Article image
Article image
Article image
Article image
Article image
Article image
Article image
Article image
Article image
Article image
Article image
Article image
Article image
Article image
Article image
Article image
Article image
Article image
Article image
Article image
Article image
Article image
Article image
Article image
Article image
Article image
Article image
Article image
This article displays in one automatically-generated column. View the full page to see article in its original form.

THE RELIGIOUS WORLD

THE CHURCH IN RELATION TO ITS CREED. ADDRESS BY THE MODERATOR OF THE PRESBYTERIAN SYNOD. The Moderator, of the Synod of the Presbyterian Church of Otago and Southland (the Rsv. W. Will) delivered the inaugural address in the First' Church on Tuesday evening. After making feeling allusion to the Icsj which the church had sustained by the death of the Rev. J. Glade, of Pdlmerstdn, he said : " . # THE NECESSITY OF HAVING A CREED. While all Christian churches profess to accept tho Holy Scriptures as containing and declaring the revealed will of God, there exists much difference of opinion among the several churches themselves, and even among the constituent members of each, as to the meaning, and teaching of the Scriptures on many important points. Hence it becomes necessary to have some common understanding about the sense in which the Scriptures are to be understood in reference to fundamental doctrine. All tli > Christian churches have found it essential to have some declaration of what their belief rea'ly is. Some have adopted a written creed or confes:-ion of faith, while others are satisfied wirh an unwritten understanding regarding the essential doctrines which they profess. The Confession of Faith is acknowledged by our . chiuch as her fundamental subordinate standard. It is both fundamental and subordinate. It i-3 fundamental compared with the lawß and regulations of synods and assemblies. It is subordinate compared with the' Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, which are the only rule of faith and practice to our church. Objection has been taken to the term " subordi' nate." but without any good reason. Compared with the Scriptures the Confession must be super-ordinate; co-ordinate, or subordinate. No one will affirm-at all events, no Presbyterian possessed of ordinary common Eense — that it U super-ordinate, or that it is co ordinate : subordinate, therefore, it must be. As it is neither tuperior to the Holy Scriptures nor equal to them, it must therefore be inferior aubordinate -to them. In the questions put by the Fiee Church to ministers at their ordination they are required ■ to declare their belief in "the spirituality and . fr<-edom of the Church of Christ and her subjection to him as her only Head, and to His Word as her only standard." And all office- . bearers and, members are required, in-their respective places, to conform to the requirements of the Confession as a fundamental, but subordinate standard, and so is the church- hewelf in her corporate capacity so long as she professes to hold its doctrines. The individual minister can never be censured so long as ho teaches and acts according to 'its . doctrines and requirements. He cannot alter - any one of its statements, or teach or act contrary to them, without incurring liability to censure, it may be to deposition from his office. But with the church herself, considered as a who!e, it is different. She is above her creed. She made it, or adopted it, and she can alter it, explain the sense in which she holds it, subtract from it, add to it, or, if she see 3 fit, change it for what she may regard as a better one. In doing ■ so she must act cautiously, and constitutionally. Her risht to revise her creed cannot be dispated by anyone of ordinary intelligence and average knowledge of church history. All authorities may be considered as agreed on this aspect of the subject. The Presbyterian Church of Scotland made a complete change of her acknowledged creed when she set aside that of the First Reformation and adopted her present Confession, composed by the Westminster Assembly of divinea, whioh, with slight modifi- . cations, she maintains to the present day. The same Confession of Faith is the acknowledged • fundamental but subordinate standard of our church. Thi3 right to alter her Confession - our church, along with other non-established ..churches claims. She herself is the sole judge w,when and to what extent such alterations may J- '.bo beneficial and desirable. Her doctrine of \ 'spiritual independence, so nobly and trium- '■ 'phantly contended for by the Free Church of ; Scotland, prohibits her from allowing any out- ■ aide dictation from any source whatever, civil or 'ecclesiastical. She holds herself responsible to her Great Head, the Lord Je3us Christ, and to Hi* Word as her infallible guide. Here fidelity to Christ demands that she tolerate no interference from any civil authority on earth. She cannot render to Cce3ar the things that are Christ's. Here Bhe must obey God, and notman. In altering, however, in any important degree any part of her Confession she must have consideration for vested rights, for con- _ traots involving civil interests into which she may have entered, and for the administration of funds