August 2014

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ClarkGHGordon Haddon Clark was born on this day, August 31st, in 1902. We have written of him previously, but today present a sermon delivered by Dr. Clark in 1947. This message was delivered over WLW, Cincinnati, on the “Church by the Side of the Road” program, Sunday, November 2, 1947. It was subsequently published in THE WITNESS, a magazine published by the Rev. Richard Gray. [Note: If you have old issues of this magazine, I’d love to hear from you!]

Of man’s first disobedience and the fruit|
Of that forbidden tree, whose mortal taste
Brought Death into the world, and all our woe,
Sing heavenly Muse
. . .”

Hath God Said?

WITH these sonorous phrases, the immortal poet Milton began his great work, Paradise Lost. It was from the opening chapters of the Bible that Milton took his theme.

God had created Adam and Eve perfectly righteous and had given them the well-watered garden of Eden for their enjoyment. The delicious fruits of all the trees were theirs to eat, with but one exception. God commanded them not to eat of that one tree.

Then Satan in the form of a serpent came to tempt Eve. He began by asking her this question: “Hath God said?”

Of course if God had not said, if God had given no commandment to Adam and Eve, then there would have been no reason to abstain from eating of that tree. What Adam and Eve were to do and what they were not to do, depended on what God had said.

Later on in the Bible we read how God spoke to the children of Israel from the thundering crags of Mount Sinai. There God said: “Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain . . . Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy . Thou shalt not steal . . .”

Considering the disobedience of the Israelites on many occasions, we may imagine that Satan came to them also and asked, “Hath God said?” Of course, if God had not said, Remember the Sabbath day; if God had not commanded, Thou shalt not steal; there would have been no reason to obey. What the Israelites were to do and what they were not to do, depended on what God said.

Today there are multitudes of people who care nothing for these commandments. During the war the armed forces were incredibly profane. In this era of so-called peace, few people remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy. Juvenile delinquency shows that one, or more likely two, generations have not honored their fathers and mothers. The world has seen not only murders but massacres. Unfortunately, adultery and divorce are so common as to have eaten away the moral fiber of our nation. And stealing goes on, if not in one form, then in another.

But, after all, why should one keep the Sabbath? Why shouldn’t one enjoy adultery and profanity on occasion? Why not get what you can while the getting is good? Hath God said?

Our conduct, so many people affirm, is not to be hampered by ancient traditions. The Ten Commandments may have been good enough for a bygone age; but today we have evolved a new code of ethics and we must conform to the morals of our age and our society.

Maybe there is a God, and maybe there isn’t. It is hard to say. But even if there is a God, he is not the tribal deity of the ancient Jews. The Old Testament is folk lore and superstition. We live today and we must follow the ways of the society in which we live.

This is the teaching that has permeated the educated classes of our country. The sociology departments in our colleges, the psychologists, the philosophers, and the schools of education insist that it is the society in which one Jives that sets the standards of conduct.

The aborigines of Australia have their code of ethics. The tribes of central Africa have another code. American society requires its type of conduct and Chinese society sets different norms. No society can impose its mores on another. When in Rome, do as the Romans do. The particular society is the supreme judge.

Now, it happens that society changes, in fact, American society has changed considerably in the last century.

When our grandparents were alive, an accusation of immorality was a serious charge. Later on it became smart to be immoral. Today, however, immorality is too common even to be smart. People no longer use the idea of immorality to indicate blame or the idea of morality to indicate praise. Morality is old fashioned. Instead of these ideas, if a serious accusation is to be made against someone, he is called anti-social. The worst thing to say of a man today is to say that he is anti-social. We no longer listen for the voice of God; we pay attention to the demands of society. Society, the society in which we live, is the supreme judge of our conduct.

But if this modern humanistic theory is true, several interesting conclusions follow. When in Rome do as the Romans do, they say. Conform to the society in which you live. If this be good advice, then was it not right and good for Germans under Hitler to massacre the Jews? If society establishes the rules of conduct, an anti-semitic society justifies anti-semitic conduct. It was not Hitler’s lieutenants, it was not Goering and Goebels who were anti-social; it was Pastor Niemoeller who was anti-social. That was why he was put into a concentration camp. He did not conform to the code of society. Similarly, just before the Protestant Reformation the city of Florence was licentious and gay. Savonarola appeared and rebuked them for their sins. Savonarola was anti-social, and they burned him at the stake. Society was the judge.

