“The great thing in the Church is CHRIST, the blood of Christ, the Spirit of Christ, the presence of Christ among us. The great thing is Christ, but there is also advantage in a certain government of the Church of Christ. I am a Presbyterian, not only of situation, but of conviction and choice. Our Presbyterian way is the good middle way between Episcopacy on the one side, and Congregationalism on the other. We combine the two great principles that must be maintained in the Church—Order and Liberty; the order of government, and the liberty of the people.”—Merle d’ Aubigne.
5. I AM A PRESBYTERIAN—because I know of no Church that so secures the rights and privileges of the Christian people. The people, that is, the members of the Church, choose their pastor, their elders, and deacons. Those only can be chosen and called to the pastoral charge of our congregations who have been educated under the superintendence of some Presbytery, and been admitted, after examination and trials, as probationers of the Church; all means being used to provide a well qualified and suitable ministry for the supply of our Church.
The people also manage all ecclesiastical affairs; and they do so in the only wise and practicable way among large bodies of men—by representative government. If all the members of the Church are alike rulers, to whom are these Divine precepts addressed, “Obey them that have rule over you, and submit yourselves” (Heb. xiii. 17); and, “Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honor”?—(1 Tim. v. 17).
In those Congregational Churches which act without representation, matters of business continually occur which cannot without inconvenience, and cases of discipline which cannot without impropriety, be discussed before a public Meeting; and for the most part the conducting of affairs by the whole Church is only nominal; a few individuals having the real authority and management. Now what is elsewhere done by “committees” and “managers” is done in the Presbyterian Churches by an authorized and responsible court, the Church Session, composed of the minister and elders chosen by the people, transacting affairs in their behalf.
6. I AM A PRESBYTERIAN—because I know of no Church whose form of worship is so simple and so scriptural. Not any other book but God’s book is made to claim the attention of the people. Every Sabbath-day the Word of God is read, expounded, and applied. In the devotional services, those who cannot worship the Father in spirit, will find no substitute of form and ceremony to delude them.
There is a consent of all our Churches in those things that contain the substance of the service and worship of God; but the public prayers are not restricted to a written form, as if from Sabbath to Sabbath, and from year to year, there never could arise any variety in the wants, the desires, the circumstances of sinful men, as if there were not constantly new subjects of thanksgiving to God, new requests to be made known to our Father in heaven.
The Word of God is my prayer-book, and I find in the book of Psalms, in the Epistles, and in other parts of the Bible, examples and forms of prayer, not in words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth. In other matters there is that variety in public worship, according to local usage and other circumstances, which Christian liberty allows, and Christian prudence dictates, in things external and non-essential.