with which she may have been endowed. In perfect consistency with her claim to spiritual independence she can request the State to pass Buch Acts or sanction such changes as may be necessary to conserve the interests of all concerned. This is in accordance with her wellknown doctrine that the civil magistrate has a right to exercise authority circa sacra, but not in sacris. THE CHURCH HAS ALWAYS CLAIMED TO BE AROVE HER CREED, and to have the right and power to alter it from time to time. The late Dr Hetherington, one of the professors in the Free Church Theological Hall, Glasgow, in hi 3 ' Introductory Essay to the Confession,' as expounded by Shaw, of Whitburn, says:—"Although no church ought to regard her Confession as a standard of faith in any other than a subordinate sense, still it is a standard of admitted faith which the church may_ not lightly abandon, and a term of communion to its own members till its articles are accused of being erroneous and again brought to the final and supreme standard, the Word of God, and the teaching of the Holy Spirit sincerely, humbly, and earnestly sought in faith and .prayer." And, again: "Let every proposition be severely tested by the strictest laws of reasoning, and by the Bupreme standard of the Word of God. Whatever cannot endure thia investigation let it be cast aside as tried in the balance and found wanting." In 1856 the Bev. Dr Wiison, moderator of the Free Church Assembly tor that year, in his address, declared : " No Confession of Faith can be regarded by the churoh as a final and permanent document. She must always vindicate her right to revise, to purge, to add to it. We lie open always to the teaching of the Divine Spirit; nay, we believe in the progressive advancement of the church into a more perfect knowledge of the truth." 'I hat same year Dr Cook, the moderator of the Established Church Assembly, declared "that all the Scottish Dissenting churches were free to change or modify their creed." He also declared that "it was not so with the Established Church, because of her relation to the State." In 1880 the result cf a three years' investigation of al{ the Presbyterian churches represented in the Pan-Presbyterian Council—fifty in number was laid before the Council in Philadelphia. It showed that all these churches were resting on the Puritan Creed—that is, the Westminster Confession, and that all the Free or Non-established churches had more or less revised their connection with the Confession. " Some, in America, only tied themselves to the Bystam of doctrine contained in it Others, in Scotland, held it an exhibition of their understanding of Scripture. Others, like the Welsh Calvanists in 1827, had exchanged it for a creed wholly different in form but alike in substance ; and others, including almost all tho smaller Protestant bodies scattered over Europe, had in tlrs century adopted, instead of it, short uii=rances of central and saving truth. By this re&ult the principle of Protestant freedom from details and from documents wa3 fully vindicated." In 1887 Principal Rainy was.elected moderator of the Free Church Assembly, and in his opening address urged the Assembly to consider her relation to the Confession and the critical circumstances in which the church was then placed. " It might be desirable," he had written fifteen years previously, " to secure that, on any fair call, the church's attention should be directed to any part of the Confession supposed to require revision, not as a singular and revolutionary step, but a3 something belonging to her ordinary and recognised responsibilities." At that assembly Principal Brown, the venerable head of the Theological Hall of Aberdeen a .i 1 " that while the church must adhere to the great doctrines of its Confession, there was a present call to deal with its relation to that document," and pointed out that "the Westminster divines had not only put too many . thicga into their creed, but had inverted their proper order." The greatest living authority on creeds and the relations of churches to their creeds is, at all events in Scotland, Alex. Taylor Innes. He states that " the creed of all the Presbyterians of Scotland, Established or otherwise, is the same, or nearly so; and they all bind their ministers by subscription, though the" formula of tae United Presbyterian Church is the only rational and Protestant one. But the nonEstablished Presbyterian Churches all claim the right to vary or abolish-the existing ConfessioD, an i substitute other utterances better expressing the churoh's faitb, and also to vary, or abolish the fo-mula. In the Established Churoh thus can only be effected by Parliament." ( Studies in Scottish Church History,' pp. 297293 ) The mode of effecting these changes is in all the churches (unless otherwise pro- . vried by special enactment) by a majority in their supreme courts. No church on the face of the earth that I ever heard of considers it necestary, in deeiding any such change, or revision, or substitution, to have the concurrence of every individual office-bearer or member in the church. On this Dr Hodge remarks: " It belongs to synods and councils, at proper times, to forms creeds and confessions of faith, and to adopt a constitution for the gove:nment of the church; to determine par-

