Images de page

blies, they might with one mouth as well as heart, glorify God and our Lord Jesus Christ."

At a general court held at Boston, May 19, 1680, the result of the synod, then just closed, was presented for acceptance. Whereupon the following order was passed : This Court having taken into serious consideration the request that hath been presented by several of the reverend elders, in the name of the late synod, do approve thereof, and accordingly order, the Confession of Faith, agreed upon at their second session, and the Platform of Discipline, consented unto by the synod at Cambridge, anno 1648, to be printed for the benefit of the churches in present and after times.”

From writers who have flourished since the synod of 1680, numerous quotations might be given, expressing their high estimation of the Cambridge Platform. Near the beginning of the eighteenth century, the Rev. Mr. Wise of Ipswich, published a work, the professed object of which was to vindicate the Platform, and urge its obser

The Rev. Cotton Mather, speaking of the Platform, says, "the churches have cheerfully embraced it, practised it, and been prospered in it, unto this very day.”

The following quotation is from a joint letter of Rev. John Higginson* and Rev. William Hubbard, written by them at a very advanced period of life, in which they tell us that they had seen “ the persons who from four famous colonies assembled in the synod, that agreed on our Platform of Church Discipline."

“We do earnestly testify," say they, "that if any who are given to change do rise up to unhinge the well established churches in this land, it will be the duty and interest of the churches to examine whether the men of this trespass are more prayerful, more watchful, more zealous, more patient, more heavenly, more universally conscien

* Son of the first minister of Salem. + The historian of Ipswich.


tious, and harder students, and better scholars, and more willing to be informed and advised than those great and good men who left unto the churches what they now enjoy ; if they be not so, it will be wisdom for the children to forbear pulling down with their own hands the houses of God, which were built by their wiser fathers, until they have better satisfaction.

“ It is not yet forgot by some surviving ear-witnesses of it, that when the synod had finished the Platform of Church Discipline, they did with an extraordinary elevation of soul and voice then sing together the song of Moses the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, in the fifteenth chapter of the Revelation : God forbid, that in the loss of that holy discipline, there should be hereafter occasion to sing about breaking down the carved work of the houses of God with axes and hammers; or take

up the eightieth Psalm for our lamentations.

Concerning all sinful attempts to overturn the order of the gospel hitherto upheld in the churches of New England, and to spoil that glorious work of God, which we have seen him doing, with a series of remarkable providences, in erecting such congregational churches in these ends of the earth; we would now therefore bear our testimony that they are doubtless displeasing to our Lord Jesus Christ, who walks in the midst of these golden candlesticks, and they will prove bitterness in the latter end.

“ And this we declare with the more concern upon our minds because of an observation, so plain, that he that runs may read it.

It is too observable that the power of godliness is exceedingly decaying and expiring in the country; and one great point in the decay of the power of godliness, is men’s growing weary of the congregational church discipline, which is evidently calculated to maintain it.

“If that church discipline were more thoroughly and vigorously kept alive, even by those that make profession of it, it might be hoped, that the Lord would sanctify it, for the revival of all godliness in the land.

“But if this church discipline come to be given up, we think it our duty to leave this warning with the churches, that probably the apostacy will not stop there; for the same spirit that will dispose the next generation to change their way in one point, will dispose them to more and more changes (even in doctrine and worship as well as in manners) until it may be feared, the candlestick will quickly be removed out of its place."*

The Cambridge Platform never has been superseded or formally annulled in Massachusetts; though by the gradual introduction of laws and usages, in a period of almost two hundred years, several of its requisitions have come to be no longer observed. Still, in many of its parts, it is of distinguished excellence and of high authority; it is an instrument to which reference is often made ; and as a monument of the ecclesiastical order of our venerated fathers, it is exceedingly valuable.

* A remarkable prediction-and, in regard to not a few of the original churches in Massachusetts, too plainly and sadly accomplished,


The setting forth of the public confession of the faith of churches hath a double end, and both tending to public edification : First, the maintenance of the faith intire within itself: Secondly, the holding forth of unity and harmony, both amongst and with other churches. Our churches here, as, by the grace of Christ, we believe and profess the same doctrine of the truth of the gospel, which generally is received in all the reformed churches of Christ in Europe, so especially we desire not to vary from the doctrine of faith and truth held forth by the churches of our native country. For though it be not one native country that can breed us all of one mind; nor ought we to have the glorious faith of our Lord Jesus with respect to persons, yet as Paul, who was himself a Jew, professed to hold forth the doctrine of justification by faith, and of the resurrection of the dead, according as he knew his godly countrymen did, who were Jews by nature, (Gal. ii. 15, Acts xxvi. 6, 7, ) so we who are by nature Englishmen, do desire to hold forth the same doctrine of religion, especially in fundamentals, which we see and know to be held by the churches of England, according to the truth of the gospel.

The more we discern (that which we do, and have cause to do with incessant mourning and trembling) the unkind, and unbrotherly, and unchristian contentions of our godly brethren and countrymen, in matters of church government, the more earnestly do we desire to see them join together in one common faith, and ourselves with them. For this end, having perused the public confession of the faith, agreed upon by the reverend assembly of divines at Westminster, and finding the sum and substance thereof, in matters of doctrine, to express not their own judgment only, but ours also ; and being likewise called upon by our godly magistrates, to draw up a public confession of that faith which is constantly taught, and generally professed amongst us; we thought good to present unto them, and with them to our churches, and with them to all the churches of Christ abroad, our professed and hearty assent and attestation to the whole confession of faith (for substance of doctrine) which the reverend assembly presented to the religious and honourable parliament of England :* excepting only some sections in the 25, 30, and 31, chapters of their confession, which concern points of controversy in church discipline ; touching which, we refer ourselves to the draught of church discipline in the ensuing treatise.

The truth of what we here declare, may appear by the unanimous vote of the synod of the Elders and Messengers of our churches, assembled at Cambridge, the last of the sixth_month, 1648, which jointly passed in these words: This synod having perused and considered, with much gladness of heart and thankfulness to God, the confession of faith, published of late by the reverend assembly in England, do judge it to be very holy, orthodox, and judicious in all matters of faith ; and do therefore freely and fully consent thereunto, for the substance thereof. Only in those things which have respect to church government and discipline, we refer ourselves to the Platform of Church Discipline, agreed upon by this present assembly; and do therefore think it meet, that this confession of faith should be commended to the churches of Christ amongst us, and to the honoured court, as worthy of their due consideration and acceptance. Howbeit, we may not conceal, that the doctrine of vocation, expressed in chap. x. sect. 1, and summarily repeated in chap. xiii, sect. 1, passed not without some debate. Yet considering that the term of vocation, and others by which it is described, are capable of a large, or more strict sense and use, and that it is not intended to bind apprehensions precisely in point of order or method, there hath been a general condescendency thereunto,

Now by this our professed consent and free concurrence with them in all the doctrinals of religion, we hope

* Our fathers, it seems, received the Westminster Confession of Faith, much as evangelical christians profess to receive it now; not agreeing to every sentence and word, but “for substance of doctrine," expressing their assent to it. Editora

« PrécédentContinuer »