Christ only can be rightly that - the one motive for everything; but, as in everything we do according to His will, and to serve Him, we should do it diligently and well, heartily as unto the Lord. Thank God, we can! All these things are apt to become objects: faith looks beyond them and uses them as means when called for. A man in labouring for his children may work beautifully; but that is a different thing from having beautiful work artistically as his object. The question here is, Are we called by a heavenly calling, as a new creation belonging to heaven, though obliged to be pilgrims for awhile on earth? Are death and resurrection the basis of Christian life, or the improvement of the old man as an object in and of this world, because we are still of it?

The discourse of the Moderator does not take up the improvement of natural talents for needed service in this pilgrimage, but connects it with the Church - makes it (as is so largely done in these days, more especially in new countries) a part of Christian life. Progress in the world, intellectual advancement, is a part, a large part, of Christian acting. The spirit of the age is to characterize Christianity, if Christ even lie as a germ at the bottom.

327 I quote the passage as expressive of the system: -

"Young Men's Mutual Improvement Societies - now happily connected with almost every congregation in the city - have also formed a union for prosecuting their intellectual and Christian advancement, and for cherishing that esprit de corps which young men of a church like ours - so rich with historic memories and apostolic glories - should always realize. It is interesting and refreshing to mark these hopeful phases of young life in the Church; and it would be well if fathers and brethren gave their encouragement and aid to associations so calculated to maintain the doctrine and order of our ancestral church in this new land."

It is impossible to imagine anything more clearly connecting the Church of God and the world, intellectual improvement and grace, the Church and ancestral descent, in one single idea and category of thought. Improvement Societies and scriptural faith and polity in one common thought! as if young men's improvement and spiritual life were identical objects, and the unconverted and the converted could pursue them together; for the association and the object of the association is common to all. And the ancestral church, in the judgment of its highest authority, is to be sustained in faith and polity, not by grace and the Holy Ghost, but by the enlightenment of the young in the creed and history of the ancestral church, and by their intellectual improvement and their esprit de corps. Indeed the intellectual improvement comes first; the rest is a fair cover to it. Is this the character of Christianity as the word of God presents it, that for which the blessed Son of God gave Himself on the cross? I will speak of the Presbyterian system in a moment. But this is a more serious thing. It uses the natural influence exercised, by an ancestral church, to cultivate the spirit of the world and the esprit de corps. It connects the thought of the Church with the world, and not with God, and Christianity with intellectual improvement, not with Christ and the path which He trod.

The principle I refer to is just this: the world, and its objects and spirit, are accepted; and it is sought to christianize it in form and moral influences. Deliverance from it to be the servant of Christ, by the power of the Spirit of God, is not thought of It is not the details of the system I am concerned with - they may vary; it is the system and its principle. It reduces Christianity to a worldly level to bring the world under its influence. Its fairest form is when it seeks in large terms to provide a shelter for young men, separated, when beginning life, from their families and home influences (an object full of interest); but it works this by engaging Christians in objects and pursuits adapted to unconverted young men, and wholly foreign to Christ and the spirit of the Christian. Intellectual and Christian advancement are put together with intellect first; and wherever Christ is not all, other things will be always first. It runs to seed in a thousand shapes. Christianity is held to be gloomy, if Christians cannot dance and go to the theatre, which is approved by ministers held in reputation for piety, with reserve of gross immorality; unconverted young men are taken to teach in Sunday schools; and what is really gambling and levity of the most objectionable character goes on in "churches" ancestral or others, in order to make money, to have a fine building and an eloquent and intellectual minister who will bring a crowd. Hired professional singers entertain the congregation; and if the choir be composed of young people, it is the occasion of levity, into the details of which there is no need I should enter here. No one acquainted with churches in the Colonies (some, at any rate: I do not profess to know Australia) and the United States, but knows perfectly well the state of things I refer to, and the practical effect of intellectual improvement in the young, and the mixture of Christianity and the world connected with it. I dare say the degree of evil may differ, and there are, of course, exceptions; but that of which I speak is sufficiently universal to be characteristic of the state of things. Every one knows that theatre-going and dancing is the common practice of professing Christians in the States; and, if they would tell it, they know a great deal more. Is this the just effect of the death of Christ and the power of the Spirit of God?

328 But my business is with the principle. Mutual Improvement Societies, for intellectual and Christian advancement, are calculated to maintain the doctrine and order of the "ancestral church." Is that the Church of God? Is the Church of God an ancestral one? Judaism was an ancestral religion. They were beloved for the fathers' sake, as they are still. But can a trace be found in the New Testament, in connection with the Church, of an esprit de corps connected with an ancestral church, a church "rich with historic memories"? I understand it in a worldly or patriotic system; but the Church of God is the body of Christ - baptized into one body by one Spirit. With the thought given of the Church of God in scripture, no one thought given here can coalesce. If it be said, We do not pretend it is the Church of God; then it is something substituted for it, which is to engage the affections and activities of all under its influence, forming an esprit de corps to the exclusion of that which is the true Church of God.

329 It is "our church," "our ancestral church," which is to absorb the energies and affections of the heart, not the Church of God: and I must add, of the natural heart, not the affections of the new man by the Spirit, because it is the body of Christ, composed of the members of His body so dear to Him. It is an esprit de corps, not the Spirit of God, which is to govern; human and historic attachments, not divine affections and Christ Himself. Will this sanctify as Christian motives do? or will it give a Christian colour and name to what, after all, are but carnal feelings, the rudiments of this world (only that the heart is deceived by covering them with the name of the Church), not after Christ? It may enlist clever and improved young men in the Presbyterian system, plunge Christian young men into a low kind of Christianity, and fix their hearts on objects other than Christ, under the name of intellectual improvement, sanctioning worldliness and what they can pursue in common with the world; but it will never attach the soul to Christ, never make Him all, as He is in all them that are His, will never build up God's Church, nor the individual, into the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ.