ticular controversies of faith and cases of conscience ; and to prescribe regulations for the public worship of God and for the government of the churoh." ('Exposition of Confession,' pp. 377). Yet, notwithstanding these rraay testimonies in its favor, the Synod ha) been accused, weighed in the balance, and condemned as having violated its Confession and its constitution, and forfeited all right to its property, because it has dared to amend a small portion of a single reutence of a single section of a single chapter of the Confession of Faith. Has.tbis church acted ultra, vires in her decision regarding MARRIAGE WITH A DECEASED WJFE's SMER? 'I his subject has created an immense and sustained interest in our church. Efforts were made at last Synod to have the decision of the previous year permitting liberty of opinion repealed, with the result that the majority, in favor of that decision was increased from 3 to 30. In all fairness this should have settled the question, but it did no.t. In a somewhat altered form an attempt was made to bring the subject before this Synod by an overture from one of our presbyteries. This attempt,- however, failed. Then followed the very unusual course of applying to two learned lawyers for their opinions on the legitimacy of the action of the church in regard to this question. These lawyers condemn the church's action, and declare that it was ultra vires on her part, and a violation of her constitution. They base their opinions mainly on the provisions of the deed of constitution, dated 6th November, 1817. and specially on the facts that that deed declares the Confession of Faith to be a fundamental standard of this church, and that the said Confession clearly conlemns marriage with a deceased wife's sister. These opinions were published for the benefit of the Presbyterians of Otago and all whom it may concern. They need not concern us were it not that a certain number of our own office-bearers and members have homologated them and defended tLem. Fortunately, another opinion has been given by an eminent lawyer, who shows that he knows far more about the constitution of this church and her relation to the Free Church of Scotland than do the aforesaid lawyers. Few will hesitate to acknowledge that his opinion far outweighs the opinions of them both. I am> however, persuaded that if these two learned lawyers who so confidently and unsparingly condemn the church had more fully considered her constitution and her rights and powers they would not have condemned her action as ultra vires. They would have found that THE CONFESSION OK FAITH

not only authorised but requires the church to act precisely as she did. When a difference of opinion arose in this church about the teaching of Scripture regarding marriage with a deceased wife's sister, had the church settled the matter by authoritatively referring to the doctrine laid down in chapter xxiv., section 4, of the Confession, it would have violated the Confession itself, and the constitution of this church. Yo who desire to be under the Confession, hear what the Confession says: "All synods or councils, since the Apostles' time, whether general or particular, may err, and many have erred, therefore they are not to be made the rule of faith or practice, but to be used as an help in both ' (chapter xxxi., 4). In the third section of this chapter the Confession says : "It belongeth to synods and councils ministerially to determine controversies of. faith and cases of conscience." Very clearly, then, let the lawyers say what they please, the Synod was within its rights and powers when it determined the case ot marriage with a deceased wife's sister. Is it possible that the lawyers who so unhesitatingly condemned the Synod ever consulted this part of her constitution when they declared the determination to which the Synod came on a controversy of faith ultra vires ? The Confession fays: "It belongs to synods [not to the civil magistrate] to determine controversies of faith." 'J he Synod did so, yet these learned lawyers pronounce her action " ultra vires " ! The Confession not only declares that it "belongs to the Synod to determine controversies of faith, it also tells it how it is to proceed in coming to its determination. Chapter i., 10"The Supreme Judge, bv which all controversies of religion are to be determined, and all decrees of councils, opinions of ancient writers, doctrines of men, and private spirits, are to be examined, and in whose sentence we are to rest can be no other but the Holy Spirit speaking in the Scripture." Every minister of this church vowed solemnly at his ordination " that he i 3 persuaded that the Presbyterian government and discipline of this churoh are founded upon the Word cf God, and are agreeable theieto ; and promised "to submit to the said government and discipline, and to concur with the same, and not to endeavor, directly or indirectly, the prejudice or subversion thereof, but to- the utmost of his power, in his station, to maintain, support, and defend the said discipline and Presbyterian government by kirk sessions, presbyteries, and synods. He has also been asked, and has answered in. the affirmative : "Do you believe that the Lord Jesus Christ, as King and Head of the church, has therein appointed a govern, ment in the hands o : church officers, disii ,ct from, and not subordinate, in its own province to civil government, and that the civil magistrate doe 3 not posses? jurisdiction or authoritauve control over the regulation of the affairs of Christ s Church ? How this can be reconciled with consulting lawyers and threatening pains and penalties by the civil magistrate is beyond my comprehension. .

