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STUDIES IN THE WESTMINSTER SHORTER CATECHISM
by Rev. Leonard T. Van Horn

Q. 22. — How did Christ, being the Son of God, become man?

A. — Christ, the Son of God, became man, by taking to himself a true body and a reasonable soul, being conceived by the power of the Holy Ghost, in the womb of the Virgin Mary, and born of her, yet without sin.

Scripture References: John 1:14; Luke 1:31,35,41,42; Heb. 2:14; Matt. 26:38; Gal. 4:4; Heb. 4:15; Heb. 7:26.

Questions:

1. Was Christ’s birth a voluntary act of Christ?

Yes, it was a voluntary act. He took upon himself the human nature so that he might be fitted to be our Redeemer.

2. Did he assume the nature of a real man?

Yes, he assumed the nature of a real man. He had the two essential parts of a man, possessing a real body of flesh and blood and bones and that of possessing a soul.

3. How can we prove that he had a real body?

The Bible tells us that he is called “Man”. He was subject to hunger, weariness and thirst like other men. He was also crucified, dead and buried and rose again in his body. Luke 24:39 teaches that his was a body, not just mere spirit.

4. How can we prove that he had a soul, a reasonable soul?

The Bible tells that he had such and that his divine nature did not take the place of, or supply the place of, a soul. Matt. 26:38 teaches that his “soul was exceeding sorrowful, even unto death.”

5. Was the birth of Christ like the birth of other men?

No, his birth came about by the miraculous power of the Holy Ghost in the womb of the Virgin Mary.

6. Why was Christ born of a virgin?

Christ was born of a virgin in order that he might be conceived and born without sin, that he might be free of the original sin which was passed on to all Adam’s posterity by natural generation.

7. Is it really important that we believe Christ was born of a virgin?

Yes, this is very important. (This is treated in the article below):

THE IMPORTANCE OF THE VIRGIN BIRTH OF CHRIST

In many church courts today the question is asked, “Is it really necessary for a person to believe in the virgin birth of Christ?” The statement, or sentiment, behind the question is the thought that it is not necessary to believe in this doctrine to become a Christian, or, it is not necessary to believe in this doctrine to be ordained to the Gospel ministry. Actually, the answer to the question is very simple if the one answering regarding his belief in the virgin birth is a member of a church subscribing to the Westminster Standards. Our Bible-founded Standards teach the virgin birth and if a minister does not believe in it he is not qualified to be in the Presbyterian church.

Dr. Benjamin B. Warfield answers these important questions regarding the virgin birth when he says, “It is only in its relation to the New Testament doctrine of redemption that the necessity of the virgin birth of Jesus comes to its full manifestation. For in this Christianity the redemption that is provided is distinctly redemption from sin; and that He might redeem men from sin it certainly was imperative that the Redeemer Himself should not be involved in sin.” Could it be stated in a clearer fashion that the redemptive work of Christ depends upon His virgin birth?

It is very difficult for a person to end up with much at all when he starts to doubt essential doctrines of the Christian system. There are strong connecting links between the different doctrines of Christianity and the doctrine of the Virgin Birth is an integral link. Certainly it is true that a person need not have a perfect understanding or conviction regarding the virgin birth to be saved but anyone that ignores it or denies it is a person that is denying the divinity of Christ and is therefore a person without hope in this world. Such a person has no business in the pulpit, pretending to preach the whole, redeeming Gospel of Jesus Christ.

It is interesting to note that the fourth General Council, convened in Chalcedon in 451 A.D. stated: ” … our Lord Jesus Christ … begotten before all ages of the Father according to the Godhead, and in these latter days, for us and for our salvation, born of Mary, the Virgin Mother of God, according to the manhood; one and the same Christ, Son, Lord, Only begotten … ” Our Confession of Faith affirms the same in Section II. This we believe! And for it we praise God!

Published By:
THE SHIELD and SWORD, INC.
Vol. 2 No. 22 (October 1962)
Rev. Leonard T. Van Horn, Editor

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STUDIES IN THE WESTMINSTER SHORTER CATECHISM
by Rev. Leonard T. Van Horn

Q. 14. — What is sin?

A. — Sin is any want of conformity unto, or transgression of, the law of God.

Scripture References: I Jn. 3:4; Jas. 4:17; Rom. 3.23; Rom 2:15.

Questions:

1. What is the Law of God and where is it to be found?

The Law of God is the commandments God has given for man’s rule of obedience. The Law of God is found written in the Word of God though there was a copy of it on the heart of man in his innocence before the fall. The Word teaches that some part of it is still written on the hearts of men, but to a great extent the knowledge of this Law has become marred or obliterated.

2. How does man show want of conformity unto the Law of God?

By not doing all the things written in the Book of the Law (Gal. 3:10).

3. What sins are included in lack of conformity unto the Law of God?

The sins included are (l) Original sin and that natural enmity in the heart against the Law of God. (2) All sins of omission and commission.

4. How can one prove that transgression of the law is sin?

The Bible teaches this in I John 3:4: “Whosoever committeth sin, transgresseth the law, for sin is the transgression of the law.”

5. Are all the laws mentioned in the Old Testament to be kept today?

No, not all the laws of the Old Testament are to be kept. The ceremonial law is no longer binding since Christ came in the flesh, and many of the judicial laws – as they had reference to the state of the Jewish nation – are laid aside. But the moral law is binding on all mankind (Ps. 119:160).

6. Could you answer the question, “What is sin?” in words I might use in teaching my classes?

You might tell them as Dr. William Childs Robinson states it: “Sin is stepping across one of God’s commandments.” It is not simply a wrong done to one’s fellow man but it includes both guilt and pollution. Sin involves not only outward acts but the thoughts, affections and intents of the heart as well.

THE CHRISTIAN AND SIN

There is a delightful story told of the little boy who heard the thrilling story of Goliath in Sunday School. The next day he came to his Mother and said, “Mother, I am as tall as Goliath.” Naturally his Mother answered him and told him that such would be impossible for Goliath was a giant of a man. But the little boy answered, “But Mother, the Bible says Goliath was six cubits and a span and I made a ruler and I’m six cubits and a span too, so I’m as tall as Goliath!”

Even as the little boy made the ruler himself and could be as tall as he wanted to be, so many Christians make their own yardsticks of measurement in regard to sin. They are very quick to recite what the Catechism says sin is, but in their actions they seem to have an amazing ability to forget God’s definition of sin and make their own standards of right and wrong.

Many Bible scholars throughout the ages have agreed that God’s definition of sin is found in Isaiah 53:6 – “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned everyone to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.” Or, as was illustrated so beautifully by J. Sidlow Baxter one time, “The best picture of sin is that of a little girl stomping her foot on the floor and saying, ‘1 want what I want when I want it!’ “

So much for the outward manifestations of sin. What about the inward and negative sides of sin? Dr. James Benjamin Green once said that the inward and the negative sides of sin are too much ignored, too little regarded. As he put it, the absence of right feeling as well as the presence of wrong feeling is sin. So many Christians sin in failing to “bring into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.” The Christian is constrained to determine every thought, word and deed by the leading of the Spirit through the Word of God. The Christian’s duty is to be constantly conducting himself in the sphere of the Spirit. Otherwise the Christian will be sinning against the Lord.