And why should not society be the judge, if God has not spoken? Why isn’t anti-semitism right and good, if God has not siad, Thou shalt not kill? If God has not spoken, why should not society murder those who disagree with it?

Niemoeller was anti-social because he believed God had commanded. The Apostle Paul was killed because he believed that God was superior to society. And Jesus Christ was perhaps the most anti-social person who ever lived.

Hath God said? If God has not said, then profanity, murdcr, adultery, theft are all right wherever these actions are customary.

But as for me, 1 do not believe this godless humanism; I do not approve the conduct it produces. I believe that God has spoken. Only on the basis of what God has said can morality be justified. Only on this basis can individual murderers and political massacres be condemned. Only if God has spoken can the old fashioned American principles of freedom challenge the modern forces of a tyrannical society. Only if God has spoken can we have hope in this life and eternal joy in the life to come.

Has God spoken? Yes, “God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son,” the Lord Jesus Christ, to whom be glory and dominion for ever and ever, world without end. Amen.

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Hewn Stones and Dornacks.

Our post today is drawn from the History of the Presbyterian Church in America, by Richard Webster (1857) and edited for length.

John Craig was born in Ireland, September 21, 1710, but educated in America. He appeared before Donegal Presbytery in the fall of 1736, and was taken on trial the next spring, and licensed, August 30, 1738. He was sent to Deer Creek (now Churchville, Maryland) and to West Conecocheague. He spent the summer in those places, and Conewago and Opequhon. West Conecocheague called him in the fall of 1739; but he declined a settlement in that charge.

In 1737, the new-settled inhabitants of Beverly’s Manor applied for supplies; and Anderson visited them, and settled the bounds of the congregations “in an orderly manner, by the voice of the people.” Craig was sent, at the close of 1739, to Opequhon, Irish Tract, and other places in Western Virginia. He was “the commencer of the Presbyterian service in Augusta.” He gathered two congregations in the south part of the Manor, now Augusta county, and, in April, 1740, received a call from Shanadore and South River. It is described in the call as the congregation of the Triple Forks of Shenandoah, but long since known as Augusta and Tinkling Spring. On the 2d of September, 1740, Robert Poag and Daniel Denniston appeared as representatives, and took on them the engagements made by the people at installations. On the next day, after Sanckey had preached from Jer. iii. 15, Craig was ordained and installed.

“Going down from the splendid prospect of the Rockfish Gap, you enter the bounds of the oldest congregation in Virginia, Tinkling Spring, with its old stone church. Here, in a wooden building finished by the widow of John Preston, Craig preached. He was greatly opposed to the location of the meeting, wishing it more central.” The people chose it, among other reasons, for the convenience of the spring; and, it is said, “he never suffered its water to cool his thirst.”

He resigned the pastoral care of Tinkling Spring in November, 1754; and the sermon which he preached on that occasion, from 2 Sam. xxiii. 5, is the only one of his discourses that can be found. It was printed, for the first time, in the “Baltimore Literary and Religious Magazine,” in December, 1760.

“In this short discourse,” he says,

“I have collected together the sum and substance of those doctrines I have declared to you these twenty-five years past. . . . .

“I have long, often, and sincerely exhorted, entreated, invited, and besought you, in public, in private, in secret, to come and take hold of God’s covenant and Christ the Mediator thereof. I hope some among you have sincerely complied: I wish I could say all that I have been so nearly concerned for or related to. But now our near and dear pastoral relation is dissolved. And, oh, how does my heart tremble to think and fear that too, too many among you have not sincerely accepted of and embraced Christ on gospel terms! Oh, how can I leave you at a distance from Christ, and strangers to the God that made you? I cannot leave you till I give you another offer of Christ and the covenant of grace. Let me beg of you, for your souls’ sake, for Christ’s sake, to leave all your sins, and come, come speedily, and lay hold on the covenant and the Mediator; never, never let him go till he bless you.

“Few and poor, and without order, were you when I accepted your call; but now I leave you a numerous, wealthy congregation, able to support the gospel, and of credit and reputation in the church.