Christ died, that they which live should live not to themselves, but to Him who died for them and rose again. He has called us to take up our cross and follow Him. If we would serve Him, we are to follow Him. He has purchased to Himself a peculiar people. We are not to be conformed to the world, but transformed by the renewing of our mind. If we live in the Spirit, we are to walk in the Spirit - to set our affection on things above, not on things on the earth. We belong to a new creation, not to the fashion of this world which passes away. We are dead, and our life is hid with Christ in God. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him; and the friendship of the world is enmity against God. We are to seek the victory which overcomes the world by faith. We are not our own, but bought with a price; our business is to manifest the life of Jesus in our mortal bodies, to walk as He walked. All that is in the world is not of the Father, but of the world.

330 Now, I ask, If that be the character of Christianity given us by the word of God (with the infinite motive of Christ's self-sacrifice for us, and the blessed object of being conformed to His Image, and growing up to Him who is the Head in all things, and manifesting Him, so that the Church should be the effectual epistle of Christ), is there one trace of Christ in what is encouraged in the exhortations of the Moderator of the General Assembly of New South Wales? Is that not casting Christ and His cross into the shade, to clothe with the name of Christian the spirit of the world and an esprit de corps? Is it not the sanction of worldliness to mere attachment, not to Christ and His path, but to a body which the Moderator favours? It is, I know, what is current at the present day, and especially in new countries; but is it the world or the cross and Spirit of Christ, as manifested in the New Testament, and founded on the unutterable worth of the self-sacrifice of the Son of God? I repeat here, The question is, not if a Christian young man is to seek the cultivation and improvement necessary to the effectual pursuit of his providential calling, but whether Christianity and the Church, which Christ has redeemed by His precious blood, and the ministry of the Spirit, is to have for its object, not deliverance from this present evil world (to effect which Christ gave Himself for our sins), but the urging Christian and worldly young men into pursuits which are of the world, and which worldly young men can pursue as well as Christian, and which Christians can only pursue upon motives which can govern the world as well as them? I confess, I can conceive of nothing more sad than this use of Christianity to colour worldly pursuits in the unconverted, and to engage Christians in objects which continually enfeeble and adulterate their Christianity.

I turn to what is to me a comparatively immaterial object - the Presbyterian system. One system is, I believe, little better than another, and the Presbyterian is dislocated and broken to pieces like the rest. Reunion has been attempted in the Colonies, with, at any rate, partial success; and the same is attempted between the Old and New Schools in the States (that is, between the Colonial and American branches of the Presbyterian body). But the general history of Presbyterianism has been failure, at least as much as that of other Protestant bodies. On the continent of Europe, it is the most infidel of all existing churches so called. Every one knows that it had become almost universally Socinian in England so as to be excluded by law from Lady Howley's charity. The split of Kirk and Free Church is known to all. There are at least three large Presbyterian bodies in Scotland, and the Free Kirk threatened with a disruption within itself by an attempt to unite it with one of them. All this is sad to every godly spirit, and only a part of that sorrowful disintegration which in these last days is going on in Protestantism, to the destruction even of its public testimony.

331 But Presbyterianism is a snare to some in the present day in this way. It is respectable as an original reformed and national body, has an historic prestige as our Moderator tells us, has had its martyrs; and it is not characterized by the gross superstitions and remains of Romanism which are now both corrupting and disrupting the English body. Hence it becomes for some a refuge from that sickly corporation, when there is not faith to follow Christ wholly. It becomes thus a part, though a somewhat wearisome part, of one s service in the present day to examine its pretensions, for which the New South Wales Moderator furnishes the occasion.

We can understand a person attached to a body by education (a thousand ties of imagination recalling those who have suffered in founding it, shed the lustre of their faith and sorrows over what we call our church, born within its precincts, christened there, married perhaps there, parents and ancestors buried there, to whom we are attached: ties as strong as those of country or of school and college, with a halo around it of what is distant and divine). We may be very ordinary professors, but our Abrahams, and Moseses, and Davids, saints owned of God, belonged to the body to which we belong. Their good report encircles the brow of the community we personify in our imagination. Still, when we seek for the Church of God, when with the earnestness which the Spirit of God gives, with the conscience awakened and the heart under the influence of the claims of the sacrifice of the Son of God, we seek from the word of God the Church which Christ loved, and for which He gave Himself, when we seek it in its manifestation here below where duty is, when what we owe to the cross has possession of the soul, it becomes impossible to speak or think of an ancestral church.

We want God's Church, if He has one, that in which man has to behave himself fitly, and which is the pillar and ground of the truth, the Church of the living God. It is in vain to say that this is the Church as it will be finally in glory, or the invisible Church. It was a Church where Timothy was to know how to behave himself, and when directions for elders and deacons and admission of widows had to be given. This was not the glorified Church in heaven. If it be alleged that all this is ruined and gone, let it be acknowledged with humiliation of heart, that what God had planted so lovely has been ruined and has withered under the hand of man. Let us take the place of confession, which becomes such an acknowledgment, and not substitute some other body for it. An imitation church will not do. What is imitation of power? Clothing an unconverted man and an improvement society with the prestige of martyrs who suffered some centuries ago is a very different thing from honouring unfeignedly in grace, as a Christian, those who have suffered because they belong to Christ. The whole state of feeling is different: one is grace owning rich divine grace in others; the other is an unconverted man accrediting himself with what he has no real part in, to the deceiving of his own soul.