This is a high standard. This is “walking in the Spirit.” This is our only standard of measurement and it is found in the Word of God. It does not change, it does not suit itself to the environment in which it lives. It leads us to depend solely on Him and such hinders us from “going our own way.” (Rom. 8:1-14)

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If you find this a bit long for your available time today, I would at least urge you to read the first four paragraphs. Forty-eight years earlier, A.A. Hodge’s father, Charles Hodge had delivered his inaugural address [see yesterday’s post, with a link to the full address by Dr. Charles Hodge]. What an interesting study it would be, to compare the two addresses.

The Inaugural Address of Archibald Alexander Hodge,
HodgeAAupon his installation as Associate Professor of Dogmatic and Polemic Theology at Princeton Theological Seminary,
November 8, 1877.

FATHERS AND BRETHREN OF THE BOARD OF DIRECTORS:

In obedience to your call, I am here to assume the solemn trust involved in teaching Christian theology in this Seminary. Doubtless the design of associating an inaugural address with the induction of a new professor into such a charge is to afford him an opportunity of satisfying you, as the responsible guardians of the institution, with respect to his theological convictions and method.

I therefore affirm my belief that the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments in their integrity are the Word of God, as a whole and in every part infallible and binding the conscience, and the only divinely authentic informant and rule of faith in matters of religion. Christian theology is wholly in the Scriptures, and is to be drawn from them only by legitimate interpretation. This is true of systematic as absolutely as of exegetical or of Biblical theology. The system lies in the relations of the facts, and their relations are deteremined by their nature, as that is disclosed by the words of the Holy Ghost. The systematic theologian as well as the exegete is only an interpreter; the one interprets the words and develops the revealed truths; the other interprets these separate lessons in their mutual light and reciprocal relations, and develops the revealed system.

More definitely I affirm, not as a professional propriety, but as a personal conviction, that the Confession and Catechisms of the Westminster Assembly contain the system taught in the Holy Scriptures. Or rather, in the more absolute terms of subscription imposed upon intrants by the Scottish Presbyterian Churches, “I do sincerely own and believe the WHOLE DOCTRINE contained in the Confession of Faith, approved by former General Assemblies of this Church, to be founded upon the Word of God, and do acknowledge the same as the confession of my personal faith, and will firmly and constantly adhere thereunto, and to the utmost of my power will assert, maintain, and defend the same.” This is affirmed, not only because I believe this “whole doctrine” to be true, but because I also believe this “system of doctrine” to be the most complete and adequate presentation as yet attained by the Church of that truth revealed in the Holy Scriptures, which the Holy Ghost has declared to be “the power of God unto salvation.” For therein Christ and His work is exhibited in their relation to human needs, experiences, duties, and destinies, and it is, therefore, the efficient instrument of forming character, of ruling action, and of effecting salvation.

It is precisely this last position which in the present day is so earnestly and in such various quarters denied. Besides the numerous classes of professed unbelievers, who positively reject Christianity, or the integrity and authority of its records, or at least some of its essential doctrines, there are many more, because of their position of professed friendliness, doing incalculably more harm, who, expressing no opinion as to the objective truthfulness of the church system of doctrines, maintain that it is at any rate unessential because impractical and unprofitable. Hence, they insist that the careful elaboration, and the prominent and ceaseless emphasis which the Church gives to doctrine imperils the interests of religion, by dividing those otherwise agreed, by rendering the candid examination of new truth impossible through the bias of foregone conclusions, and by diverting the attention of Christian people from the great practical and moral interests of life to matters of barren speculation. They charge the Church with exalting creed above morals, and faith above character. They insist upon it, that the norm of Christianity is to be found in the Sermon on the Mount, and as such it is proved to be a religion of character, not of creed; and hence, that it is the duty of the Church to regard immoral action as the only heresy.

This tendency to depreciate the importance of clearly discriminated views of religious truth, rests in the case of different objectors upon very different grounds, and is carried to very different degrees. But against this entire tendency, which opposes creed and morals, faith and character, in all its forms and intensities, we protest, and proclaim the opposite principle as fundamental,–that truth is in order to holiness, and that knowledge of the truth is an essential prerequisite to right character and action.

The force of the objections against the importance of clearly discriminated truth in the sphere of religion is mainly the result of the vagueness with which the objections are stated. When it is charged against the Church, as its record stands in history, that it has subordinated moral and practical interests to those of scholastic specualtion and party contests, there is a coloring of truth in the charge which commands attention, and disguises the real animus and ultimate aim of the objectors.

In order to clear the question of accidental complications, which constantly confuse the current discussions of it, we make the following admissions and distinctions:

1st. We concede that one of the sins most easily besetting theologians has been a tendency to over-refinement in speculation, over-formality of definition, and an excess of rigidity of system. Logical notions, creatures of the understanding, have too often been substituted for the concrete form of spiritual truth presented by the Holy Ghost to faith. Theologians have often practiced a rationalism as real as that of their modern opponents, when their ambition to be wise beyond what is written has urged them to explore and explain divine mysteries, to philosphize on the basis of scriptural facts, and to form rational theories, as, for instance, of the relation of the divine and human natures in the person of Christ, and of the concursus of the first with the second causes in Providence.

2d. We admit also that zeal for doctrine has in too many instances been narrow and prejudiced, mingled with the infirmities of personal pride and party spirit, and has hence led to the unnecessary divisions and alienations of those who were in reality one in faith, and to the conditioning of communion, and even of salvation, upon unessential points. Human nature has operated among earnest theological advocates with the uniformity and blindness of a physical law, leading each to choose a position as far as possible from his opponent–to unduly emphasize some Scriptures and depreciate others–to confine his attention to the fragment of truth he champions, exaggerating its proportions, and denying or minimizing the qualifying truths represented by his antagonist. This law has led to the multiplying of special theological tendencies, and to their development in all possible directions and to every possible extent, and has thus been providentially overruled to the extension of our knowledge, and to the ultimate establishment of the truth in wider relations. but the habit is in itself obviously evil, since for the individuals immediately concerned it sacrifices the truth as a whole to special elements, which by exaggeration or dissociation from their natural relations become virtually untruths. This is illustrated in the whole history of controversies, e.g., between Nestorians and Monophysites, Lutherans and Reformed as to the person of Christ, between Supralapsarian Calvinists and Arminians, Churchmen and Puritans, Mystics and Formalists. It is plainly the duty of the individual to understand, as fully as possible the position of his respondent, and to incorporate the other’s fragment of truth with his own into the catholic whole.

3d. We must admit also that some advocates of theological dogma have lacked the courage of their convictions, and have betrayed their want of perfect confidence in the foundations on which they have builded by a disposition to discourage the fearless investigations of new truth in all directions, and to put an ungenerous interpretation upon all opinions to which their own minds were unaccustomed.

We claim to be sincere advocates of free investigation, in the true sense of that word, in every direction open to man. The believer in the supernatural revelation contained in God’s Word is place on a higher and more central point of vision than that of the mere naturalist, and he is thus rendered free of the whole sphere of truth. The true relation of the successive realms of the universe of being and knowledge can be read by one looking upon them from within outward and not from without inward, from above downward and in the direction in which the supreme light of revelation radiates, and not from below upward upon the side on which the shadows fall.