“For coming into the bond of this covenant of grace; it is by faith we take hold of it. This we do when we are thoroughly, clearly convinced of our sin, and misery, and undone state under the covenant of works; and do hence betake ourselves to the new covenant, to the gracious method of salvation proposed to us in the gospel through Jesus Christ and his righteousness, and do cordially approve of, and acquiesce in this noble contrivance, and accept of Jesus Christ as our only Mediator, Surety, and Peacemaker with God, and in him do sincerely make choice of God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—to be our God and portion. On our part, giving ourselves soul and body to be the Lord’s; engaging, in the strength of our great surety, Jesus Christ, to abandon all sin, live for his glory, and walk with him in newness of life, as becomes God’s covenanted people. This great work is carried on in all its parts by God’s Holy Spirit, helping and determining our souls to do all these things heartily, cheerfully, and sincerely.”

In parting, he makes no complaints of them, and no boasting of himself.

He remained as pastor over the smaller charge or congregation of Augusta till his death, April 21, 1774, dying “after fifteen hours’ affliction,” at the age of sixty-three years and four months.

“The old people in Augusta county have learned from their fathers that he was a man mighty in the Scriptures,—‘in perils oft, in labours abundant,’ for the gospel; and they hold his memory in the highest veneration.”

An anecdote is told of his having been sent by Hanover Presbytery to organize churches and ordain elders, among the settlements of New River to Holstein. On his return he reported a surprising number of elders whom he had ordained; and on being questioned how he found suitable materials for so many, he replied, in his rich Scottish brogue, “Where I cudna get hewn stanes, I tuk dornacks.” [a dornack is a small unhewn stone normally rejected by builders]

Words to Live By:
“The saying is trustworthy:If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. “Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober- minded, self- controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach,
“not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money.
“He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive,
“for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church? “He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil.
“Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil.”
—1 Timothy 3:1-7, ESV.

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Missionary to Syria

A timely reminder to pray for the Christians in Syria

doddsRobertJamesRobert James Dodds was born near Freeport, Armstrong County, Pennsylvania, on August 29, 1824. His parents were Archibald and Margaret (Davidson) Dodds. Possessed from his youth with integrity of character and amiability of disposition he was dedicated to God for the work of the ministry. At an early age he began his classical studies under the direction of his pastor, the Rev. Hugh Walkinshaw, and made such rapid progress and proficiency in all the departments of literature taught in a College, that he was recommended as sufficiently advanced to begin the study of theology in the spring of 1844. He studied theology in the Allegheny and Cincinnati Seminaries, and was licensed by the Pittsburgh Presbytery, June 21, 1848.

At the meeting of the Reformed Presbyterian (Old Light) Synod in 1847, the Mission of Hayti [i.e., Haiti] was organized, and Dodds was chosen as a missionary for that foreign field, for which purpose he was ordained sine titulo [i.e., “without title,” – typically, without call to a specific congregation] by the Pittsburgh Presbytery, on November 24, 1848. The Mission, however, was soon afterwards abandoned, and as he was not sent out, he used his time to good advantage by supplying the pulpit for churches lacking a pastor. Rev. Dodds was at last installed as pastor of the Rehoboth congregation in Stanton, Jefferson county, Pennsylvania, on June 18, 1852. He traveled widely throughout the region around the church and was exposed to many dangers, but by his missionary spirit and zeal for the cause, was blessed to build up a flourishing congregation with many branches.

At the meeting of the RP Synod in 1856, the Syrian Mission was established and Rev. Dodds was chosen as one of the missionaries for this new field. Accepting the appointment, he was released from his charge over the Rehoboth congregation on May 24, 1856. Then with the Rev. Joseph Beattie, their families and some others, set sail for Syria on October 16, 1856. He first settled in Damascus, where he learned the Arabic language, and in October of 1857, relocated to Zahleh, a town at the foot of Mount Lebanon. In May of 1858 he was compelled to abandon the work in this town due to threats and persecution from the priesthood. Making a tour of exploration through Northern Syria, as far as Antioch, he passed through Latakia, and, being favorably impressed with its location, began to make arrangement for occupying this new location. In the autumn of 1859, he, Dr. Beattie, and the others moved to Latakia. Suitable buildings were located and Dodds worked here for some eight years with good success.

When an unexpected opening occurred in Aleppo, and the Mission decided it was advisable to seize the opportunity, Dr. Dodds was appointed to this field in May of 1867. Here he remained, constantly busy with the work of the Mission, until his death. During the summer of 1870, he visited the Mission in Latakia, and while there suffered an attack of fever. During a subsequent journey to Idlib, he contracted a severe cold which he could not shake off. In the beginning of December, he next suffered from a small hemorrhage of the lungs, which was made worse when he contracted typhoid fever. The Rev. Robert James Dodds died at his home in Aleppo, Syria, on December 11, 1870.

