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capacity was equal to their aims; their abilities were happily proportioned to their position, and to the great task Providentially assigned them. By culture and experience, as well as by occasion and appointment, they were admirably qualified for their work; and eight successive generations of Calvinists bear grateful witness to the success with which they performed it.
The Confession of Faith which these men framed, taken in conjunction with the Catechisms, contains a most exact, harmonious and complete statement of the Reformed doctrine. It is surpassed by none among the antecedent Confessions ; the Catechism of Heidelberg alone may claim an equal recognition. In its definition of particular doctrines it avoids for the most part both the indefiniteness characteristic of some earlier symbols, and the exaggeration that defaces the decisions of the Synod of Dort. It generally presents specific truth, neither in the imagery of rhetoric nor in the tenacious phrases of dogmatism, but in the calm, sensible, convincing language of Christian wisdom. While it reduces some truths to a less conspicuous level, and omits certain affirmations of earlier creeds as not essential to the system, it introduces some incidental and explanatory statements which the earlier symbolism had not fully perceived. It aims to present the doctrines of grace in their logical succession, as well as in their individual completeness, and to adjust them to one another in such ways as to preserve the divine proportion and symmetry of the whole. The relations of doctrine to doctrine are more carefully indicated; the unity of the several members in the one body of faith is more diligently preserved; that faith is presented, not as a chemical mixture, but rather as an organic and healthful growth. Very little can be found in any antecedent Confession which is not as carefully incorporated and as happily expressed in this; the whole current of preceding symbolism seems to have been poured into this clarifying and distributing reservoir. And if we sometimes discover a lack of definiteness in statement, on one hand, or an excessive straining after philosophic exactness on the other—if we occasionally detect the influence of a particular type of speculation, or note the introduction of some theory in connection with a truth or fact—if here and there we see a lack of proportion, or an imperfection in the combination of antithetic elements -if we perceive that something of human infirmity and inad. equacy mingles with this, as with all other transcripts by man of the word and truth of God—we may still greatly and reverently receive this noble Symbol, made venerable by two centuries of acceptance, as being the nearest approach which the mind of the Church has made as yet toward that Divine Original, on which our faith and hope ultimately and supremely repose.
testant union among the nations of Christendom. . . No sectarian prejudice, no weak partiality of kindred or of country, were permitted to freeze or contine the current of holy feeling that flowed in their bosoms. They opened correspondence with foreign churches, and in the largeness and warmth of their affections formed schemes of co-operation and intercourse, which they were not permitted to see realized. The Symbols they framed were so constructed as to exhibit a generous and catholic bearing, being equally adapted to the Church in Britain, on the continent of Europe, in the Republican States of America."
There is one respect in which the Westminster Confession may especially claim the esteem of all who regard true piety as equally essential with sound doctrine, and who are disposed to test all creeds and symbols by the measure of spirituality pervading them. That company of grave men, illustrating in deportment as in dress the peculiar style of the age, proceeding in their work with such solemn dignity, and by their whole demeanor making still more reverend the venerable place where they were assembled, were by no means the cold, critical, scholastic theologians whom many have imagined. With few exceptions, they were intensely earnest, devout, spiritual men; and their convocations were characterized by no ordinary measure and glow of truly Christian devotion.* And it is one of
*We gain some insight into the religious condition of the Assembly, and into the spirit with which its members entered on the work before them, from the quaint record of Baillie, one of the Scotch commissioners, concerning a certain day of fasting: “After Dr. Zwisse had begun with a brief prayer, Mr. Marshall prayed large two hours, most divinely, confessing the sins of the members of Assembly, in a wonderfully pathetic and prudent way. After, Dr. Ar rowsmith preached one hour: then a psalm : thereafter Mr. Vines prayed two hours, and Mr. Palmer preached one hour, and Mr. Seaman prayed near two hours: then a psalm. After, Mr. Henderson brought them to a short, sweet conference of the heart-confessed and other seen faults to be remedied. Dr. Zwisse closed with a short prayer and blessing. And yet this day was the sweetest that I have seen in England."
the peculiar excellences of their Confession and Catechisms, that they are pervaded and sanctified by this spiritual quality, rising far above all mere accuracy or comprehensiveness of statement, and vitalizing the entire system or body of doctrine proclaimed therein. It is questionable whether they do not surpass all antecedent Confessions quite as much in this, as in their exposition of the common faith. There is indeed a certain ruder earnestness and fervor in some of these-a certain intensity of expression and display of personal convictions, for which we find no exact counterpart in the Westminster symbols : but these characteristics are counterbalanced by a maturity of experience, a calm elevation, a ripened and settled piety, which all must recognize as a still higher and nobler gift from God. And it may be further questioned, whether it be not the possession of this signal spirituality, quite as much as any doctrinal accuracy or completeness—this exhibition of the truth of God in forms and phrases, such as vital piety no less than sound theology suggests, which has given to these syinbols such a special place in Christian hearts, and exalted them to such peculiar eminence among the accepted formularies of the Christian Church.