But it is absurd to suppose that true intellectual progress consists in a mere change of opinions, or that it is consistent with the destruction of the foundations which have been laid in the verified knowledge of the past. Truth once adequately established must be held fast forever, while we stand prepared to add to it all new truth substantiated by equal evidence. And it is a law which all educated men should be ready to acknowledge as axiomatic, that truth in any department once established must ever after hold the place of valid presumptions, influencing the course of new investigations in every department. Ruskin well testifies, “It is the law of progressive human life that we shall not build in the air, but in the already high-storied temple of the thoughts of our ancestors,” and that any addition successfully made can “never be without modest submission to the Eternal Wisdom, nor ever in any great degree except by persons trained reverently in some large portion of the wisdom of the past.”

It cannot be doubted that what is held by men as truth in any one department of knowledge must, in the long run, be brought into conscious adjustment with all that they hold as truth in every other department. That which is false in philosophy cannot long be believed to be true in religion, and conversely, that which is false in religion can never be rightly regarded true in philosophy. Consequently, in the rapid development of the physical sciences which characterizes the present age, it is inevitable that there should be serious difficulty in so adjusting all the elements as to allow us to become clearly conscious of the congruity in all respects of the new knowledge with the old. It is not to be wondered at even that at several points there is an apparently irreconcilable antagonism. But when we recall the obvious distinction between facts and theories, between established knowledge and provisional hypothesis, we are readily reassured by the recollection it suggests that the historic track of human thought is strewn with the wrecks of systems, of cosmogonies, and anthropologies, as certainly believed and as influential in their day as any of the anti-theological systems of the present day.

We should unquestionably open our doors wide, with a joy equal to her own, for all the facts which science gathers in her harvest-time. But is it not absurd to ask the believers in the great Church Creeds of Christendom to abandon, to modify, or to mask that ancient and coherent mass of knowledge which roots itself in the profoundest depths of human nature, and in all human history, which has verified itself to reason and every phase of experience for two thousand years, which has moulded the noblest charcters, inspired the most exalted lives, and inaugurated the very conditions which made modern science and civilization possible–to modify or abandon all this in deference to one or the other of the variant and transient speculations which each in his little day claims to speak in the venerable name of science?

We admit also that all Christian doctrine, like all other truth, rests on evidence appropriate in kind and adequate in degree. Nor is it denied that human reason legitimately exercised is the organ by which alone this divine truth is to be apprehended and its credentials examined and verified. These evidences ought to be subjected to the most thorough legitimate examination. He is a false or a mistaken advocate of the truth who would impede such investigation or who fears the result. Most of those who depreciate Christian dogma as incapable of certain verification, or as impractical and unprofitable, simply beg the question as to these evidences. All such we refer to the Christian Apologist, who is fully prepared to meet all reasonable demands. At present we assume the truth of our dogma and claim, that being true, every fragment of it is of transcendcent importance as to the God-appointed means of effecting the moral and spiritual regeneration of human character and life.

4th. We moreover admit without hesitation that theologians must themselves be held to their own principle that truth is in order to holiness; that the great end of dogma is not the gratification of the taste for speculation, but the formation of character and the determination of the activities of our inward and outward life in relation to God and our fellow-men. There is a patent distinction between the logical and the moral aspects of truth, between that manner of conceiving and stating it which satisfies the understanding and that which affects the moral nature and determines experience. Neither can be neglected without injury to the other. For if the laws of the understanding are essentially outraged, the moral nature cannot be either healthfully or permanently affected; that which is apprehended as logically incongruous by the understanding, cannot be rested in as certainly true and trusthworthy by the heart and conscience and will. But all the great doctrines of the Scriptures may be apprehended on the side and in the relations which immediately determine the moral attitude of the soul in relation to God. It is possible, for instance, to treat the Biblical teaching as to the sinful estate into which man has fallen and from which he has been redeemed by Christ, as a metaphysical or a psychological problem, in which its reality and bearings, as a matter of experience, may be to a great degree disguised. On the other hand, it may be set forth, as it always is in Scripture, as it is realized in consciousness, and as it enters into all religious experience. If, as is asserted, religious experience is only the personal experience of the truth of the great doctrines of Christianity, as we are personally concerned with them, it follows that they must be conceived and stated in a form in which they admit of being realized in the experience. Any theological method which sacrifices the moral and experiential aspects of the truth to a metaphysical and speculative interest will soon lose its hold upon the consciences of men, and itself experience that law of change which determines the fluctuations of all mere speculative systems.

With these admissions and distinctions, we return to our theme, that the truth revealed in the Scriptures, and embraced in what evangelical Christians style Christian dogma, is the great God-appointed means of producing in men a holy character and life. at present neither the general truth of Christianity nor that of any particular system of theology claiming to represent it, is the question. but the truth of Christianity being assumed, we affirm that the truths set forth in the Word of God in their mutual relations, are necessary means of promoting holiness of heart and life. That is, that dogmatic Christianity is the essential ground of practical Christianity.

1st. This will be made evident when we consider what Christianity really is and what is the essence of Christian doctrine. Unlike all philosophies, it is not a speculative system built up on certain principles or seminal ideas. It is, on the contrary, a divinely authenticated statement of certain facts concerning God, His nature, His attitude towards man as fallen, His purpose with regard to man’s redemption from sin, and several stages of His actual intervention to effect that end. This redemptive work Christ has been, and is now engaged in accomplishing by several actions in chronological succession. The revelation of these purposes and redemptive actions has been evolved through an historic process, the separate facts of which are as definitely ascertainable as those which constitute any other history. Christian doctrine, therefore, is just God’s testimony with regard to certain matters of fact, with which the religious life of the race is bound up. A distinction has been pressed, beyond all reason, between the matter of fact taught in Scripture and doctrines which, it is asserted, men have inferred from or have superadded to the facts, as hypothetical explanations of them. By matters of fact the liberal school means the external events of Christ’s history as these were observed by the bodily senses of human witnesses, and assured to us by their testimony; and these external facts of sense, perception, and nothing more, they admit to be valid objects of faith, forgetful that a more advanced and consistent school of their fellow-rationalists overset these external facts just as confidently as they themselves flippantly relegate dogma to the religion of the unknowable. These men admit, for instance, that we know, as a matter of “fact,” that Christ died on the cross, and rose from the dead the third day; but they hold that the design with which he died or that the relation which His death sustains to man’s restoration to the divine favor are matters of speculative opinion, but no matter of “fact.”

The word “fact” in universal usage signifies not merely an action, a thing done, but as well any objective reality, and by way of eminence, a reality of which we have adequate certainty, in distinction from a matter of opinion or probably reality. Now that Christ died and rose again as our representative, that His death was a vicariously endured penalty, is plainly as purely a matter of fact, i.e., objective reality, as definitely and certainly verifiable on the direct testimony of God, as the dying and rising again themselves. All that a witness in the Hall of Independence on the 4th of July, 1776, would have seen with his bodily eyes would have been the physical acts of certain men subscribing their names to a written paper; that was the optical perception, and nothing more. But no man would be absurd enough to deny that it is just as much a “fact,” and just as certain a “fact,” that they subscribed their names as the representatives of certain political communities, with the design and effect of changing their political constitutions and relations. The sensible transaction, and its legal intent and effect were equally matters of “fact” and ascertainable with equal precision and certainty upon adequate evidence. Now the matter of fact of which Christian dogmas are the revealed expression and attestation are those which more than any other conceivable facts are of transcendent importance and of immediate practical interest to mankind. The tri-personal constitution of the Godhead, and His essential attributes and eternal purposes–His relation to the world as Creator, providential Ruler, and moral Governor–His judgment of man’s present guilt, corruption, and impotence as a sinner–His purposes of grace, and the provision made for their execution, in the incarnation of the Second Person of the Trinity, and in the life, death, resurrection, and ascension to universal dominion of the God-man–the resurrection of the body, the judgment and eternal condemnation of the finally impenitent and glorification of believers–these are the FACTS.