332 But to pursue the main point. It is quite certain that an ancestral church has no place in scripture whatever. There is the Church the body of Christ manifested on earth (as we see in 1 Corinthians 12) with its various members and gifts and there is the house of God in which the Holy Ghost dwells, and which, at any rate in its normal state, is the pillar and ground of the truth. There were local churches in the different cities, locally holding (without however any separation from the whole body of believers) the position of the Church of God there. But an ancestral church is a thing wholly unknown to scripture and destructive of every idea there given of the Church of God. It may be the Church of Scotland or of New South Wales; but it is not the Church of the living God, but something set up instead of it, and which displaces it - displaces it in the heart and affections of the saint - and is thus the contrary to sanctifying (for we are sanctified by the truth), and is an object to which the affections or really rather the passions of the unconverted can be attached, to the misleading of their souls. With such a thought the word of God has lost its authority, and the Holy Ghost its power in the heart.

There cannot be a more delusive word than the word "Church," nor a greater instance of it than the statements of the Moderator. He tells us that the word has only one meaning everywhere. Be it so. But he does not tell us what it means. It means "an assembly." When the town clerk of Ephesus dismissed the assembly in Acts 19:41, it is just the same word. Does this mean a church? The word means neither more nor less than an assembly. It is a mere delusion to say "church" means always the same thing. It does not in English, for a building is thus called so as to deceive many, and in the original it has nothing in itself to do with what we call church. Thus its use in Acts 7, applied to Israel, has nothing whatever to do with its habitual use in the New Testament; or rather it is exactly the opposite (save as the mere fact of its being an assembly, which was true of that dismissed by the town clerk at Ephesus). The assembly in the wilderness was the nation of Israel - no Gentile had a title to approach as such. It was exclusively such. The middle wall of partition was standing: they were bound to keep it up. The essence of the Church of God is that that wall has been broken down, and there is neither Jew nor Gentile. To say that it always means the same thing, and to quote Acts 7 in saying so, is not only to rest on the surface but to delude oneself if not others.

333 Take the word: it includes an assembly such as at Ephesus. Take the thing; and the assembly in the wilderness, and God's assembly formed consequent on Christ's death, are founded on principles diametrically opposed and destructive one of another. And the definition ("A church comprehended a society of the people of God") is as vague and incorrect as may be. A church is an assembly: what is the meaning of "comprehending a society"? An assembly means an assembly; if not actually assembled, it may be used in a general way for those who habitually assemble, but then it is the society. When we speak of the Church in its Christian sense (and that only is what we are occupied with), it is God's assembly founded on the death of Christ, assembled by the power of the Holy Ghost, and dwelt in by Him. Christ gave Himself not for that nation only, but to gather together in one the children of God who were scattered abroad. This is the general idea, for it is only stated here in general.

Now the grand result will be that they will be made perfect in one in glory. That bright and blessed hope is beyond the sphere of our responsibilities, if it helps, as it blessedly does, in them. Christ will present it to Himself a glorious Church, without spot or wrinkle. This I trust Dr. Steel looks to, as I, as all saints, in whatever degree of earnestness and intelligence. It is the most blessed view of the Church; but though there might be difference on some points, as to whom "it comprehended," I pass that question by here.

334 Besides this, which Christ - Christ alone - is building of living stones, and which is yet incomplete, we have the assembly on earth, and that viewed in a double character, as the body and as the house. Ephesians 1 and 1 Corinthians 12 view it as the body; Ephesians 2, 1 Corinthians 3, and 1 Timothy 3 view it as the house. Then again, in each locality the Christians of the place were called the assembly at that place, as they were in fact. The assembly in any given house ("the church in thine house") calls really for no special notice. Anyone can understand that Christians in those days meeting in some large upper-room were the assembly in that house, if they habitually met there. There is no ecclesiastical idea, so to speak, in it. They broke bread at Jerusalem, kat oikon, at home in their houses; but there was an assembly, "the whole assembly," all the saints in Jerusalem, as Acts 5:11; ch. 8:1; in Antioch, chap. 13:1; chap. 14:27; again, Jerusalem, chap. 15:4, 22; and so of a multitude of other places in the Acts. And the Epistles and Revelation 2 and 3 shew the same thing. When a country is spoken of, we find the assemblies of Galatia. It was a very simple fact: there were a number of assemblies in the country. An assembly is not simply all the Christians in the world, but all Christians viewed as assembled into one - and indeed into one body, so that if one member suffer, all suffer with it. There is unity in the pervading power of the Holy Ghost.

