DENOMINATIONAL HONESTY AND HONOR
Honesty is as important in theology as in trade and commerce, in a religious denomination as in a political party. Denominational honesty consists, first, in a clear unambiguous statement by a Church of its doctrinal belief; and, second, in an unequivocal and sincere adoption of it by its members. Both are requisite. If a particular denomination makes a loose statement of its belief which is capable of being construed in more than one sense, it is so far dishonest. If the creed of the denomination is well-drawn and plain, but the membership subscribe to it with mental reservation and insincerity, the denomination is dishonest. Honesty and sincerity are founded in clear conviction, and clear conviction is founded in the knowledge and acknowledgment of the truth. Heresy is a sin, and is classed by St. Paul among the "works of the flesh," along with "adultery, idolatry, murder, envy, and hatred," which exclude from the kingdom of God (Gal. 5: 19-21). But heresy is not so great a sin as dishonesty. There may be honest heresy, but not honest dishonesty. A heretic who acknowledges that he is such, is a better man than he who pretends to be orthodox while subscribing to a creed which he dislikes, and which he saps under pretence of improving it and adapting it to the times. The honest heretic leaves the Church with which he no longer agrees; but the insincere subscriber remains within it in order to carry out his plan of demoralization.
The recent discussions in the Presbyterian Church have disclosed a difference of sentiment respecting the value of denominational honesty. Some of the secular newspapers charge intolerance and persecution upon Presbyterians, when departures from the church creed are made the subject of judicial inquiry, and when individuals are required to conform their teaching from the pulpit or the chair to the denominational standards. In this way a part of the public press is conniving at denominational dishonesty. It would permit church officers to subscribe to a creed and derive the benefit of subscription in the form of reputation or emolument, while working against it. The creed of a Church is a solemn contract between church-members; even more so than the platform of a political party is between politicians. The immorality of violating a contract, a portion of the press does not seem to perceive when a religious denomination is concerned; but when a political party is the body to be affected by the breach of a pledge, none are sharper to see and none are more vehement to denounce the double-dealing. Should a faction arise within the Republican party, for example, and endeavor to alter the platform while still retaining the offices and salaries which they had secured by professing entire allegiance to the party, and promising to adopt the fundamental principles upon which it was founded and by which it is distinguished from the Democratic and other political parties, the charge of political dishonesty would ring through the whole rank and file of Republicanism. And when in the exercise of party discipline such factionists are turned out of office, and perhaps expelled from the political organization, if the cry of political heresyhunting and persecution should be raised, the only answer vouchsafed by the Republican press would be that of scorn. When political dishonesty would claim toleration under cover of more "liberal" politics than the part}* is favoring, and would keep hold on party emoluments while advocating different sentiments from those of the mass of the party, it is curtly told that no one is compelled to join the Republican party or to remain in it, but that if a person does join it or remain in it, he must strictly adopt the party creed and make no attempts, secret or open, to alter it. That a Republican creed is for Republicans and no others, seems to be agreed on all sides; but that a Calvinistic creed is for Calvinists and no others, seems to be doubted by some.