In every department of life all practical experience and activity is constantly determined by the external facts into relation to which we are brought, and upon our knowledge of and voluntary conformity to these facts. All modern life, personal, social, and political, is notoriously being changed through the influence of the facts brought to our knowledge in the advances of the physical sciences. All moral duties spring out of relations, as those of husband and wife, parent and child, citizen and community. All religion is morality lifted up to the sphere of our relations to God, as Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, as Creator, Moral Governor, Redeemer, Sanctifier, and Father. Our question, at present, is not whether our theological dogmas are true, but whether, being true, they are of practical importance. Much of the cavil against their use is only a disingenuous begging the question as to their truth. We prove them to be true in the department of Apologetics, which draws upon all the resources of philosophy and historical criticism. And having proved them to be true, we now assert, in advance, that morality and religion are possible only so far as these facts are recognized, and our inward and outward life adjusted to them. It would be incomparably more reasonable to attempt to accomplish all the offices pertaining to the departments of agriculture, navigation, and manufactures, while ignoring all the ascertained facts of the natural world, than it would be to attempt to accomplish the offices of morality and religion while ignoring the facts of the spiritual world signified and attested to us in Christian dogma.

2d. Again, our proposition that knowledge and belief of scriptural truth is the essential means of the production of holiness in heart and life, may be demonstrated upon universally admitted psychological principles. Knowledge is the act of the subject knowing, apprehending the truth. Truth is the object apprehended and recognized in the act of knowledge. In every act of apprehension there is required the object to be apprehended, and the apprehensive power upon the part of the agent apprehending. “The eye sees only that which it brings with it the power of seeing.” All truth of every kind stands related to the human mind, and the mind is endowed with constitutional faculties adjusted to it, and effecting its apprehension. As an actual fact, however, in the present state of the race, many individuals are found incapable of apprehending and recognizing some kinds of truth. for the apprehension of some truth a special endowment and cultivation of the understanding is necessary; for the recognition of other truth a special temperment and cultivation of tast is requisite, and for the apprehension of other truth again a special condition and habit of the moral and spiritual nature. In the actual condition of human nature the truths revealed in the Scriptures cannot be discerned in their spiritual quality as the things of God. But when the sould is quickened to a new form of spiritual life by the baptism of the Holy Ghost, this very truth, now discerned, becomes the insturment whereby the new spiritual life is sustained and developed. This accords with the analogy of the constitutional action of the soul in every sphere of its activity. The perception of beauty depends upon the possession of the aesthetic faculty. But that being possessed, the aesthetic culture of the soul depends upon the contemplation of beautiful objects, and the knowledge of the law of beauty in the endless variety of its forms. It is a law having no exception that the exercise of the perceptive faculty necessarily precedes and conditions the exercise of the affections and the will. Beauty must be apprehended before it can be appreciated and loved. Moral truth must be apprehended before it can be loved or chosen, and only thus can the moral affections be trained and strengthened. Mere feeling and mere willing without knowledge are absolutely impossible experiences, and if possible, they would be irrational and immoral. It is the grand distinction of Christianity that it is ethical and not magical in all its processes and spirit. It rests on facts. It moves in the sphere of personal relations. It is a spiritual power acting through the instrumentality of truth addressed to the reason, and made effectual upon the soul by the power of the Divine Spirit. And the truth, through the medium of knowledge spiritualized, acts on the emotions and will, and transforms character and governs life.

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The following discourse on baptism is from the Rev. John Black [1768-1849], of whom we spoke earlier in the weekRev. Black was a contemporary and close associate of the Rev. Alexander MacLeod, and would as well have known and been conversant with many other notable Presbyterians such as Samuel Miller, Jacob J. Janeway, and Ashbel Green. Rev. Black served as the first Stated Clerk of the Reformed Presbyterian Church in North America (New Light). As that body, through a series of mergers, eventually became part of the PCA, I suppose we could with a bit of stretching say that Rev. Black was the first Stated Clerk of the PCA. Or maybe not.

The opening portion only of this discourse is presented below. To read the full treatise, click the embedded link in the title:

THE SUBSTANCE OF SOME DISCOURSES ON BAPTISM;
delivered in the
First Reformed Presbyterian Church, in Pittsburgh.
By JOHN BLACK, D. D.
(1846.)

DISCOURSE.

Black_John_1768-1849Then Peter said unto them. Repent, and be baptized every one of yon in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call.” Acts ii. 38, 39.

The feast of Pentecost was one of the three solemn feasts, in which all the males in Israel were commanded to appear before the Lord, in the course of the year, in the place which he should choose. Deut. xvi. 16. It is also called the feast of weeks, because forty-nine days, or a week of weeks, must be complete after the passover, and on the fiftieth day it was celebrated; hence called Pentecost, or the fiftieth day. It was also called the feast of harvest, because, at that time, the wheat harvest was ripe, and the first fruits were to be offered to the Lord. The object appears to have been, to render thanks to God for his mercies, and to commemorate the giving of the law from Mount Sinai. Did it not also prefigure the descent of the Holy Ghost in such plentiful effusion upon the disciples of Christ on the day of Pentecost, and how plentifully the first fruits of the Gentiles should give themselves unto the Lord? It is worthy of observation, that it was on the day of Pentecost—the fiftieth day from the Israelites’ departure from Egypt—that God gave the law from Sinai, and on that very day—the day of Pentecost, he caused the gospel law to be promulgated.

The Savior, before he ascended, commanded his apostles to remain at Jerusalem, until they should obtain the promise of the Father, and be baptized with the Holy Ghost; for which, he assured them, they would not have to wait many days. This promise was fulfilled ten days after his departure. Then was displayed a remarkable manifestation of the divine power. A sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, is suddenly heard, which filled the whole house where the disciples were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues, like as of fire, one of which sat down upon the head of each of them—an emblem of the diversified languages which they were now to speak. At the building of Babel, the language of the people was confounded and divided, and thereby the builders were scattered; but here the gift of various languages was given, that the scattered nations might be gathered to Jesus Christ, the shepherd and bishop of souls. The solemn occasion had gathered to Jerusalem strangers in multitudes, who, it appears, spoke fifteen different languages, all of which the disciples now perfectly understood, and distinctly and fluently spoke, as if they had been their mother tongue, although they had never learned them. This filled all with amazement; but some mocked, and ridiculed the whole transaction, ascribing it to inebriation. The apostles resented this invidious reproach, and Peter, who was the chief speaker, shewed plainly, that this was the fulfilment of the prophecy of Joel, ii. 28—31, and preached unto them Jesus whom they had crucified, in such a powerful, moving, and effectual manner, the Holy Spirit setting it home upon their hearts, that they said unto Peter, and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do? To which Peter answered, “ Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call.” In considering these words, we propose the following method:

1. Offer some remarks on the nature of baptism. 2. Inquire who are its proper subjects? 3. The Scripture mode of baptism.