For a denominational body there is no room in the scriptural account of the Church or assembly, unless it be "I am of Paul, and I of Apollos, and I of Cephas," I of Luther, I of John Knox or Calvin. Churches are historic or ancestral (that is, not of God or scriptural). There is a great body which teaches beyond this - that of Rome, the abiding witness of the corruption and ruin of the Church or house of God placed in responsibility on earth, keeping its name and form, but in the hands of Satan and the seat of his power. The Church of England so called is not so distinctively historic. It seemed about to be so in the reign of Edward VI, but in Elizabeth's she, partly from political motives, partly from education and character, sufficiently patched it back again into Romanism to break it up now into violent parties, one clinging to the whore of Babylon, the other to what truth has survived in it, and to a large mass, by its practical incapacity to govern itself or anyone else, opening the door to latitudinarian infidelity, torturing people's hearts by vacillation between ecclesiastical millinery and adoration of the Eucharist on one side, and Colenso on the other. Thank God, there is the immutable faithfulness of Christ to trust to. He will surely have the Church to present to Himself, and we can count upon His unfailing grace now by the way. An ancestral church, with mutual improvement societies maintaining its doctrine and polity by an esprit de corps, is not the Church of God formed and maintained by the Holy Ghost and founded on the work of Christ: for him who looks for the Church of God and bows to the word it is self-condemned.

335 But the Moderator enters into detail. The office-bearers, he tells us, of the church were elected by the people. There is some difficulty in meeting many statements connected with scriptural questions, because traditional habits have set aside every trace of scriptural ideas or ways. For instance: are preachers (ministers, so-called now) or teachers office-bearers? They are generally thought so, but these were assuredly not chosen by the people. The Holy Ghost distributed to every man severally as He would. They were not chosen by the people. Prophets were not chosen by the people. There were certain prophets in the church at Antioch. Again we read, "As every man has received the gift, let him so minister the same, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God." When the Lord ascended up on high, He gave gifts to men - pastors and teachers, and evangelists. Then these were not chosen by the people. If they had five talents or two talents, their business was to trade with them: they were evil and slothful servants if they did not. This was regulated in the assembly by rules which provided for order. In the unity of the body, having gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, we are to minister according to it and wait on it (Rom. 12). If Apollos taught at Ephesus, he taught also at Corinth; he was that member in the body. If an evangelist went forth, even a woman was to test him by doctrine. Diotrephes indeed did not like this vagabond ministry; but Gaius did, and did it faithfully in John's judgment. They that were scattered abroad in the persecution after Stephen's death went everywhere preaching the word, and we read (Acts 11) the hand of the Lord was with them. So deacons who served well purchased a good degree and great boldness in Jesus Christ, as we see in the case of Stephen and of Philip.

336 In the matter of the ministry of the word the desire of the people is negatived, by the whole testimony of the New Testament, both in the assembly and to the world. Women were to keep silence; not more than two or three were to speak, and not together but by course; but it was by the distribution of the Holy Ghost they had them all, and not by the desire of the people. If it be said that these were extraordinary gifts - which is not true of Ephesians 4, leaving aside apostles and prophets who were the foundation - but if they were, do not let us talk of scripture and primitive apostolic practice; because then the whole fabric of scriptural and primitive practice is gone. And a clergy chosen by the people has been substituted for it without any gifts of the Holy Ghost at all. If not, then, as far as the ministry of the word goes, choice by the people is not the scriptural mode, but gift and choice by Christ and the Holy Ghost.

This is a very serious question, because the whole action of the Holy Ghost in ministry is dependent on it. God may act in spite of man's false principles; but it is a serious thing to have such as are a denial of God's way of acting. At any rate the ministry of the word is not by the choice and election of the people, if the expression "office-bearers" is to include them. If it does not, then the Moderator is leaving out all that is most important in real service and in our similarity to apostolic practice.

But the omissions go farther. He does not venture to speak of elders. This is curious in speaking of office-bearers, but then he flies at higher game. The apostles were chosen by the people! This is a curious statement. There were twelve apostles. Eleven, we all know, were chosen by the Lord: "Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you." With these, at any rate, the people had nothing to do; so that, for a warrant for primitive practice, the Moderator is on rather a narrow basis here. Further, after the Holy Ghost came, such a course never was pursued at all. This, I dare say, may be of little weight with Moderators; but those who know that the Paraclete was to guide and lead the Church when come, so that we are to act under what He has given, will feel this of some importance; the rather as we have an apostle called afterwards who tells us he was neither of men nor by man. Hence the election of an apostle is confined to an act, which took place between the Lord's presence and the Holy Ghost's presence, when neither was there, and never happened before or after: never when the Lord was there, never when the Holy Ghost was there; on the contrary, it is negatived in both cases by the history. None was chosen to replace James; and Paul, we all know, was directly called of God and utterly rejected such a principle. And I must add, it is not true even as to Matthias. They drew lots, after praying the Lord to shew whether of the twain He had chosen, and the lot fell on Matthias. To make this a warrant for universal choice by the Church after the Holy Ghost has been given, after another way of having apostles has been manifested, and no idea of replacing an apostle hinted at, when one was subsequently put to death, is a proof that people have very little (I would humbly say, nothing) to say for the people's choosing office-bearers. They are not going to choose apostles now, I suppose. Why not, if this be the warrant for following primitive practice?

337 But there is another striking evidence from scripture on this point. Paul knows no apostles till after Christ was exalted and by His only gift. I do not mean that he denied Christ's choice of the twelve of course, but he knows no such apostles in the Church. Christ "ascended up on high and gave some apostles." There is the divine account of the origin of apostles in the Church of Christ. Christ gave some apostles. Who was to choose them? So "God has set in the church, first, apostles," etc. This was the Spirit distributing to every man severally as He wills. I confine myself to actual proofs. But any one accustomed to the difference of Jewish and Christian order, and the change made by the coming of the Holy Ghost on the exaltation of Christ, would at once do justice to an argument drawn from the drawing lots for an apostle. Indeed it does seem strange to read or hear of such arguments in the Christian Church. But I suppose we must be surprised at nothing.