The advocates of this view of a church creed and of creed subscription defend it upon the ground that it is proper to introduce improvements into a denominational creed; that the progress in physics and the spirit of the age require new statements of ethics and religion; and that this justifies the rise within a denomination of a party to make them, and requires that the denomination quietly look on and see it done. This means, for illustration, that a Church adopting the historical eschatology is bound to allow such of its members as think restorationism is an improvement, to attempt the introduction of it into the articles of faith ; or that a Church adopting the Wesleyan Arminianism is obligated to let any of its members who think unconditional election preferable to conditional, endeavor to Calvinize it by introducing this tenet. But should a corresponding liberty be demanded in the political sphere, it would meet with no favor. If in the heart of the Democratic party a school should arise who should claim the right, while still remaining in the party, to convert the body to Republican principles and measures, it would be told that the proper place for such a project is outside of Democracy, not within it. The right of the school to its own opinions would not be disputed, but the right to maintain and spread them with the funds and influence of the Democratic party would be denied. Democrats to a man would employ Luther's illustration in a similar instance: "We cannot prevent the birds from flying over our heads, but we can prevent them from making their nests in our hair." They would say to the malecontents, "We cannot prevent you from having your own peculiar views and do not desire to, but you have no right to ventilate them in our organization." Should the officers of the New York custom-house or post-office insist upon employing the salaries of these large institutions in transforming the politics of the party that placed them there, no cry of " persecution " would deter the party from immediately cashiering the whole set. And yet some of the secular press, and some also of the religious, contend that it is proper for subscribers to the Westminster Confession to attempt a radical alteration of the denominational theology from within the denomination, and that it is suppressing free inquiry and the right of private judgment when seven-eighths of the Presbyterian Church represented in its highest court, put a veto upon such an attempt.
In such ecclesiastical action there is no denial of the right of private judgment, and of free inquiry into any system of doctrine whatever; only, it is claimed that those who dissent from the accepted creed of the denomination, if they are a minority, must go outside of it if they wish to construct a new scheme. The satisfied majority have the right of free inquiry and private judgment as well as the dissatisfied minority, and in the exercise of it stand by the creed as it is. Consequently, if discontent with the denominational standard arises in the minds of some, the proper place for their experiments in theologizing is within a new organization, and not in the old one which does not like their experiments. For this reason, from time immemorial, a religious denomination has always claimed the right to expel persons who are heretics as judged by the denominational creed. Only in this way can a denomination live and prosper. To throw down its doctrinal limits and convert itself into an unfenced common for all varieties of belief to ramble over, would not be useful either to society or religion.
But here the question arises, Who is to interpret the church creed, and say whether a proposed scheme of doctrine agrees with it, or contradicts it? Who is to say what is heresy from the stand-point of the denominational system? Certainly the denomination, and not the individual or school which is charged with heresy. This is a point of great importance. For those who are charged with heterodoxy commonly define orthodoxy in their own way, and claim not to have departed from what they regard as the essentials of the denominational system. The Arminian party in the Dort controversy contended that their modifications of doctrine were moderate and not antagonistic to the Reformed creeds. The Semi-Arians in the English Church asserted that their view of the Trinity did not differ essentially from that of the Nicene fathers. In each of these instances, the accused party complained that their statements were misapprehended by their opponents, and contended that the Church was mistaken in supposing that they could not be harmonized with the ancestral faith. The same assertion of being misunderstood and the same claim to be orthodox, marks the existing trial in the Presbyterian Church.
Now in determining what is the true meaning of the phraseology in a proposed alteration of the denominational creed, and what will be the natural influence of it if it is allowed to be taught, it is plain that it is for the denomination to decide. In case of a difference in understanding and interpreting a written document containing proposed changes in the church creed, the rule of the common law applies, that the accused party cannot be the final judge of the meaning and tendency of his own document, but that the court must be. And the denomination is the court. There is no hardship or unfairness in this. A denominational judgment is very certain to be equitable, be it in Church or State. The history of politics shows that the decisions of the great political parties respecting the real meaning of their platforms, and the conformity of individuals with them, have generally been correct. And the history of religion also shows that the judgments of the great ecclesiastical bodies respecting the teachings of their standards, and the agreement or disagreement of particular schools of theology with them, have been accurate. Those individuals and parties who have been declared to be heterodox, politically or theologically, by the deliberate vote of the body to which they belonged, have generally been so. It is rare that the majority has been in error, and the minority in the right.
