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I enclose my subscription for another year for your valuable periodical; also an amount sufficient for me to receive with it a copy of " The Fire of God's Anger." From my heart I wish you God-speed in your effort to emancipate the Presbyterian Church, of which I have been a member for more than fifty years, from the " orthodox muddle," which makes it a spectacle to the world, and is rapidly alienating the present generation whose ancestors have been its devoted adherents. I have been
taking the past year, but I much prefer your magazine,
as I can unhesitatingly pass it around among my friends. I am praying most earnestly to be kept from error, and to be led into *• all truth. I presume you are familiar with the " Life and Letters of Thomas Erskine." He cherished most decidedly the larger hope. I had the pleasure of meeting socially Archdeacon Farrar when he was visiting this country. His simple, earnest piety increased my confidence that he had received his commission to write his comforting book on " Eternal Hope" from the great Head of the Church. The Bible has become increasingly precious to me since I have received, I believe, from a Divine source, the blessed, restful assurance that God's purposes of mercy are as wide as the human race. Again, wishing you God-speed in your noble, praiseworthy mission, I am yours, in the hope of His coming, who is the vanquisher of sin, the grave and hell.
A co-presbyter writes concerning the late meeting of Presbytery:
I feared there would be little declaration on the side of broader eschatology. I suppose "its hour is not yet," as Phillips Brooks has significantly applied the text to various morningstar stages of reforms. When I awoke this morning, with my first thoughts concerning the affair came Galileo's words: "And yet it moves." I wonder if any one supposes that such Presbyterial action can really stay growing convictions, or make the fictitious unanimity any more substantial 1 And I wonder if the conscience of the Church can much longer stand this sham? Is it not queer how persons will in one breath declare their conviction that the Standards are faulty and should be revised, and in the next exclaim, with reference to work like yours, "Our Sumpter has been fired upon, and we must defend it?"
Words Of Reconciliation.
Vol. IV.] JUNE, 1888. [No. 6
WANTED—A JERUSALEM CHAMBER.
The suggestion made in the letter of the Rev. L. E. Coyle to the West Jersey Presbytery, published in our last number, is a most important one. The writer pleads, not only for the toleration, but for the encouragement of a class of men in the Presbyterian Church who, in submission to the Divine Spirit, shall give themselves to a deeper study of the Scriptures than is possible to men occupied with ordinary pastoral labors, and who should be at full liberty to give the results of their studies to the church.
There is a fatal defect in the present constitution of the Presbyterian Church, and the same is true of most of the reformed churches. They were constructed on the principle that the statements of truth embodied in their confessions are final. Anyone who calls in question these statements at an important point, and who puts the question to the test as we did, whether he can honestly do so, is invited to depart. This assumption, that God has nothing more to teach His church on these vital points, is without warrant either of experience or of Scripture. The New Testament everywhere assumes that the Christian body was to grow in the knowledge of the truth until it should reach the goal of "the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Sou of God." For this purpose the ascended Christ has given gifts of ministry, and among them "prophets." These were a class of men who were specially the organs of the Holy Ghost in revealing and unfolding the treasures of wisdom and knowledge hidden in Christ. As the church has not realized the divine ideal of unity, and as the world still refuses to believe, this office cannot yet be superfluous. The men who in our day give themselves reverently and prayerfully to the study of the deep things of God, waiting upon Him for light, and who are opening up new paths of light into the darkness which yet veils from us the perfect knowledge of God, are still fulfilling this office. And the church ought still to heed the solemn injunctions—the two linked into one—"Quench not the spirit, Despise not prophesyings." But the Presbyterian church forbids "prophesying" if it shall at any point contradict the confession. Or, what is far worse, it allows it indulgence, provided such contradictions be only hinted at or covertly concealed. Such a system is ruinous to intellectual honesty. And by so much as falsity is introduced into the region of the mind, it brings blight and confusion into the sphere of life and conduct. All churches should content themselves with creeds which simply assert the great facts of Christianity. If they adopt a catena of inferences from these facts, or of doctrinal statements based upon them, they should systematically provide for a periodical revision of such " standards." There should be a Jerusalem chamber—a college of prophets—the windows of which should always be open toward heaven. Every one of the apostles made progress in the knowledge of the truth. Paul rebuked Peter for his slowness and his dissimulation (Gal. II. 13). Every New Testament writer seemed to perceive aspects of the truth unobserved by their brethren. Nor was it ever designed that the body of their teachings, as given in the inspired volume, should supersede or render nugatory this perpetual presence of the Holy Ghost in living men, as channels of that increasing light which shall lead the church out into perfect day. The Holy Spirit can never contradict His own book. But He never meant that even His book, much less any body of human interpretations of it, should take His own place in the church. Otherwise He would have secured to us an infallible copy. Where now there is more or less doubt about important texts there would have been absolute certainty. All marks of human weakness or mistake would have been obliterated. The church framed the Scriptures, and not the Scriptures the church. The church is obliged in an important sense to sit in judgment upon what claims to be Scripture. All this shows that the need of the perpetual guidance and teaching of the Spirit has not been annulled. It is a crime against the church, and a dishonor to her head, to assume that He has nothing more to teach her than she has already found out, or that her past interpretations of His word are so complete and accurate that she can fix the lines beyond which no one may listen for His voice. The Presbyterian Church is to-day suffering an immense loss of moral power, in that she forces her ministry into an attitude where truth larger than their own system can reach them only in ways more or less surreptitious. While at the same time her most popular preachers are those who quietly ignore the harshest features of her
system, and who make incursions into the larger fields of truth which God is opening up in our day outside of it. But it is melancholy that while doing this they are compelled to stand as the representatives of statements to which they are mentally disloyal. When their sermons deny their creed, not only does their own mental integrity become impaired—and, of necessity, their spiritual vigor—but their congregations detect the inconsistency. They suspect them of trading on false capital, and unwittingly withhold from them the full confidence which only perfect candor and uprightness in one who speaks from God to men can command.
To us the spectacle enacted at Princeton a few days ago seems a sad one. The Rev. R. B. Warfield, D. D., has given evidence in his writings and in his career that he is a man abreast of the times in scholarship, and open to the light which, from many quarters, God is shedding upon us in these latter days. And yet at his recent inauguration he was obliged to take an iron-clad oath that he will teach nothing from his chair of Theology inconsistent at any point with the full Westminster Standards, including the Larger and Shorter Catechisms. No matter what God may teach him out of His Word, or through enlightened minds who are exploring all secrets of the universe and of man, he may not transcend the prescribed limits. If he discover that error has crept in at any point behind these hedges, he may not expose it, no matter how much it may weaken and defile the church. Such men as he is are the very ones who ought to form a Jerusalem Chamber. God has given them the gifts and graces. The church hampers their freedom. It virtually compels them even to pray for