I. THE NATURE OF BAPTISM.

1. Baptism is a washing with water as a sacramental act. It had been long in use by the Jews in receiving their proselytes, but not by divine institution. Baptism supposes impurity in the subject. Indeed, all washing necessarily supposes this. That which is clean may be wet, but can- not properly be washed. But baptism is called washing. Eph. v. 26, “ That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word.” The symbol is water only. It represents the blood of Christ applied by the Holy Spirit, Rev. i. 5: “Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood.” The application of that blood is by the Spirit of Christ, Titus iii. 5: “ According to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost.” The blood of Christ cleanses meritoriously, 1 John i. 7: “The blood of Jesus Christ, his Son, cleanseth us from all sin.” The Spirit of Christ cleanseth us from all sin, by the effi- cacious application of the blood of Christ to the conscience. By the blood of Christ the guilt of sin is, at once, taken away in justification. The Spirit of Christ removes the blot and stain of sin gradually in sanctification. As water, free to all by the gift of heaven, when applied, washes and makes clean that which before was physically foul and unclean; so the blood of Christ, freely offered to all who hear the gospel, when applied by the Spirit, purifies from the guilt and pollution of sin, those who are morally defiled, and spiritually unclean. The instrumental administrators of baptism must be ministers of the gospel lawfully ordained, and no others. None have a right to act as commissioners, but such as have received a commission. The steward of a family is appointed by the head of the family. Jesus Christ, who alone is Lord in his own house, made all its laws, appointed all its offices and officers, and commissioned those whom he authorized to preach and baptize Before he ascended into heaven, he enlarged the commission of his apostles, which before his death had been restricted to the Jews: but now he authorizes them to go into all nations, whether Jews or Gentiles, and convert them to the faith of Christ, and promises to be with them always, even to the end of the world. The apostles were not to live to the end of the world. It could not, therefore, mean the apostles personally. Yet he says you. It must there- fore mean the officers, and that too, without the possibility of suffering the office to die, or the officers to become extinct to the end of time. The limit is the end of the world- the intermediate time, always. There never shall be an interregnum, or the office without an occupant, while the world stands. The apostles, as such, had no successors. The office, like that of the prophets, was altogether ex- traordinary. The claims of the Pope, and the no less groundless claims of diocesan bishops, to be the successors of the apostles, spring from ignorance of the gospel, and the government of the Church of God, as established by the Redeemer. The apostles possessed the ministerial, as well as the apostolical character; the ordinary office of the ministry, along with the apostolate. This is evident from the declaration of Peter in his 1st Epistle, v. 1: “The elders which are among you, I exhort, who am also an elder”—presbyter, or minister of the gospel. Now, to such characters, Christ gave the commission to preach and baptize. How daring, then, must it be for any who have not this commission, to undertake to preach and baptize. In 1 Cor. iv. 1, the ministers of Christ are called “stewards of the mysteries of God.” Are stewards self-appointed?

Or may they who are not appointed, act the part of stewards, as well as those who are? Since the extraordi- nary granting of commissions, in the days of the apostles, has ceased, the Scripture speaks of no way by which a commission is given, but by “the laying on of the hands of the presbytery.” 1 Tim. iv. 14. As a blessing was prayed for by our Lord, to attend the administration of the sacramental supper, so, by parity of reason, a blessing is to be prayed for, to attend the administration of the sacrament of baptism. This prayer sets apart the “sensible sign” in the sacrament, from a common to a sacred use. The water in baptism should, in this way, be blessed, as the bread and wine in the Lord’s supper, by praying for a blessing thereon.

2. Baptism is to be administered in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, to whom the baptized person is dedicated as covenant property. But as to immediate authority, like all other Church ordinances, it is administered in the name of Jesus Christ. Many mistakes have been made about baptizing in the name of Christ, and baptizing in the name of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, as if they were different modes of baptizing. The truth is, both apply to every baptism. The mistake is in applying the same meaning to the word name, in both cases. Sometimes the word name means authority; thus a civil Court is opened in the name, that is, by the authority of the Commonwealth; and an ecclesiastical Court is opened in the name, by the authority of the Lord Jesus Christ. Again, name sometimes means property, or pos- session; thus a deed is made out in the name, or for the use, and as the property of some one. In the first sense, no ordinance is administered in the name of the Trinity. No ecclesiastical Court is opened in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. True it is, that all power, and authority originally belong to God, Father, Son and Holy Ghost; but there is, by the God-head, a delegated authority and headship committed to the Lord Jesus Christ, that the preaching of the gospel, the administration of sacraments, and all church ordinances, shall be done in his name, and by virtue of his authority. Thus all who are baptized, are baptized in the name of Jesus. They are also baptized in the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, solemnly dedicated, and devoted, to be the covenant property of a three one God, to be for him soul and body, wholly and forever. Their engagement is to be the Lord’s and to take him as their portion forever.

3. Teaching must precede and accompany baptism. If the persons to be baptized were heathens, they must first be proselyted, and instructed in the faith. Mat. xxviii. 19: and all adults should be so indoctrinated, and instructed in the knowledge of Christ, and of the system of grace, that they shall be able to give a reason of the hope that is in them. It is the doctrine of Anti-Christ, that ignorance is the mother of devotion, while the Bible plainly declares, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.” Hos. iv. 6. An ignorant man is represented as more stupid than the ox, or the ass. Is. i. 3: “The ox knoweth his owner, and the ass his master’s crib, but Israel doth not know, my people doth not consider.” Unless the person be previously instructed, he cannot have a firm persuasion that it is an ordinance of God. He cannot have a serious and thankful consideration of the nature of it, and of the end for which Christ instituted it. Every sacrament must be received by faith. But faith supposes knowledge. “How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed, and how shall they believe in him whom they have not heard, and how shall they hear without a preacher?” Rom. x. 14.

4. As baptism is an enrolment of a new member of the church—an initiating into the visible society of the worshippers of the Lord Jesus Christ, it ought to be done publicly, in the face of the congregation. It is a declaration of visible membership, a distinguishing badge of discipleship, a sign whereby the followers of Christ are distinguished from pagans, or heathens, as the Israelites of old were distinguished from the uncircumcised nations around them. Private baptism is therefore contrary to the nature of the ordinance, a mean, and clandestine intruding of members into visible communion, as if by stealth. There is something in the very nature of the ordinance, that requires its public administration. The body of Christ is one, and the members of that body are also, “members, one of another.” Rom. xii. 5. And the apostle says, 1 Cor. xii. 13: “By one spirit are we all baptized into one body.” Baptism, therefore, presents to the body, another member initiated into their fellowship, and having a claim upon their prayers, their brotherly affection, their sympathy, and all good offices. Besides, the solemn ordinance, the vows and engagements of the person baptized, while calling for the accompanying prayers of the congregation, will also remind them of their own vows and engagements, and thereby excite to the improving their own baptism, and thus promoting their sanctification. Baptism, while in a certain sense, it is an initiating ordinance, yet does not originate the fact of church membership. Baptism supposes church membership, and yet it confers a membership which the unbaptized member did not enjoy. The fact of membership abstractly, is obtained, by making a profession of the faith of the gospel, or by being the infant seed of church members. This entitles to being recognized as a member of the organized visible church, to which the person is initiated by baptism. If attention is paid to the distinction between the kind of membership which is required to entitle to baptism, and the membership which baptism confers, it will refute the charge which is sometimes brought, of arguing in a circle, making membership the cause of baptism, and baptism the cause of membership. The distinction is obvious.