Denominational honesty is closely connected with denominational honor. Those churches which have been the most frank in announcing their creed, and the most strict in insisting upon an honest interpretation and adoption of it by their membership, have been characterized by a scrupulous regard for the rights of other churches. Being satisfied with their own doctrinal position, and confident of the truth of their articles of faith, they have not invaded other denominations in order to alter their creed or to obtain their prestige. In this respect, the Calvinists of Christendom compare favorably with some of their opponents who charge them with illiberality and bigotry. It is true that in the times when the union of Church and 164 THIS BOOK IS DUE OK THE LAST DATE STAMPED BELOW
CALVINISM: PURE AND MIXED
State was universal, and the spread of any other religion but that of the State was regarded as menacing to the political weal, Calvinists like all other religious parties endeavored to suppress all creeds but the established. But they were ever in the van for the separation of Church and State, and for the religious toleration which naturally accompanies this. And ever since religious toleration has become the principle of Christendom, and the Protestant right of private judgment has become dominant, Calvinism has not been intolerant, or disposed to interfere with the creeds, institutions, and emoluments of other chinches. It sets a good example in this respect. There is no instance upon record, that we remember, in which Calvinists have secretly tampered with the creed of another ecclesiastical bod\', and endeavored to seduce its membership from their loyalty to the articles of belief publicly adopted by them. From their own open and declared Calvinistic position, they have of course criticised and opposed other creeds, because they believed them to be more or less erroneous, but they have never adopted the plan of creeping into another denomination by subscribing to its articles, and then from that position endeavoring to revolutionize the body which it professed to join in good faith. No part of Christendom has been more free from insincerity and dissimulation than the Calvinistic churches.
"The most learned and searching work in its line that hat appeared in this country within the present generation."
— CHICAGO TRIBUNE.
By WILLIAM G. T. SHEDD, D.D.,
Professor of Systematic Theology in Union Theological Seminary.
Second Edition, Two Volumes, 8vo, with Portrait, Price 97.00.
"Dr. Shedd's theology is full of the word of God in its very essence, it is pervaded by the great thoughts of the master-minds of all the ages, and it is presented to us in a style remarkable for its purity and clearness. The student who masters these volumes will be well armed for controversy and well equipped for teaching."—New York Observer.
"These volumes are, in more senses than one, weighty. They are full of matter. Dr. Shedd is master of a singularly clear, strong:, and expressive style, and wastes no words. Ample as are his discussions, there is nothing superfluous. His full, yet choice diction, admirably sets forth his profound and well ordered thought. *'—Watchman^ Boston.
"The two volumes are the result of eighteen years of special study, and of forty years labor in theological research. The treatment is such as might be expected of Dr. Shedd: scholarly, profound, devout, thorough."—New York Examiner.
"As a whole, the work is the clearest and most exhaustive statement of dogmatic theology that has yet been made, and for that reason it is likely to attract as much attention from scientists as from theologians."—Philadelphia Times.
"The style never labors nor becomes obscure. The reader is never in doubt as to the meaning of the author. The work easily takes precedence among the various presentations of Puritan Calvinism, and will have a permanent value as an explanation ot that influential system of religious philosophy."—A ndover Review.
"Dr. Shedd's great power is in the clearness and fulness and exactness of his doctrinal statements, and in their illustration. He is a master of sentences. No one can doubt his meaning. These volumes are therefore eminently readable and many an earnest student will find strength and inspiration in reading them thoroughly from end to end."—Chicago Standard.
"Into these ample volumes, as into a reservoir, have flowed all the streams of Dr. Shedd's lifelong studies—literary, ethical, philosophical, exegetical, scientific, and theological. It is delightful to think of the usefulness for generations of these volumes to ministers and students. To Dr. Shedd we extend our hearty thanks for this great work."—New York Evangelist.
"There are two features of the work that specially aid in making it a fine text-book. In the first place, it is didactic rather than polemic. He states, expounds, and defends what he believes to be the true view and spends little time in expounding and opposing heresies. In the second place, the discussions are compact. The style is absolutely clear, and no subject that he undertakes to unfold is at all slighted, but there is no waste of words. We congratulate Dr. Shedd on the completion of this great work. We congratulate the readers of theology on their possession of it."—Rev. John Dewitt, in The Presbyterian Review.