It has again and again been objected that the church has no power or right to decide such a question as marriage with a deceased wife's sister by a vote of her supreme court, the Synod; that this cannot be done by any majority, however large, if a minority, .however small, object. The two lawyers who have been consulted by those holding this view uphold their contention, although one of them seems to admit, as a self-evident truth, that, in the decision of all questions within the legitimate sphere of the church, the voice of a bare majority must prevail. His words are: "No doubt in the internal affairs of a church the will of the majority doss, and indeed must:, prevail.' Now, the Confession (chapter x*xi„ 3) declares that 'lit belongeth to synods and councils ministerially to determine controversies of faith and cases of conscience." This our Synod did. According to the polity, laws and usages of the Free Church of Scotland, in harmony with which our Synod was established, a bare majority, unless it be otherwise specially provided, rules all decision?. With her and with ui the decision of the supreme court by a majority, however small, is, or should be, final. It is for the time being the decision of the church as a whole, in her collective capacity. The liberties, of the Christian people are not hereby interfered with, nor in any way infringed ; they are rather preserved. Dr Hodge, an authority of high standing on such a subject! says: "The Reformers, therefore, as instruments in the hands of God, in delivering the church from bondage to prelates, did not make it a tumultuous multitude, in which every man was a law to himself, free to believe and free to do what he pleased; the church in all the exercise of her power, in reference either to doctrine or discipline, acts under the written law of God, recorded in His Word." But, besides this, the power of the church is not only thus limited and guided by the Scriptures, but the exercise of it is in the hands of legitimate officers. The church is not a vast democracy, where everything is decided by the popular voice. God is not the author of confusion, but of peace—that is, of erder, as in all churches of the saints. The Westminster Confession, therefore, expressing the common sentiment of. Presbyterians, says: "The Lord Jesua Christ, as King and Head of His church, hath therein appointed a government in the hands of church officers, distinct from the civd magistrate." The doctrine that all civil power rests ultimately in the people is not inconsistent with the doctrine that that power is in the hands of legitimate officers. So the doctrine that church power rests in the church itself is not inconsistent with the doctrine that there is a divinely-appointed class of officers through whom that power is to be exercised. It thus appears that the principle of liberty and the principle of order are perfectly harmonious. . . .' "Ruling elders are declared to be the representatives of the people. They are chosen by them to act in their name in the government of the church. The functions of these elders, therefore, determine the power of the people, for a representative is one chosen by others to do, in their name, what they are entitled to do in their own persons; or, rather, to exercise tho powers which radically inhere in those for whom they act." (Hodge on 'What i 3 Presbyterianism ?') It must now be plain, I think, that the Synod, in determining, as it did, the question which arose in this church regarding the lawfulness of marriage with a deceased wife's sister, acted most constitutionally both in what it did and in the manner in which it did it, notwithstanding the opinion of the two lawyers that its decision is \ ultra vires and a violation of the constitution of this church. Indeed, neither against the Confession of Faith, nor against the constitution of thi3 church, nor against the principles and practice of the Free Presbyterian Churches all the world over, no, nor against the civil magistrate, has this Synod offended at all.