As a preacher, his sermons were rich in Scriptural truth and illustration. He was not a popular orator owing to a hesitancy in his speech, and he was more spiritual than ornate; more thoughtful than rhetorical; more anxious about conviction than elegance of style. He was admirably adapted with every qualification for a successful missionary. He was a good classical scholar, and made such proficiency in the study of the Arabic tongue that he was able to preach a sermon in that language in eighteen months after beginning the study of it. He was a remarkably cheerful man, uniform in his feelings and sympathetic in his disposition. His intellectual character was marked with keen and vigorous reasoning powers, a retentive memory, and the ability to concentrate his ideas. Among his earlier publications is, “A Reply to Morton on Psalmody,” (1851). His writings are principally letters to the Foreign Mission Board and were published in the denominational magazines of the Reformed Presbyterian Church. He translated the Shorter Catechism into the Arabic language, and was engaged in writing and translating other works for the use of the Mission. He was honored with the degree of Doctor of Divinity by Monmouth College in 1870. He was Moderator of the RP Synod of 1866.

[excerpted from History of the Reformed Presbyterian Church of America, by William Melanchthon Glasgow (1888, reprinted 2007), p. 484-487.

Dodds’ work “A Reply to Morton on Psalmody can be found at archive.org, here. No other works by Rev. Dodds have been discovered on the Web at this time.

For Further Study:
The early days of the RP Syria Mission are recorded in letters from the Rev. J. Beattie, published in volume 4 (1866) of The Reformed Presbyterian and Covenanter. On pages 8-9 of the January 1866 issue (4.1), we read in part:

Letter from Rev. J. Beattie.
Latakiyeh, October 31, 1865.

Dear Brethren–Ere this reaches you, you will, in all human probability, have seen and conversed with Mr. Dodds, and have learned from him particulars in reference to the Mission, up to the time he left. He and family, in company with Mr. Morgan and family, a missionary of the American Board, occupying the nearest station to the north of us, set sail from Latakiyeh in the beginning of August last, at the close of our summer term, and just after one of the most interesting events in all the past history of our mission—our first communion in Arabic. We had the pleasure of admitting five native brethren to our fellowship on that occasion, and while it was with no little hesitation and anxiety that we concluded to receive them, I am happy to say that their general deportment since the time of their public connection with us has been such on all occasions as to justify our actions. May God add to this little number daily of such as he will have to be saved. . . “

“Woe is me, that I sojourn in Mesech,
that I dwell in the tents of Kedar!
My soul hath long dwelt
with him that hateth peace.
I am for peace:but when I speak, they are for war.”
—Psalm 120:5-7, KJV

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Remembering Dr. Harvie M. Conn [1933-1999]

[A tribute written in 1999 by Dr. Mark R. Gornik, upon Dr. Conn’s death. We are grateful to Dr. Gornik for granting permission to reproduce this tribute here today.]

He had a face turned to the city and a heart broken by the things that break the heart of God. A few days ago, Harvie Maitland Conn, pastor, missionary, seminary professor, theologian, and missiologist, completed his earthly urban pilgrimage. The cause of his death on August 28, 1999 was cancer.

From his 12 years as a missionary in Korea to his 25 years of teaching at Westminster Theological Seminary (WTS) in Philadelphia (1972-1998), Harvie Conn left a singular legacy of calling the church, especially the Reformed and evangelical communities, to Christ’s mission in the city.

It was quite possible to overlook Conn’s preceding 12 years of mission work in Korea, but only until you saw the list of books he wrote in Korean or heard him teaching in homiletics class in Korean. In Korea, his outreach to women in prostitution signaled his concern for an evangelism that saw people as both sinners and sinned against.

Dr. Conn joined the faculty of Westminster in 1972 and taught apologetics and missions. His concern for missions eventually became his full-time academic focus. As a teacher admired for his engaging pedagogical style, students also considered him among the most demanding.

In his teaching, Conn forged a transformational theology of the church and mission. Working with Reformed themes such as covenant, kingdom, and redemptive-history and in dialogue with Reformed theologians such as Geerhardus Vos, Herman Ridderbos, Richard Gaffin and Edmund Clowney, Conn developed a doctrine of the church that, if implemented, would bring renewal to existing ecclesial models and the social context.