Such a confession as this, set in such historic relations, and interpreted by comparison with the Reformed symbols which preceded it, and poured their several contributions into it, may fitly claim the allegiance of all who call themselves by the Calvinistic, rather than the Arminian name. To ignore the historic origin of this Confession, or disregard the complex process of research, discussion, declaration, which went before it and made it possible—to interpret it without reference to that century of growth and conflict of which it was the bright, consummate flower, or accept it in any other than its proper historical sense as thus supplied, is a mistake of which no intelligent Calvinist should be guilty. A sound interpretation, a true and worthy acceptance of this Confession, involve sincere recognition and approval of that compact, massive, grand SysTEM OF DOCTRINE which, in varying measure, was embodied in such antecedent symbols, and which has been so fully incorporated and matured in this ; a recognition which heartily receives the system in every essential element, even while questioning merely incidental or explanatory features; an approval which embraces the substance of the doctrine, and rejoices in it, even while unable to accept such philosophic speculations as may be mingled therewith. So long as the integrity of that system, the unity and symmetry of that doctrine, are preserved by those who recognize and approve this Confession, such variety of judgment concerning what is speculative or incidental, and a corresponding variety in methods of stating or illustrating these precious verities, must be allowed, as a necessary concession to liberty of thought. Neither is it essential to presume that no traces of error are to be found in this noble Confession, or in the series of Confessions which culminated in it: since the Assembly are themselves careful to teach that synods and councils may err, and have erred; and that their decisions are therefore not to be taken as the Rule of faith or practice, but are rather to be used as helps in both practice and faith. Still less does such acceptance require us to assume that, while human language and human thought are constantly undergoing modifications under influences both natural and supernatural, no structural changes are ever to take place in this System of Doctrine, involving correspondent changes in the formulary that defines it. It is needful only that—leaving to the church of the future the expression of its own faith under the leadings of the Word and Spirit of God, allowing ample room for present inquiry and discussion, consenting to varieties of illustration and explanation within legitimate limits, and bearing and forbearing one another in love—we cordially receive and adopt this sublime Confession, in its plain historic sense and relations, as an adequate, authoritative, precious transcript of that System of Doctrine which all agree in accepting as contained, not in the writings of Calvin, but in the Holy Scriptures of God.
ART. III.-BIBLICAL PREACHING.
By J. B. CONDIT, D. D., Professor in Auburn Seminary. THE HISTORY of the pulpit is identified with that of the church and the victories of truth. This gives it a singular distinction, and renders it worthy of our study in the elements of its power and adaptation to the age. There are no indications of diminished interest on this subject. The nature and sphere of the ministerial office ensure the popular sympathy, while the treatises on Homiletics put forth during the last few years, have done much to call attention to the claims of this sacred trust.
The conviction exists, to some extent, that the influence of the pulpit on the popular mind is declining; and various suggestions are made as to the cause and the remedy. This conviction, as entertained by many, is quite indefinite. It is acknowledged that the ministry does not in all respects occupy the position which it did some fifty years ago ; but this does not necessarily imply that the essential power of the pulpit has declined. Without bringing this question into the present discussion, we accept the common admission that there is need of increasing the efficiency of the ministry. The attempt to contribute something to this end is not unseasonable.
The true method of elevating the standard of the pulpit has been the subject of investigation by the best minds. When that method shall be determined, it will probably have little of novelty, but will be the result of a wise application of long established principles. It is easy to make general statements concerning the object to be attained and the way of attaining it, but it is not so easy to offer a specific theory in which all will agree. When we hear so much about power in preaching, and the qualifications for attracting and impressing mind, we should infer that a pattern has been adopted, and that a man who is moulded according to it will exemplify, in its highest type, the eloquence of the pulpit. But we should look far before we should find that specimen of a modern preacher that would suit the theories of all the critics. The judgment of