"The students of Dr. Charles Hodge will find it very profitable to put this work beside his. On some of the particulars of the Calvinistic or Augustinian. or Pauline system, the two differ. The contrast in the plan and working out and style of the two works is great. Hut they are the complements, each of the other. It will be an intellectual tonic to read the two together. We wish that every minister had them both."
"This vigorous, mature, and stately work is likely to become one of the standard authorities of scholarly orthodoxy. Its chief peculiarities are its solidity, scripturalness, and massive logical force. Professor Shefld is himself a master in theology, and he has reverence for masters in his own department."—Our Day,
Dr. Shedd's Works.
"These volumes will take rank as they will naturally be compared with, the encyclopaedic treatise of Dr. Charles Hodge, and they will stand well this severe test. Less full and exhaustive in the citation of authorities and the discussion of opposing views, its positive and constructive features are equally strong. In one feature Dr. Shedd's treatment of theological questions will he more satisfactory to many minds than Dr. Hodge's, and that is, the wider scope and office he accords to the reason, in the formulation and defence of doctrines. He writes from the postulate that while the reason may not independently discover the dogmas of revealed religion, and a revelation is necessary, yet a true dogma, when revealed, will be so accordant with reason, that its aid may and must be invoked for its understanding and confirmation."—•Christian Intelligencer.
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"The thought which they express is not only profound and well wrought out, but it has a certain grip on the mind which insures more than a temporary influence however strong that may be.''—Congregationalist, Boston.
"All are nobly written. All contain passages which could have been produced by no one but a master of style. Most of them are truly eloquent, and their eloquence is of the highest type."—Presbyterian^ Pa.
"The last two discourses, entitled ,* Every Christian a Debtor to the Pagan," and *' The Certain Success of Evangelistic Labor," place the duty of the world's Christianization upon its broad Scriptural foundations, and set forth the reasons for its progressive and ultimate triumphs with inspiring eloquence."—Christian Intelli* gencer, New York.
"To all minds awake and in earnest touching spiritual things, we can unreservedly commend this volume. It will be sure to aid in the struggle against sin, and in victory over it."—New York Evangelist.
"The sermons are peculiarly adapted for reading, and they are among the most ipi ritual and thoughtful discourses that have been published in recent years."— Wesleyan Christian Advocate.
"Dr. Shedd's sermons command respect from the intellectual ability of theit luthor. They are interesting exhibitions of the way in which a modern Calvinist, who holds with great tenacity to the Augustinian theology, views divine progress in its relation to human character and destiny. The new departure has not yet invaded Dr. Shedd's mind to any extent. Consequently, to a progressive Christian thinker, Ihe premises of most of his discourses are unacceptable."—Christian Register, Boston.
They are distinguished by a clear and luminous style, and the boldness and frigor which comes from profound conviction. No better volume of sermons, none more thoughtful, spiritual, or satisfying, has come from the press for a long time."—• Christian at Work, New York.
k| We commend these sermons to our readers ; for though, as a Presbyterian divine, we could not endorse all his views, yet, upon the great essential doctrines and duties Df Christianity, we are much at one with him."—Churchman, New York.
A HISTORY OF CHRISTIAN DOCTRINE.
•* Dr. Shedd has furnished an important contribution to the study of church history. To have made a readable book—a book which must interest the general scholar as well as the professed theologian—on a topic so difficult and so remote from the ordinary interests and literary currents of the time, is itself a rare and very great merit, demanding graceful recognition from all the scholars of the land."—North A merican Review.
"It is many years since a more valuable contribution has been made, in this country or England, to theological literature ; one the study of which will yield riper fruits of Christian knowledge. These volumes are marked by a thoroughness of knowledge and clearness of statement, as well as by a certain vital element which pervades them, and which shows the love of the author for his great theme, and that he takes his position, not without but within his subject, and so relates the transformations and developments of religious thought as if he had himself passed through them."—Bibliotheca Sacra.