While committed to the traditions of the Reformed faith, Conn’s vision of the church was much broader. He firmly believed in the global church as a subject and not a Western object, and this influenced his theologizing.

Photograph of Dr. Harvey Conn, seated at right, speaking with anAbove, Rev. Harvie Conn, at right, speaking with the Rev. Edward Kellogg during a conference break.

Much of Conn’s legacy is to be found in a considerable body of writing and editing. He was the author of a number of pacesetting books including Eternal Word and Changing Worlds: Theology, Anthropology, and Mission in Trialogue (1984). A Clarified Vision for Urban Mission: Disspelling the Urban Stereotypes (1987), and The American City and the Evangelical Church: A Historical Overview (1994). We await the publishing of The Kingdom, the City, and the People of God, co-written with Westminster colleague Manuel Ortiz. [This volume appeared in 19 .]

Conn also edited books on church planting and church growth, as well as pastoral theology and hermeneutics. The most recent volume that he edited [was] entitled Planting and Growing Urban Churches. From Dream to Reality (1997), a study made especially valuable with his section introductions.

In addition, Conn wrote scores of editorials, articles, and book reviews, especially for Urban Missions Newsletter and Urban Mission Journal (founded by Roger Greenway, Conn served as editor from 1989-1999). The range of topics varied greatly and included urbanization in Asia, Latin America, and Africa, the role of diaconal ministry, Jonathan Edwards’ public theology, family life, church growth, youth ministry, evangelism, and parish life.

During his time at Westminster, Conn played a significant role in leading the faculty’s commitment to what was to become the Center for Urban Theological Studies (CUTS), an effort founded by African American pastors and Bill Krispin. His contact with the students of CUTS continually shaped his thinking about ministry and theological education, just as he helped to shape women and men for the ministry.

Conn’s most enduring missiological contribution was his concentration on the importance of the city. He wanted the church to focus on the city not because it was trendy—it was not—but because he read closely both the biblical material and the demographic data, bridging them together with a focus on a third horizon, God’s mission to the cities of this world.

No longer, Conn argued, could the world be considered a global village. Instead, it is a global city. This is the church’s context and challenge, and to be effective, the church would need to sort out urban myth from fact. He not only helped to put the city on the evangelical agenda, but he changed the way we think about the city. In light of new understanding of the city, he pressed heavily for church planting and the developments of models that pointed to God’s future.

His theology of the city was drawn from a redemptive-historical or narrative framework to Scripture. When asked his “favorite” biblical text on the city, Conn replied,

“Picking one biblical text to sum up my view of urban ministry is an assignment too awesome and dangerous for me. Too awesome because wherever I turn in my Bible it shouts “urban” to me. Too dangerous because the text I might select could leave out a piece of the picture too crucial in another text and distort the whole. We need a hermeneutic serious enough to link Genesis to Revelation in the unending story of Jesus as urban lover and the church as God’s copycat.”

In many respects, Conn was driven by a concern for what he saw in Paul as a special concern for the “outsider.” This is evident from the way in which he engaged Latin American liberation theologies, North American black theology, and a variety of feminist theologies. While his criticisms were not insignificant, he saw in them a profound challenge for the evangelical church to recover the holism of the gospel.

Conn often wrote sentences like “Jesus loved the leftovers and left outs, and so should we.” This quote reflected his Christology: Jesus was the poor one who embodied the jubilee in all of its holism for the city.

Christology and urban mission, word and deed, belonged together for Conn. Features of how this played itself out are evident from this quote taken from Eternal Word and Changing World :

“Theology, if it is to become truly and comprehensively communal, must emerge from a praxis of commitment to God’s peace for the poor (1 Cor. 1:27-28). To become revolutionary and not revolutionary, our theologizing will have to validate itself and its claims in the same way Jesus validated His. His allegiance to the poor marked His preaching and was a sign of the coming of the kingdom (Luke 4:18-21). His healing of the sick and the blind and his preaching to the poor became a validation to a doubting John the Baptist of his messsianic theologizing (Matt. 11:2-6). It must become an integral part of ours as well. Where shall we begin this identification? By sitting where the poor and disenfranchised sit, in the ghettoes of our cities, in the waiting rooms of public health clinics, in the unemployment lines and welfare offices.”