The Moderator jumps from this very high ground clean over elders, of whom I will speak just now, and lights on the case of deacons, whose election by the people I do not contest, though in terms it is not stated; but the seven were practically such, and the principle of their choice only confirms the evidence of the falseness of the general statement. The apostles would not leave the word of the Lord to serve tables. The people literally ministered of their means to the common wants. The apostles would not have their ministry hindered or interrupted by questions of money and servile, however gracious, care; and they make the multitude choose those who are to minister what the multitude had given. But when the gift was a spiritual gift from Christ, Christ had chosen the person to minister, and they had nothing to choose. The choice was made, the responsibility there; perfect freedom for the workman to get another to go with him, to go alone if called, or to refuse to go on another's work: we find all these cases in scripture. Silas abode at Antioch, Paul gets others to go with him. Apollos, graciously, I believe, would not go to Corinth when Paul graciously wished him. The people chose office-bearers for money matters and tables, but for nothing else. The case arose with Paul also. Money was to go from the assemblies for the poor at Jerusalem. Paul requires them to choose persons to accompany him, providing things honest in the sight of men; 2 Cor. 8.

338 Dr. Steel tells us bishops and elders are the same. Quite true: scripture shews it as plainly as possibly can be. And they were the important office-bearers of the Church. But is it not singular that no attempt is made to shew that they were chosen by the people? We have seen that the ministers of the word were not: scripture contradicts it in every page. It flowed from gifts, extraordinary or ordinary so-called, which were the effect of Christ's choice, and imposed an obligation, the responsibility being regulated by scripture. The elders or bishops took care (as their name implies, were overseers) of the flock of God; some being ministers of the word, others not; but choice by the people of these true office-bearers the Moderator does not attempt to prove, not even definitely to assert. It was wise: scripture states the contrary. The apostles chose elders for them in necessity (Acts 14:23).* We learn by this passage that elders were local office-bearers. Gifts were in the body at large, as 1 Corinthians 12, Ephesians 4, Romans 12, and other passages shew. So also he left Titus in Crete to establish elders in every city - needless surely if the people were to choose them. There is no trace of the election of elders by the people; there is proof of the contrary.

{*In foreign translations, as Martin in French, and Diodati, in Italian (the last generally the best and most exact of old translations that I know), it is added "par la voix des assemblées," and "per voti communi." But there is no ground whatever for this. Saul and Barnabas chose for them (autois) elders, and Acts 10:41 takes away all possible excuse for such a translation.}

339 The next point is - Ordination to the office of the ministry was an act of the presbytery. Let us examine this.

To quote Acts 6 is really too bad. "This was preferred," it is said, "by the apostles themselves when they were all together at Jerusalem." I honestly do not understand what this means. Of presbytery there is not one word; of the ministry, if it means ministry of the word, not a hint: the apostles would not give up the ministry of the word, and so set others to serve tables, and they, the apostles, not the presbytery or elders (they are distinguished, Acts 15), laid their hands upon them. One must be dreadfully hard up to quote this as an ordination to the ministry by the presbytery, seeing that neither is mentioned.

The next case is Paul at Antioch (Acts 13). Here prophets are together, and the Holy Ghost says, "Separate me Barnabas and Saul to the work to which I have called them "no popular choice of office-bearers, at any rate; and these prophets (not the presbytery, of which there is not a word) laid their hands on them, not to ordain them, but to commend them to the grace of God for the work which they thereupon fulfilled (Acts 14:26). Paul had had hands laid on him before, and received the Holy Ghost (Acts 9:17). But this was no presbytery either. At Antioch, which happened afterwards, Paul and Barnabas are sent forth (not ordained) by the Holy Ghost, recommended by the praying prophets to the grace of God. If this be ordination, it is ordination of apostles by laymen.

The only case approaching to such an ordination, though far enough from it, is 1 Timothy 4:14. But the element first noticed is wholly overlooked by these ecclesiastical systems. The gift was in Timothy by prophecy; he was to stir it up. The elderhood accompanied this with their moral recognition; but the ministry, we are certain, was in no way conferred on him by it. It was by prophecy with (or "accompanied by") the laying on of their hands. But, further, we know that he had received the gift by the laying on of the apostle's hands (2 Tim. 1:6). If there was any ordination, it was episcopal. The presbytery were only meta (an accompanying circumstance); the gift of ministry was conferred by the apostle. The pretension to imitate this now, as Episcopalians do, by and for unconverted men, is too serious a thing to enter on now by the by.

340 As far as any evidence of laying hands on office-bearers goes, it is of the same character. It is to Timothy that it is said, "Lay hands suddenly on no man"; while in Paul's address to the elders at Miletus, there is no hint of ordaining elders for the continuation of the polity of the Church.

As to ordination to ministry, it is a mere fable. There is no such thought in scripture. They that were scattered abroad went everywhere preaching the word. He who had received a talent was bound to trade with it. As every man had received the gift, they were to minister the same as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. The Holy Ghost distributed to every man severally as He would; and only two or three were to speak, so that they might all prophesy one by one, and all might learn and all be comforted. They were not indeed to be many masters (teachers); but such a direction could have no place with a fixed ministry of one chosen by the people. Women were to keep silence - were not suffered to teach: a prohibition useless, again, if there were simply fixed teachers.

I have referred to the two short epistles of John which confirm in the strongest way the same truth.