5. Baptism is not only a sign of church membership, as well as of Christ and his benefits; it is also a seal of the covenant of grace. A seal is used as a confirmation of bonds or deeds. Such was circumcision in the covenant made with Abraham, a “seal of the righteousness of faith.” Rom. iv. 11; and such is the seal of baptism, which comes in the room of circumcision, to all belivers, who are the spiritual seed of Abraham. By this seal Christ and his benefits are confirmed to the believer. These benefits are all the blessings contained in the promises of the new covenant, all embraced in grace here, and glory hereafter; Ps. lxxxiv. 11: “For the Lord God is a sun and shield, the Lord will give grace and glory.” A seal to a deed, covenant, or agreement, supposes the agreement made, the seal is a ratification of what the parties have agreed upon. A seal would be of no use without this agreement. None are agreed to God’s covenant but believers. I speak now of adults. Therefore, baptism seals nothing to any but believers. God promises every blessing to believers, and baptism is a seal of the covenant on God’s part, not to make the promise of the covenant more sure, for it is impossible for God to lie, his faithfulness is inviolable, and unchangeable; but to make the faith of the believer stronger. It is God’s ratifying to believers their right to covenant blessings with infallible certainty. And thus God, for the strengthening the faith, and removing the doubts of believers, condescends to bind himself in the most solemn manner, by bond and seal. Like as in Heb. vi. 18, where accommodating himself to the weakness of his people, he seals his promise with the solemnity of an oath. The blessings that are sealed to believers in baptism, are “remission of sins by the blood of Christ, regeneration by his spirit, adoption, and resurrection to everlasting life.” In baptism there is, as in every sacrament, an engagement to be the Lord’s—a renouncing the devil, the world, and the flesh, and an engagement to devote all that we are, soul and body, and all that we have, our gifts, graces, time, talents, com- forts and joys, to the glory of God. And this requires, to “deny all ungodliness and worldly lusts, to live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world.” In baptism the believer “sets to his seal that God is true,” John iii. 33, by believing his promises, receiving his testimony, and taking his law in the hand of the Mediator, as the rule of his faith, and obedience in all things. Adults in baptism, take these vows directly, and in their own persons. Children impliedly, through the representation of their parents. Parents are the natural guardians of their children. They are the most suitable persons to be their moral guardians, and representatives. Children are bound by the act of their representatives in civil things, and why not in the vows of baptism, if these vows are right—what the law of God requires? None can be bound by what is morally wrong, for all obligation is founded in the moral law, and what it forbids, can have in it no obligation—nothing binding on the conscience. Parents, in the baptism of their children, do not promise what their children will do, but what they themselves will do, in the discharge of the duties incumbent upon them, as Christian parents to their Christian offspring. Through their representation, the child receives the sacrament of baptism, and in that sacrament is contained the engagement to be the Lord’s, which, as we have seen, binds to all the duties which God’s law makes incumbent as a rule of life, to every one in their several places and relations, as superiors, inferiors or equals.

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HodgeAA

It was on this day, November 8th, in 1877, that the Rev. Dr. Archibald Alexander Hodge was inaugurated as Associate Professor of Didactic and Polemic Theology at the Princeton Theological Seminary. With an eye to the value of the tradition, some schools, like Westminster Theological Seminary, continue the practice of the inaugural address. As Dr. Hodge notes in his opening paragraph, the address makes for an opportunity to display both theological convictions and theological method of the teacher.

While perhaps a bit long for a weekday post, hopefully the busy reader will at least bookmark the page and return over the weekend. As one could only expect from A.A. Hodge, this is an excellent composition, worthy of serious, careful consideration.

Dogmatic Christianity, the Essential Ground of Practical Christianity

The Inaugural Address of Archibald Alexander Hodge,
upon his installation as Associate Professor of Dogmatic and Polemic Theology
at Princeton Theological Seminary, November 8, 1877.

FATHERS AND BRETHREN OF THE BOARD OF DIRECTORS:

In obedience to your call, I am here to assume the solemn trust involved in teaching Christian theology in this Seminary. Doubtless the design of associating an inaugural address with the induction of a new professor into such a charge is to afford him an opportunity of satisfying you, as the responsible guardians of the institution, with respect to his theological convictions and method.

I therefore affirm my belief that the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments in their integrity are the Word of God, as a whole and in every part infallible and binding the conscience, and the only divinely authentic informant and rule of faith in matters of religion. Christian theology is wholly in the Scriptures, and is to be drawn from them only by legitimate interpretation. This is true of systematic as absolutely as of exegetical or of Biblical theology. The system lies in the relations of the facts, and their relations are deteremined by their nature, as that is disclosed by the words of the Holy Ghost. The systematic theologian as well as the exegete is only an interpreter; the one interprets the words and develops the revealed truths; the other interprets these separate lessons in their mutual light and reciprocal relations, and develops the revealed system.

More definitely I affirm, not as a professional propriety, but as a personal conviction, that the Confession and Catechisms of the Westminster Assembly contain the system taught in the Holy Scriptures. Or rather, in the more absolute terms of subscription imposed upon intrants by the Scottish Presbyterian Churches, “I do sincerely own and believe the WHOLE DOCTRINE contained in the Confession of Faith, approved by former General Assemblies of this Church, to be founded upon the Word of God, and do acknowledge the same as the confession of my personal faith, and will firmly and constantly adhere thereunto, and to the utmost of my power will assert, maintain, and defend the same.” This is affirmed, not only because I believe this “whole doctrine” to be true, but because I also believe this “system of doctrine” to be the most complete and adequate presentation as yet attained by the Church of that truth revealed in the Holy Scriptures, which the Holy Ghost has declared to be “the power of God unto salvation.” For therein Christ and His work is exhibited in their relation to human needs, experiences, duties, and destinies, and it is, therefore, the efficient instrument of forming character, of ruling action, and of effecting salvation.

It is precisely this last position which in the present day is so earnestly and in such various quarters denied. Besides the numerous classes of professed unbelievers, who positively reject Christianity, or the integrity and authority of its records, or at least some of its essential doctrines, there are many more, because of their position of professed friendliness, doing incalculably more harm, who, expressing no opinion as to the objective truthfulness of the church system of doctrines, maintain that it is at any rate unessential because impractical and unprofitable. Hence, they insist that the careful elaboration, and the prominent and ceaseless emphasis which the Church gives to doctrine imperils the interests of religion, by dividing those otherwise agreed, by rendering the candid examination of new truth impossible through the bias of foregone conclusions, and by diverting the attention of Christian people from the great practical and moral interests of life to matters of barren speculation. They charge the Church with exalting creed above morals, and faith above character. They insist upon it, that the norm of Christianity is to be found in the Sermon on the Mount, and as such it is proved to be a religion of character, not of creed; and hence, that it is the duty of the Church to regard immoral action as the only heresy.

This tendency to depreciate the importance of clearly discriminated views of religious truth, rests in the case of different objectors upon very different grounds, and is carried to very different degrees. But against this entire tendency, which opposes creed and morals, faith and character, in all its forms and intensities, we protest, and proclaim the opposite principle as fundamental,–that truth is in order to holiness, and that knowledge of the truth is an essential prerequisite to right character and action.