One finds no better summary of what Conn took to be the obligations of the kingdom than the title of his book, Evangelism: Doing Justice and Preaching Grace.

Dr. Conn had several distinctive and memorable traits. One example was his, at times, frustrating propensity to work alone. Perhaps this was a result of the many frustrations he faced as an advocate for new ways of seeing and thinking about following Christ.

He was well-known for his sense of humor and hearty laugh. While a student at Westminster, I never looked for him in the library, but rather I listened for his laugh over by the periodical section. To paraphrase Langston Hughes, Conn’s laugh was like a handshake heard across the room. It was welcoming and inviting. Perhaps he was laughing at his own jokes, but that was always the best reason to laugh along.

Conn kept personal struggles such as his health very private. When he and his wife Dorothy’s poor health finally necessitated his retirement from Westminster, Conn wanted no attention drawn to his career. That was quite consistent with his character, but a disappointment to many who very much wanted to express gratitude for his influence. Never a credit taker, he always pointed away from himself and to the Christ he followed. In a Christmas letter from some years ago, he wrote: “Over forty years ago, Dottie and I chose the path of the wise men and followed His star. We have been Jesus-stargazers ever since. . . He still goes before; we still follow—not always wisely, not always obediently. But always hopeful.”

Conn loved to conclude his sermons, essays, books, and lectures with a barrage of questions. The motive for this format might have been to exercise his prophetic ministry in a less direct way. Or perhaps it was his way of saying he was helping to set an agenda, not resolving it. Probably both, and with a nod to Christ’s style in the gospels.

Here are some questions that a celebration of his life and legacy requires:
Will the church heed the Lord’s call to the global city of the next century and beyond?
Will theological education rise to the challenge?
Will we allow missions to be the guide for our theological agendas?
And in all of this, what about the poor and the excluded?
Will the church change for the sake of a gospel that is good news for the poor?

At heart, Harvie Conn was an urban evangelist who proclaimed sovereign grace so that the “world may believe” (John 17:21). His passionate focus on the gospel for the city called many, including me, to see the city as the primary site of Christ’s mission. May the witness of Conn’s Jesus stargazing in the city influence our lives so that we might faithfully proclaim and live for the One whom he followed.

Rev. Mark R. Gornik
New York City
August 30, 1999.

[Rev. Gornik now served as Director of the City Seminary of New York.]

Photo source: Presbyterian Journal Photo Collection, Box 246, file 2, preserved at the PCA Historical Center, St. Louis, MO.

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Westminster Confession Approved by Church of Scotland

You may ask upon reading the title of this contribution, why are we thinking about adoption of the Westminster Confession of Faith, when the whole This Day in Presbyterian History blog deals with Presbyterian history in the United States?  And that is a fair question.  But it is quickly answered by two considerations. First, this Reformed standard—The Westminster Confession of Faith—was, with few changes, the subordinate standard of all the Presbyterian denominations in the United States.  And second, the Scots-Irish immigrants who came over to this country in its earliest days held strongly to this Reformed creedal statement.

The Westminster Confession of Faith was formulated by the Westminster Assembly of divines (i.e, pastors and theologians) in the mid-seventeenth century, meeting at Westminster Abby in London, England.  To the one hundred and twenty divines, primarily from the Church of England, were added nine Scottish divines from the Church of Scotland.  While the latter were seated as non-voting members of that Assembly, still their presence was felt in very effective ways during the six-year study that produced this confessional standard.

When it was adopted by the Parliament in England, it then went to the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, where it was adopted without amendment on August 29, 1647.  It then became the summary of the teachings of the Old and New Testaments which was “owned” by the officers of the Church—the teaching and ruling elders, as well as the diaconate—in every local congregation. Down through the centuries, some changes in the Confession were made, most notably in 1789, but these have not affected the overall doctrinal content of the Confession. The majority of those changes were made in 1789. You can ask your pastor for more information about those changes.

The historic importance of this document remains relevant to this day as a focal point of our unity as Presbyterians, and so we seek to make our friends more knowledgeable of its magnificent statements.

Words to live by: Most of the Presbyterian denominations do not require their lay members to take vows which speak of their adoption of these historical creedal standards in order to join the church.  Yet a careful study of, and acceptance of this Confession of Westminster will give you a solid foundation for understanding the doctrine and life of the Word of God.  We urge you to do so, perhaps asking for a class in your church on it, or just studying it yourself for your personal and family benefit.

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