*' We hold that this is the most important contribution that has been made to our theological literature during the present age."—Presbyterian Standard.
"In our judgment, no production of greater moment has been given to the public for a long time."—Princeton Review.
"A body of theological history which is in form as perfect as it is in substance excellent."—N. Y. Evening Post.
It well deserves an honorable and permanent place in the standard literature of theology."—New Englander.
*4A rich addition to our theological literature."—A merican Theological Review.
"Dr. Shedd's History of Christian Doctrine, on its first appearance, was unanimously recognized as filling with remarkable success a blank that had existed in our English literature on this important subject, and it still holds the foremost place in works of this class."—Edinburgh Daily Review.
HOMILETICS AND PASTORAL THEOLOGY.
'The work will be found to be an admirable guide and stimulus in whatever per. tains to this department of theology. The student finds himself in the hands of a master able to quicken and enlarge his scope and spirit. The homiletical precepts •re well illustrated by the author's own style, which is muscular, while quivering with nervous life. Nowadays one rarely reads such good English writing—elevated »nd clear, sinewy and flexible, transparent for the thought. Each topic is handled in a true progressive method. Our young ministers may well make a study of this took. —American Theol, Revitw,
Dr. Shedd's Works.
COMMENTARY ON ROMANS.
** No better discipline could be suggested to a young minister than a patient and faithful study of a volume like this .... not only because it is the freshest, but because it is so purely intellectual and spiritual, wasting no time upon side issues, but grappling manfully with the highest and most recondite themes.'*—Christian Intelh gencer.
** We know of no commentary by any living author on this epistle that, in our esti tnation, deserves to be esteemed above it."—Hartford Religious Herald.
"To the thorough learning of an accomplished scholar, it adds a style of special grace, luminous without superficiality, and, sparkling without levity."—Lutheran. Missionary.
"We consider this volume to be indispensable to a theological library."—Richmond Central Presbyterian.
"We have been instructed, interested, and edified as we have turned over his pages, and while not agreeing with him in all particulars, we have always been compelled by him to revise our views, and give a reason for our preference."— Christian at Work.
"The commentary is brief; there is no verbiage, no amplification, no preaching; it is as clear as crystal.''—Illustrated Christian Weekly.
"We like thoroughly the keenly critical scholarship of Dr. Shedd's book and the
vigor of his style We commend the work as an excellent stimulus, and a
great help in doctrinal study."—Congregationalism
* * Like the previous writings of Professor Shedd, this learned and scholarly volume is remarkable for the acute insight with which it applies profound philosophical principles to the elucidation of religious doctrine."—N. Y. Tribune.
"His productions are never of an ephemeral character; though often separated by a wide interval of years, they possess the unity which grows out of thoroughness of examination and earnestness of conviction ; powerful in argument, lucid in exposition, and effective in style, they challenge the inlerest of many readers who arc unable to assent to their cor. elusions."—N. Y. Tribune.
"Here is something deserving a permanent place in the realm of reading
We wish to notice especially, commending it at the same time to the careful study of everyone, the essay on 'The Influence and Method of English Studies.' . . . *. We can, without hesitation, say, that it is one of the most profound, and thoughtful, and scholarly productions on this subject that wc have ever read."—The Churchman.
"The essays, one and all, are worthy of the Professor's pen. They reveal extensive reading, culture of a high order, and sympathy with all that is true and beautiful and good in nature, in life, and in art."—N. Y. Scotsman.
"They bear the marks of the author's scholarship, dignity, and polish of style, and profound and severe convictions of truth and righteousness as the basis of culture as well as character."—Chicago Interior.
"The severe and chastened beauty of his style is a fit vehicle for the lofty truths among which his mind ranges, and which he here announces and defends.1'—Presbyterian.
"Dr. Shedd deals with themes not of passing but of enduring importance, and his productions on these subjects, being those of a wide reader and profound thinker, will always be valuable."—Christian at Work.
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