Ordination to ministry, meaning thereby the ministry of the word, is an utterly unscriptural thing. Hands were laid on deacons, or, those equivalent to them, the servers of tables. The laying on of hands was the universal sign of commending to God or conferring blessing: the sick were cured by it; the Holy Ghost was given by it; men were commended to the grace of God by it. And, though it is never so said, I do not therefore doubt that hands were laid on elders, and that 1 Timothy 5:22 includes them, though not referring to such exclusively. The conferring the gift of the Holy Ghost is (save a special case of the direct interference of the Lord) confined to the apostles; the choosing and establishing elders is the part of the apostles or their delegate,* as Titus, and of no one else in scripture.

{*These also had nothing to do with a local bishopric.}

I add, the churches are wanting now, over which they could be named, nor could any pretension to such a place officially be justified, unless it could be said "over which the Holy Ghost hath appointed you overseers." Membership of a church, it cannot be too pressingly insisted on, is a thing unknown to scripture. All who have the Spirit are members of Christ.

341 Setting apart men to sacred office (that is, an official clergy, depositaries by ordination of the title to minister the word) is unknown to scripture and contradicted by it.

The next case is an appeal from the decision of a congregation to an assembly of apostles and elders as the office-bearers of the church. This is as unfounded as all the rest. In personal matters such an appeal, instead of being "allowed to members of the church," is positively denied to members of the scriptural congregation. If the congregation or assembly were not heard, he was to be as a heathen man and a publican; that is, appeal is precluded.

But Acts 15 is referred to. Here was a question, not of members of a congregation, but one affecting the whole standing and unity of the Church of God: was it to be circumcised or not, brought down to Judaism or be the Church of God in which is neither Jew nor Greek? In fact the question was whether there was to be a Church of God at all. Paul and Barnabas discussed with these false teachers: the church came to no decision at all. God permitted the Apostle Paul not to succeed then in putting it down, I do not doubt, in order that the Jewish part of the church might decide the question, that unity might be fully preserved, and, what I may call, the Jewish apostolate settle the question. At any rate, there was no decision and no appeal. Paul was unable to put down the false teachers. The local assembly decided nothing. The apostles and elders came together to consider the matter. It was no gathering of delegates or official assembly. The apostles and elders came together to consider it, and with them, it appears, all the brethren; at any rate, they take part in the letter and sending of Judas and Silas. But it was the local church of Jerusalem and nothing else. Could a local church or even what is called a church court say, It seemed good to the Holy Ghost and to us, and bind the whole Church of God with apostolic authority, by the decrees (the dogmata) which they issue? Does the Moderator think that the assembly which he presided over could bind the whole Church of God by its decrees with apostolic authority, and say, on a question affecting the whole Church of God, It seemed good to the Holy Ghost and to us? If they say, No, we only pretend to govern our own church, then their church is not the Church of God, and the General Assembly of the Presbyterians bears not the smallest analogy to the meeting of the apostles to deliberate on what footing the common Christianity of the saints was to be founded. Indeed the Moderator gets on dangerous ground here, and ground which would effectually guard every sober mind against Presbyterian ideas of their courts and judicatories.

342 "Apostolic dicta [we are told], pronounced by inspired lips, did not settle the controversies of the early Church." But apostolic dicta by inspired lips are the word of God. "If any one be spiritual," says the apostle, "let him acknowledge that the things which I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord." It is rather strong language to say that apostolic dicta from inspired lips could not finally settle a controversy, but that a church-representative judicatory, a General Assembly of Scotland or New South Wales, could. If this be not so, the whole statement is idle talk.

But whom did the apostle represent? For we read, in the Moderator's discourse, the government of the church was representative. Is that the true character of apostolic authority in virtue of which they made decrees binding on the Church? They represented the Lord who had given them authority. They exercised it from the beginning. They started with it as given by the Lord, and what they bound was bound in heaven. Was that because they represented the Church, or derived from the Lord? They had it when there was no such assembly to represent. To say it was an assembly of bishops or elders is quite false, unless apostolic authority goes for nothing. Supreme power is in Christ and in Christ only. He is Son over the house; He conferred it on the apostles. He has promised indeed to be with His people in every way in which they serve Him; but John would make listening to apostles a test of truth. "He that is of God heareth us. He that is not of God heareth not us. Hereby know we the spirit of truth and the spirit of error." Yea, where the two or three are gathered together, there He is, and from the authority there exercised in its place there is no appeal (Matt. 18). The language of the Moderator is very dangerous and unscriptural.

Further, it is a mere Scottish prejudice to call Christ "King of the Church." The leaders of that system may have meant very well; but it is wholly unscriptural. Scripture never speaks of Him as King of the Church. The Church has a much higher place. It is His body and His bride. Nay, when He takes His great power and reigns, we shall reign with Him. He is on His Father's throne now; when He sits on His own, those who overcome will sit there with Him. It is a wholly false and unscriptural dogma, derogatory to the glory and truth of the Church and to the value of Christ's death and love, to make Christ King of the Church.

343 A gradation of judicatories is a miserable fable contradicted formally by Matthew 18 and attempted to be confirmed by the utmost (and that a very dangerous) perversion of Acts 15.

As to all elders not having gift to minister in word and doctrine, it is true. Still as a rule they were if possible to be apt to teach.