THE UNION QUESTION. This church, I think, is very much indebted to air Robert Stout for the full, clear, and convincing opinion which he has given on the whole attitude of the church in regard to her standards, her recent action, and her future prospects. Few men could grasp the whole bearings of the question with the masterly mind with which he has grasped it, or deolare their opinion with such clearness, decision, and convincing power., The conclusions to which he comes are, in the circumstances in which our church is at present placed, very cheering and helpful. They are:— 1. The property is held by a corporation, not bv the church. ' 2. That tb.3 church ia not bound to teach ar-y

special creed; nor, as a punishment, to lose the right to regulate the disposal of the income of the property, if she fail to do so. 3. That assuming the church is bound by all the standards framed by the Westminster Assembly, it has power to vary and amend the standards, and to pass such a resolution as has been quoted, and agree to such a basis of union as is proposed.

4. lhat if it must be governed by the Free Wiurch doctrines, polity, and discipline, then tnere.can be no appeal against the decisions of its % !l* co - urt in BUCU matters to the law courts, ana that if any of its members should so appeal they could be deposed. Our own • C hur jh Practice' (page 25) <"e slares: —No appeal on any spiritual matter ia allowed from any of the courts of this church to any civil court Any.office-bearer violating this rule, ipso facto, renders himself subject to deposition without process of libel, and any member of the church being guilty of the same renders himself subject to exclusion from membership. Should our church deem it necessary to apply to Parliament in the event of agreeing to union with the Presbyterian Church of New Zealand, she will not thereby surrender one iota of her spiritual independence. She will not ask the State whether, in granting liberty of opinion regarding marriage with a deceased wife's sister, she acted according to the constitution or not; the will simply ask the Legislature to provide that, in the event of union, her own Act of 1866 shall not be infringed, that all its provisions shall be preserved intact, and its designs and objects legitimately carried into effect. Fathers and brethren, tn o lawyers have told us that we have violated our constitution and forfeited our right to what we generally call our property. Do not believe them. Be not alarmed. Possess your souls in patience. Over against the allegations of these lawyers and others we place the testimony of the univma Presbyterian Church, of the Confession of Faith, of the Form of Presbyterian Church Government sanctioned by the Westminster Assembly, and which forms part of our constitution. In our decision regarding marriage with a deceased wife's sister we followed the guidance of the Confession of Faith, both in the decision itaelf and in the method of coming to that decision, by a majority vote of the Supreme Court of the Church after the presbyteries had been consulted. This method of proceeding is in entire accordance with the constitution, the polity, and practice of the Free Church of Scotland. We- maintain and assert, without the least hesitation, that in doing what we did, and in the way we did It, we acted constituliona ly in accordance with our ordination vows, as the Confession of Faith directs us, and in harmony with the polity and practice of Presbyterianism. God is our refuge and our strength, in straits a present aid, Therefore, although the earth remove, we will not be afraid. THE LAMBETH CONFERENCE. Bishop Mitchinson, Assistant Bishop of Peterborough, and formerly Bishop of Barbadoes, expresses his opinion in a local paper of the practical utility of the Lambeth Conference. He has attended three, and says that the president this time won his way into the enthusiastic loyalty of the bishops, " excepting those few whom he mercilessly snubbed." But, while he admits that the Lambeth Conference appeals to the religious Bentimenb and stimulates the sentiment of churchmen, he says that the net result is disappointing, for nothing is settled, no perplexing problem solved, no burning question bravely grappled with. He says that possibly the Conference has become too large to be a workable assembly, but there are certain bishops—especially the Americans—who are determined that the members Bhall only talk. THE PRIMATE OF NEW ZEALAND.