The force of the objections against the importance of clearly discriminated truth in the sphere of religion is mainly the result of the vagueness with which the objections are stated. When it is charged against the Church, as its record stands in history, that it has subordinated moral and practical interests to those of scholastic specualtion and party contests, there is a coloring of truth in the charge which commands attention, and disguises the real animus and ultimate aim of the objectors.

In order to clear the question of accidental complications, which constantly confuse the current discussions of it, we make the following admissions and distinctions:

1st. We concede that one of the sins most easily besetting theologians has been a tendency to over-refinement in speculation, over-formality of definition, and an excess of rigidity of system. Logical notions, creatures of the understanding, have too often been substituted for the concrete form of spiritual truth presented by the Holy Ghost to faith. Theologians have often practiced a rationalism as real as that of their modern opponents, when their ambition to be wise beyond what is written has urged them to explore and explain divine mysteries, to philosphize on the basis of scriptural facts, and to form rational theories, as, for instance, of the relation of the divine and human natures in the person of Christ, and of the concursus of the first with the second causes in Providence.

2d. We admit also that zeal for doctrine has in too many instances been narrow and prejudiced, mingled with the infirmities of personal pride and party spirit, and has hence led to the unnecessary divisions and alienations of those who were in reality one in faith, and to the conditioning of communion, and even of salvation, upon unessential points. Human nature has operated among earnest theological advocates with the uniformity and blindness of a physical law, leading each to choose a position as far as possible from his opponent–to unduly emphasize some Scriptures and depreciate others–to confine his attention to the fragment of truth he champions, exaggerating its proportions, and denying or minimizing the qualifying truths represented by his antagonist. This law has led to the multiplying of special theological tendencies, and to their development in all possible directions and to every possible extent, and has thus been providentially overruled to the extension of our knowledge, and to the ultimate establishment of the truth in wider relations. but the habit is in itself obviously evil, since for the individuals immediately concerned it sacrifices the truth as a whole to special elements, which by exaggeration or dissociation from their natural relations become virtually untruths. This is illustrated in the whole history of controversies, e.g., between Nestorians and Monophysites, Lutherans and Reformed as to the person of Christ, between Supralapsarian Calvinists and Arminians, Churchmen and Puritans, Mystics and Formalists. It is plainly the duty of the individual to understand, as fully as possible the position of his respondent, and to incorporate the other’s fragment of truth with his own into the catholic whole.

3d. We must admit also that some advocates of theological dogma have lacked the courage of their convictions, and have betrayed their want of perfect confidence in the foundations on which they have builded by a disposition to discourage the fearless investigations of new truth in all directions, and to put an ungenerous interpretation upon all opinions to which their own minds were unaccustomed.

We claim to be sincere advocates of free investigation, in the true sense of that word, in every direction open to man. The believer in the supernatural revelation contained in God’s Word is place on a higher and more central point of vision than that of the mere naturalist, and he is thus rendered free of the whole sphere of truth. The true relation of the successive realms of the universe of being and knowledge can be read by one looking upon them from within outward and not from without inward, from above downward and in the direction in which the supreme light of revelation radiates, and not from below upward upon the side on which the shadows fall.

But it is absurd to suppose that true intellectual progress consists in a mere change of opinions, or that it is consistent with the destruction of the foundations which have been laid in the verified knowledge of the past. Truth once adequately established must be held fast forever, while we stand prepared to add to it all new truth substantiated by equal evidence. And it is a law which all educated men should be ready to acknowledge as axiomatic, that truth in any department once established must ever after hold the place of valid presumptions, influencing the course of new investigations in every department. Ruskin well testifies, “It is the law of progressive human life that we shall not build in the air, but in the already high-storied temple of the thoughts of our ancestors,” and that any addition successfully made can “never be without modest submission to the Eternal Wisdom, nor ever in any great degree except by persons trained reverently in some large portion of the wisdom of the past.”

It cannot be doubted that what is held by men as truth in any one department of knowledge must, in the long run, be brought into conscious adjustment with all that they hold as truth in every other department. That which is false in philosophy cannot long be believed to be true in religion, and conversely, that which is false in religion can never be rightly regarded true in philosophy. Consequently, in the rapid development of the physical sciences which characterizes the present age, it is inevitable that there should be serious difficulty in so adjusting all the elements as to allow us to become clearly conscious of the congruity in all respects of the new knowledge with the old. It is not to be wondered at even that at several points there is an apparently irreconcilable antagonism. But when we recall the obvious distinction between facts and theories, between established knowledge and provisional hypothesis, we are readily reassured by the recollection it suggests that the historic track of human thought is strewn with the wrecks of systems, of cosmogonies, and anthropologies, as certainly believed and as influential in their day as any of the anti-theological systems of the present day.

We should unquestionably open our doors wide, with a joy equal to her own, for all the facts which science gathers in her harvest-time. But is it not absurd to ask the believers in the great Church Creeds of Christendom to abandon, to modify, or to mask that ancient and coherent mass of knowledge which roots itself in the profoundest depths of human nature, and in all human history, which has verified itself to reason and every phase of experience for two thousand years, which has moulded the noblest charcters, inspired the most exalted lives, and inaugurated the very conditions which made modern science and civilization possible–to modify or abandon all this in deference to one or the other of the variant and transient speculations which each in his little day claims to speak in the venerable name of science?

We admit also that all Christian doctrine, like all other truth, rests on evidence appropriate in kind and adequate in degree. Nor is it denied that human reason legitimately exercised is the organ by which alone this divine truth is to be apprehended and its credentials examined and verified. These evidences ought to be subjected to the most thorough legitimate examination. He is a false or a mistaken advocate of the truth who would impede such investigation or who fears the result. Most of those who depreciate Christian dogma as incapable of certain verification, or as impractical and unprofitable, simply beg the question as to these evidences. All such we refer to the Christian Apologist, who is fully prepared to meet all reasonable demands. At present we assume the truth of our dogma and claim, that being true, every fragment of it is of transcendcent importance as to the God-appointed means of effecting the moral and spiritual regeneration of human character and life.

4th. We moreover admit without hesitation that theologians must themselves be held to their own principle that truth is in order to holiness; that the great end of dogma is not the gratification of the taste for speculation, but the formation of character and the determination of the activities of our inward and outward life in relation to God and our fellow-men. There is a patent distinction between the logical and the moral aspects of truth, between that manner of conceiving and stating it which satisfies the understanding and that which affects the moral nature and determines experience. Neither can be neglected without injury to the other. For if the laws of the understanding are essentially outraged, the moral nature cannot be either healthfully or permanently affected; that which is apprehended as logically incongruous by the understanding, cannot be rested in as certainly true and trusthworthy by the heart and conscience and will. But all the great doctrines of the Scriptures may be apprehended on the side and in the relations which immediately determine the moral attitude of the soul in relation to God. It is possible, for instance, to treat the Biblical teaching as to the sinful estate into which man has fallen and from which he has been redeemed by Christ, as a metaphysical or a psychological problem, in which its reality and bearings, as a matter of experience, may be to a great degree disguised. On the other hand, it may be set forth, as it always is in Scripture, as it is realized in consciousness, and as it enters into all religious experience. If, as is asserted, religious experience is only the personal experience of the truth of the great doctrines of Christianity, as we are personally concerned with them, it follows that they must be conceived and stated in a form in which they admit of being realized in the experience. Any theological method which sacrifices the moral and experiential aspects of the truth to a metaphysical and speculative interest will soon lose its hold upon the consciences of men, and itself experience that law of change which determines the fluctuations of all mere speculative systems.