Thus far I have discussed the Moderator's statements, the common ground of Presbyterianism; but there are important points left out. The Presbyterian body, as did all the Reformers, profess sacramental regeneration. I have often heard this pooh-poohed, for self-esteem is not lacking to Presbyterianism; but there is not a doubt of it. The difference between their doctrine and the Anglican and Lutheran on the subject is, that both the latter hold that the efficacy of baptism takes effect in all the baptized, but that then the participator may be lost after all - a strange result when both profess to believe in electing grace. But that is not our subject now. The Presbyterian holds that the effectual saving grace of baptism applies only to the elect. The consequences of this Romanist heretical error on certain essential truths are various. The effect with Presbyterians is, that they hold that the effect of baptismal grace may be produced at forty years' distance of time from the celebration of the rite.

There is no telling what theological teaching may bring the mind into - making God out of a piece of flour and eternal life out of a bowl of water! Charge me not with irreverence. The irreverence is in those who invent such superstitions. The expression of "making God" is the commonest and usual expression for transubstantiation; and conferring eternal life by a little water is discussed in Luther's Catechism and taught in the English one, of course in the Roman, and, as I shall now shew, in the Presbyterian. "A sacrament is a holy ordinance, instituted by Christ, wherein, by sensible signs, Christ and the benefits of the new covenant are represented, sealed and applied to believers." Thus the benefits of the new covenant are applied by the sacrament. In the Confession of Faith it is limited to the elect, and that in a very definite way. "Yet grace and salvation are not so inseparably annexed unto it as that no person can be regenerated or saved without it, or that all that are baptized are undoubtedly regenerated. The efficacy of baptism is not tied to that moment of time wherein it is administered; yet by the right use of this ordinance the grace promised is not only offered but really exhibited and conferred by the Holy Ghost to such (whether of age or infants) as that grace belongeth unto, according to the counsel of God's will, in His appointed time." Nothing can be plainer than that. By the right use of this ordinance the grace promised is conferred by the Holy Ghost when God sees fit "in His appointed time." Nothing can be more definite, precise, and positive.

344 I pass over, in the Moderator's discourse, the self-applause as to catholicity; but I turn for a moment to the declaration of its being effectual to secure unity of doctrine. The Moderator confines it, it is true, to Anglo-Saxon Presbyterians; for religion goes by nations now, not by grace. It is wise to do so; because German, Swiss, and French Presbyterianism has fallen into gross infidelity, as everyone knows, whatever partial reaction may have set in in a very few places. But even among Anglo-Saxons it really is a fiction. In England the mass of them have been Socinians, as I have already noticed, and a large body of them, as every one knows in Ireland, Arians. Not only so: the Australian Moderator boasts of 6,000 clergymen in the States who (of course making allowance for individual exceptions) have unity of doctrine and form one body. Did the Moderator ever hear of Old school and New school Presbyterians, two entirely distinct bodies, one holding to the doctrine of the Westminster Confession as to high Calvinist doctrine, the other Arminian? Civilities have passed between them lately in hopes of a reunion, but there at present it remains. Other divisions, in the old world, not in doctrine, are notorious. I cannot say whether Old school or New school be the most numerous body at this moment. One thing is certain that Anglo-Saxon Presbyterians have not unity of doctrine and are separate bodies because of diversity in it.

345 Does the Moderator soberly believe that intelligent unity of doctrine obtains in all Anglo-Saxon Presbyterian churches on this statement? "By the decree of God, for the manifestation of His glory, some men and angels are predestinated unto everlasting life, and others foreordained to everlasting death." I delight in the sovereignty of God; but surely I could find a good many Anglo-Saxon Presbyterians, and ministers too, who do not believe in reprobation. I doubt that all hold the imputation of Adam's guilt. I find very many doctrines in the Confession that no Anglo-Saxon could intelligently hold; but it would involve a controversy on doctrine beyond the limits of this paper and be a kind of attack on the Confession, which is not my object.

But I will notice one point which I do not see how any intelligent Christian could accept: "The first covenant made with man was a covenant of works, wherein life was promised to Adam and in him to his posterity, upon condition of perfect and personal obedience." Again, "God gave to Adam a law, a covenant of works, by which He bound him and all his posterity to personal, entire, exact, and perpetual obedience; promised life upon the fulfilling, and threatened death upon the breach of it; and endued him with power and ability to keep it. This law after his fall continued to be a perfect rule of righteousness; and as such was delivered by God upon Mount Sinai, in ten commandments and written on two tables." All this is a fable and a mischievous fable. And I notice it because it is the foundation of the whole religious system to which it belongs.

The Trinity, the divinity and humanity of Christ, the atonement, fundamental facts or doctrines of the gospel, are believed in by Romanists, Anglicans, Presbyterians, by all who have any right to the name of Christian. It is when you come to apply these truths to man's relation with God, to sin, the convincing man of it, the means of removing it, the application of the remedy, and the relation of man to God, whether under law or gospel, that divergence in doctrine commences. The Romanist makes sacraments the means of life, and, together with good works, of forgiveness and justification. The latter point Protestantism, unless often the Wesleyans and formalists, has escaped from. Anglicans teach sacramental forgiveness and regeneration, and in the Puseyite phase are as near popery as dishonest people dare. Presbyterians hold, as we have seen, salvation and regeneration by sacraments. It is the opposition to the truth in these things which is now breaking up the public testimony of Protestants: some turning back to the anti-christian principles of Romanism; some running loose into infidelity. Disgusted with the corruptions of popery, finding no rest in the narrow and powerless systems of Protestantism, and having no faith in the word of God, such are cast upon the hopeless and desolating folly of their own minds. This quarrel I have not with the Presbyterians, and I thank God for it. I thank God for every public stay He may allow to subsist against the current of popery and infidelity. But they have formed such a system of theoretic doctrine without the word - a system which keeps souls in the greatest bondage and so falsifies our true relationship with God - that it is impossible for one who really bows to the word, and stands fast in the liberty wherewith Christ has set us free, to accept its teachings. It may answer in some respects to new countries for another reason. There is some order, yet it is democratic, although in the United States Methodists and Baptists are far ahead of them in numbers. In old countries it is in as great disruption as Anglicanism, or fallen into universal infidelity; but with all this I have nothing to do. My business is with souls, and with the word of God. And I take this point, of the giving of the law to Adam, as at the root of their system. It is a very mischievous fable.