Bishop Cowie was in London for a day this week (writes our Lmdon correspondent under date September 17), and I, was fortunate in finding him at the New' University Club. When I last saw him at Lambeth Palace some weeks ago he informed me that he intended taking a thorough holiday with Mrs Cowie in Scotland. I expected to hear a little about this holiday, but my questions the other day extracted from the New Zealand Primate hardly the tale of days quietly spent that ' I had anticipated. " The first Sunday after I left. London," said Bishop Cowie, " and while I was staying at Kelbourne, Lord Glasgow's estate, I preached at the churoh at Largs." This, I thought, was not the right way to begin a thorough holiday, but I baid nothing, and the stream of preaching engagements went on. If I remember rightly there was one at a church in the historical valley of Glencoe, two" at St. Mary's, Stafford (the fine old church of which the bishop was rector before going out to New Zealand), one at Trumpington Church (Cambridge), and another on the coa3tofSuffolkatSouthwoldChurch. Thelist came to an end at last with a preaching engagement last Sundayat the historical old Tillingham Church in Essex, which wa3 endowed by King Ethelbert. The truth about colonial bishops i 3 that they have to take one preaching engagement every Sunday to ' allow them a legitimate excuse for refusing I other invitations to preach, and a quiet holiday, however much they may want it, is out of the question for them. Bishop Cowie has perforce to finish up "his visit in the manner in which he commenced it. Next Sunday he preaches at Seale Charte Church, Tunbridge Wells, and during the week will read a paper on the Colonial Clergy Act at the annual Congress of the Anglican Church, which this year is to be held at Nottingham. On October 3 Bishop Cowie has consented to fill the pulpit at St. Augustine's Church, Brighton, and on October 10 will be heard at St. Mark's, Marvlebone. The bishop, Mrs Cowie, and their son (Mr J. P. Cowie) leave on the following day, October 11, for Paris, Genoa, and Nice en route to catch the P. and O. Australia at Brindisi. Mrs Cowie, who, by the way, is in excellent health, is not a good sailor, and an overland route is therefore followed as much as possible. From Adelaide they proceed by train to Sydney, and if present arrangements are not upset by unforeseen circumstances will be back in Auckland on November 26.

GLEANINGS. The Very Rev. P. Treand, who ia returning to Sydney from Europe, is bringing back with him over twenty missionaries to labor in the Islands. The Anglican Bishop of Melbourne Bays that the sudden revival of popular interest in the question of scriptural instruction in public schools is most remarkable and hopeful.

It is remarkable (says the «Daily News') that since the disestablishment of the Irish Church no Fellow of Tiinity College, Dublin, has been appointed to a bishopric. Before the disestablishment a considerable proportion of the Irish Sees were invariably held by Fellows of Trinity College. Thus, at the time of the disestablishment, three out of the twelve Irish bishops were exFellows of Trinity College. The forwarding of the name of Dr Bernard as a fit and proper person for election as a bishop ia an acknowledgment of the utility of the old system under which the Fellows of Trinity College, Dublin, had a representation on the Irish Episcopal bench. Dr Bernard, however, withdrew his name from the consideration of the bishops, consequently the Rev. James B. Keene, Canon of St. Patrick's, Dublin, has been elected to the vacant See of Meath.

Actor-managers appear to be in favor with the church just now. At Cortina, in the Dolomite district, the other day some ladies, who were making holiday in the Tyrol, were visited during the week by the English chaplain. As an inducement to attend church on Sunday he informed them with pride that he had secured "the services of the lessee of the St. James's Theatre, London, to read the lessons." The Methodist Churches are arranging their ministry for next year. At Trinity Church the Rev. J. J. Lewis is invited to stay a fifth year; the Rev. W. Ready is asked to serve another year with the Central Mission, and failing his services there is a desire to retain Mr Newbold. There will be no change at Cargill road, but Mornington will probably lose the Rev, J. N. Buttle, who has been in charge for the past four years, and in his place a call has been extended to the Rev. C. E. Beecroft, now at Timaru.

The trouble in the Presbyterian Church at Wyndham has reached a further stage, sixteen out of the nineteen deacons having resigned as a protest against the unsatisfactory manner in which the dispute has been dealt with by the Mataura Presbytery.

Observations to determine the duration of sunshine in Europe showed that Spain has the most sunshine and Scotland the least.

This article text was automatically generated and may include errors. View the full page to see article in its original form.
Permanent link to this item

https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers/ESD18971030.2.40.12

Bibliographic details

THE RELIGIOUS WORLD, Evening Star, Issue 10458, 30 October 1897, Supplement

Word Count
4,938

THE RELIGIOUS WORLD Evening Star, Issue 10458, 30 October 1897, Supplement

Working