With these admissions and distinctions, we return to our theme, that the truth revealed in the Scriptures, and embraced in what evangelical Christians style Christian dogma, is the great God-appointed means of producing in men a holy character and life. at present neither the general truth of Christianity nor that of any particular system of theology claiming to represent it, is the question. but the truth of Christianity being assumed, we affirm that the truths set forth in the Word of God in their mutual relations, are necessary means of promoting holiness of heart and life. That is, that dogmatic Christianity is the essential ground of practical Christianity.

1st. This will be made evident when we consider what Christianity really is and what is the essence of Christian doctrine. Unlike all philosophies, it is not a speculative system built up on certain principles or seminal ideas. It is, on the contrary, a divinely authenticated statement of certain facts concerning God, His nature, His attitude towards man as fallen, His purpose with regard to man’s redemption from sin, and several stages of His actual intervention to effect that end. This redemptive work Christ has been, and is now engaged in accomplishing by several actions in chronological succession. The revelation of these purposes and redemptive actions has been evolved through an historic process, the separate facts of which are as definitely ascertainable as those which constitute any other history. Christian doctrine, therefore, is just God’s testimony with regard to certain matters of fact, with which the religious life of the race is bound up. A distinction has been pressed, beyond all reason, between the matter of fact taught in Scripture and doctrines which, it is asserted, men have inferred from or have superadded to the facts, as hypothetical explanations of them. By matters of fact the liberal school means the external events of Christ’s history as these were observed by the bodily senses of human witnesses, and assured to us by their testimony; and these external facts of sense, perception, and nothing more, they admit to be valid objects of faith, forgetful that a more advanced and consistent school of their fellow-rationalists overset these external facts just as confidently as they themselves flippantly relegate dogma to the religion of the unknowable. These men admit, for instance, that we know, as a matter of “fact,” that Christ died on the cross, and rose from the dead the third day; but they hold that the design with which he died or that the relation which His death sustains to man’s restoration to the divine favor are matters of speculative opinion, but no matter of “fact.”

The word “fact” in universal usage signifies not merely an action, a thing done, but as well any objective reality, and by way of eminence, a reality of which we have adequate certainty, in distinction from a matter of opinion or probably reality. Now that Christ died and rose again as our representative, that His death was a vicariously endured penalty, is plainly as purely a matter of fact, i.e., objective reality, as definitely and certainly verifiable on the direct testimony of God, as the dying and rising again themselves. All that a witness in the Hall of Independence on the 4th of July, 1776, would have seen with his bodily eyes would have been the physical acts of certain men subscribing their names to a written paper; that was the optical perception, and nothing more. But no man would be absurd enough to deny that it is just as much a “fact,” and just as certain a “fact,” that they subscribed their names as the representatives of certain political communities, with the design and effect of changing their political constitutions and relations. The sensible transaction, and its legal intent and effect were equally matters of “fact” and ascertainable with equal precision and certainty upon adequate evidence. Now the matter of fact of which Christian dogmas are the revealed expression and attestation are those which more than any other conceivable facts are of transcendent importance and of immediate practical interest to mankind. The tri-personal constitution of the Godhead, and His essential attributes and eternal purposes–His relation to the world as Creator, providential Ruler, and moral Governor–His judgment of man’s present guilt, corruption, and impotence as a sinner–His purposes of grace, and the provision made for their execution, in the incarnation of the Second Person of the Trinity, and in the life, death, resurrection, and ascension to universal dominion of the God-man–the resurrection of the body, the judgment and eternal condemnation of the finally impenitent and glorification of believers–these are the FACTS.

In every department of life all practical experience and activity is constantly determined by the external facts into relation to which we are brought, and upon our knowledge of and voluntary conformity to these facts. All modern life, personal, social, and political, is notoriously being changed through the influence of the facts brought to our knowledge in the advances of the physical sciences. All moral duties spring out of relations, as those of husband and wife, parent and child, citizen and community. All religion is morality lifted up to the sphere of our relations to God, as Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, as Creator, Moral Governor, Redeemer, Sanctifier, and Father. Our question, at present, is not whether our theological dogmas are true, but whether, being true, they are of practical importance. Much of the cavil against their use is only a disingenuous begging the question as to their truth. We prove them to be true in the department of Apologetics, which draws upon all the resources of philosophy and historical criticism. And having proved them to be true, we now assert, in advance, that morality and religion are possible only so far as these facts are recognized, and our inward and outward life adjusted to them. It would be incomparably more reasonable to attempt to accomplish all the offices pertaining to the departments of agriculture, navigation, and manufactures, while ignoring all the ascertained facts of the natural world, than it would be to attempt to accomplish the offices of morality and religion while ignoring the facts of the spiritual world signified and attested to us in Christian dogma.

2d. Again, our proposition that knowledge and belief of scriptural truth is the essential means of the production of holiness in heart and life, may be demonstrated upon universally admitted psychological principles. Knowledge is the act of the subject knowing, apprehending the truth. Truth is the object apprehended and recognized in the act of knowledge. In every act of apprehension there is required the object to be apprehended, and the apprehensive power upon the part of the agent apprehending. “The eye sees only that which it brings with it the power of seeing.” All truth of every kind stands related to the human mind, and the mind is endowed with constitutional faculties adjusted to it, and effecting its apprehension. As an actual fact, however, in the present state of the race, many individuals are found incapable of apprehending and recognizing some kinds of truth. for the apprehension of some truth a special endowment and cultivation of the understanding is necessary; for the recognition of other truth a special temperment and cultivation of tast is requisite, and for the apprehension of other truth again a special condition and habit of the moral and spiritual nature. In the actual condition of human nature the truths revealed in the Scriptures cannot be discerned in their spiritual quality as the things of God. But when the sould is quickened to a new form of spiritual life by the baptism of the Holy Ghost, this very truth, now discerned, becomes the insturment whereby the new spiritual life is sustained and developed. This accords with the analogy of the constitutional action of the soul in every sphere of its activity. The perception of beauty depends upon the possession of the aesthetic faculty. But that being possessed, the aesthetic culture of the soul depends upon the contemplation of beautiful objects, and the knowledge of the law of beauty in the endless variety of its forms. It is a law having no exception that the exercise of the perceptive faculty necessarily precedes and conditions the exercise of the affections and the will. Beauty must be apprehended before it can be appreciated and loved. Moral truth must be apprehended before it can be loved or chosen, and only thus can the moral affections be trained and strengthened. Mere feeling and mere willing without knowledge are absolutely impossible experiences, and if possible, they would be irrational and immoral. It is the grand distinction of Christianity that it is ethical and not magical in all its processes and spirit. It rests on facts. It moves in the sphere of personal relations. It is a spiritual power acting through the instrumentality of truth addressed to the reason, and made effectual upon the soul by the power of the Divine Spirit. And the truth, through the medium of knowledge spiritualized, acts on the emotions and will, and transforms character and governs life.

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