346 Where is a trace of promise of life to Adam and his posterity if they exactly kept the law? It is a pure invention, falsifying Adam's real position and relationship with God in order to propitiate the law of the ten commandments. There is not a tittle of scripture for it. Adam, having life, was tested by a positive wellknown commandment of not eating the forbidden fruit; and the perfectness of this consisted in the point that there was no intrinsic moral question in it. It was a test of simple obedience to a sinless being with a threat of death (for life he had). A promise of life to Adam on keeping a moral law, which supposed the knowledge of good and evil, is a mischievous fable, and denies the whole position of Adam who was innocent. There would have been no harm in eating that fruit more than another, unless it had been forbidden. And, as I have said, this test of obedience was the only true one for an innocent being, not, as is alleged, a righteous and holy one (both which terms suppose the knowledge of good and evil, delighting in one and abhorring the other). Adam acquired the knowledge of good and evil by his disobedience: "The man is become as one of us, knowing good and evil." But this by the by. What I insist on is, there was no promise of life, which supposed he had it not; but a threat of death, which supposed him to be alive, but alive innocent with no knowledge of good and evil.

347 And when you come to details, just see, I must say, the nonsense of this system which Presbyterians accept by tradition. This law, we are told, continued to be a perfect rule of righteousness, and, as such, was delivered by God upon Mount Sinai "in ten commandments and written on two tables." Think of bidding Adam to honour his father and his mother, and that his days might be long in the land Jehovah his God gave him! Think of his being forbidden to steal - nay, what is more material, not to lust or covet! Cannot these doctors see that the law supposes sin to be there in the prohibition of it, and that (unless in the case of honouring parents, which could not possibly apply to Adam) all the commandments without exception are prohibitions of sin, or refer, as the fourth, to the labour which came in as the present punishment of sin? All this is not a mere mistake of interpretation, or an imperfect way of putting things (of which I should have much to say on the Confession of Faith, and to which we are all liable); but it is grave and fundamental error on man's original relationship with God, and on the true state of our actual relationships too. The basis of the entire system of moral relationship with God in Presbyterianism is false; and it has tainted the whole Evangelical system everywhere. I believe it had its origin in the Reformation, or rather in reformed popery; but it has on this point been formalized in Presbyterianism as it has been nowhere else; and I defy anyone to give the smallest atom of scripture, or (if he knows what sin and innocence mean) of common sense either. It is a theological system without a scriptural basis, and absurd upon the face of it (assuming Adam's innocence; that is, believing the scriptural statement).

This is strong language to me as to the famous Confession of Faith; but the times are serious. We want the truth. We want the solid basis of scripture, of the word of God, for what we hold. Nothing else will stand in these days. Men may deny that word; but then we know what we have to do with. Men may set up conventional systems; but then popery is the strongest and will prevail, or infidel disgust throw up all, and (as I believe) devour at the end popery itself. But my business now is with the truth. Thank God, many Presbyterians love the Lord, and their traditional errors are partially dissolved in the power of grace, though, I believe, their system affects and injures their Christianity. Still every saint will cordially recognize every one in whom grace is. At any rate, that is what pleases God and is the true bond of comfort to the saint; but our question now is with a system of doctrine injurious to the saints we do love. In many parts I do not believe the Confession of Faith is really held by those who maintain it, as in the doctrine of absolute reprobation. Indeed it notoriously is not. They may talk about mysterious and deep truths when we bow. I have no objection to bowing to God on such points - it becomes us; but they do not believe what is stated in the Confession of Faith - I mean a vast number do not. And I affirm that what they do believe, the promise of life to Adam by keeping the ten commandments, is an absurd and unscriptural folly, and one which subverts his and our relations to God, fatally modifying the truth of the gospel when it is preached.

348 I have done. My object has not been to attack the Confession of Faith, nor the Moderator, but to discuss some great principles which interest every Christian individually and the whole Church of God as such. My appeal is to the word of God, aided (as we all must be to use it to profit) by the grace and Spirit of God. And I cannot but think that the traditional teaching of the Presbyterians as to doctrine and polity will be found utterly wanting when compared with the word. If any Presbyterian should read this paper, I ask a patient comparison with the word of God. They are used to come to the scriptures full of the Confession of Faith and the longer and shorter Catechisms. It is generally the first glory of their system that they are religiously brought up and carefully instructed in doctrine. But there is the danger accompanying this valuable care that they bring a complete system, already formed in the mind, to the study of the word of God. This is a great evil. "Ille bene legit," says Hilary as to scripture, "qui non affert sed refert sensum."

I might have made a host of objections, but it was not my object. But no one can complain if great and vital principles, such as the question on what ground Adam stood before God, and the like, are examined in the light of scripture.