« AnteriorContinuar »
Britain. Their synod was constituted in Philadelphia, in 1809, before which time they had existed as a presbytery, and their principles are exhibited in a book entitled, “Reformation Principles,” in which they testify, in the most explicit manner, against the Hopkinsian errors. Like that of the reforined Dutch church, this creed has never been changed. They are distinguished from all other presbyterians, by their doctrines on civil government. Adopting the principles embraced in the national covenant of Scotland, and in the Solemn League and Covenant, they hold themselves bound to testify against every government in a Chris tian country that will not acknowledge explicitly the head. ship of Messiah over the nations, and the Bible as the standard of civil legislation; hence they disapprove of the federal constitution, in which there is no allegiance acknowledged to the government of God, and they admit none to church privileges who will not join with them in the testimony, and in acknowledgment of the principles contained in the British covenants. They also disapprove of that part of the constitution, which admits atheists and deists to the occupation of civil offices. The calling of conventions of ministers (as the state of Connecticut called the convention which formed the Saybrook Platform) for consultation, they believe to be calculated for the promotion of the interests of truth, and the welfare of a nation. In this manner they contend that every nation in its civil capacity should subserve the moral, spiritual, and ecclesiastical interests of men, and the glory of God.
With such principles and great strictness of practice, not admitting any to baptism for their children, nor to the Lord's Supper, who do not practice statedly family devotion, and acknowledge their creed, it would at first sight seem that their increase must be very slow. They have, however, increased with great rapidity, notwithstanding the unpopularity of many of their principles, and strict practices. In the year 1800, they had not more than three organized congregations in America, and they have now twenty preachers and pearly forty congregations. The Rev. John Black, of
this church, was settled in Pittsburgh in 1801, and though when he first visited that country, not long before, there were not more than five families of the denomination, yet there are now four settled ministers in Pennsylvania, west of the mountains, and numerous vacancies.
They have also established a theological school, which is located in Philadelphia. Measures were taken for this object in 1807, at the session of the Reformed Presbytery in Frank. lin county, Pennsylvania; and the Rev. (now Dr.) Samuel B. Wylie was appointed professor of theology. Dr. Wylie was educated at Glasgow college, in which he received the first honour, in a class of one hundred. Soon after he graduated, he emigrated to America, and was for some time employed as a teacher in the University of Pennsylvania. After he was licensed to preach the gospel, he travelled as a missionary from the state of Vermont to South Carolina, both through the western and Atlantic states, and was instrumental in organizing congregations and societies. He accepted a call from a congregation in Philadelphia, but before he entered on his pastoral care, returned to Glasgow, and heard the lectures of one season. Soon after his return to Philadelphia, he was made a professor of languages in the university of Pennsylvania, in which station he continued for several years. His knowledge of the oriental and several modern languages, of philosophy and divinity, is accurate and extensive. He has heard nearly all the lectures delivered in the medical school in Philadelphia:
In the autumn of 1810, this theological school was opened. Several young men, educated in this institution, have been ordained to the ministry, and settled in pastoral charges. It requires four winters to complete the course. Peculiar attention is paid to metaphysics, belles lettres, sacred history, and Hebrew, during the first two winters. The last two winters are chiefly occupied in Biblical criticism and theology. On these subjects the professor delivers extemporaneous lectures. The superintendents of the seminary are the Rev. Dr. M'Leod, the Rev. Messrs. Gibson, Black, and M.Master. The number of young men prosecuting theological
studies during the winter of 1816-17, was ten. The supply of ministers afforded to this church is by no means equal to its increase. The Rev. Mr. Rylie, of the southern presbytery, during the last year, performed a missionary tour of five months, in which time, he organized five congregations, from every one of which he received a call to become
All the influence of this seminary is in the orthodox interest; and the acquisitions of the pupils in metaphysics and Biblical criticism, will render them able advocates for the truth, while the habits of the church, to which they belong, will make them willing to enter the lists of controversy.
The four seminaries of the Presbyterian Churches, have their distinctive properties and their peculiar features. That of the Associate Reformed is distinguished for the aptness of its young men to teach, and an imitation of Dr. Mason's eloquence; that of the Reformed Dutch Church, for the acquisitions of its alumni in didactic theology; that of the General Assembly for the zeal, and pastoral qualifications of its sons; and that of the Reformed Presbyterian Church for the attainments of its pupils in metaphysics, composition, and Biblical criticism. Could all these be united, in one institution, and their whole force be brought to bear upon the hosts of heretics, upon the promotion of truth, and the advancement of practical piety, how desirable, how glorious an object would be gained! We may console ourselves, however, with the reflection that all belong to the church of God, are one in principle on the atonement, and all harmonize in their attempts to dissipate the noxious vapours that are diffusing their pestilential influence over the land. Were it asked whether, the present state and prospects of the church, demand rather an affectionate ministry, in whom feeling prevails, or a ministry in whose devotions the intellectual character predominates; it ought to be answered without hesitation, if the frailty of human nature renders it impossible to combine the ardent love of a John with the intellectual power and doctrinal perspicuity of a Paul; let us have Pauls for our ministers. It is the general belief of Christians that
the millennial glory of the church is approaching, “ when the greatness of the kingdom under the whole heaven shall be given to the saints of the Most High.” It is vain to expect
that such an event shall take place without a great conflict. In all ages of the church, when there has been any great revival, when any great reformation has been effected, it has been by a conflict between truth and error, proportioned in magnitude to the effect produced. How was it that the apostle Paul was made the instrument of Christianizing the Roman empire, and of shaking the throne of the Cesars to its foundations? Doubtless, by his vast powers of reasoning, accompanied by the blessing of God; for when he raises up very learned men, of vast conceptions, and acute habits of reasoning, we may reasonably conclude, that such instruments have been prepared for some valuable purpose. May we not say the same of those
who the instruments in the hand of Heaven, of effecting the Reformation from popery? Did not the reasoning powers of Zuinglius, of Luther, of Beza, of Calvin, of Knox, of Da Moulin, &c. preponderate! Then too there was a tremendous conflict of opinions, which agitated the whole world, and excited into action all its intellectual fibres.
The age of controversy has now commenced in the Christian world. Errors of the most destructive nature have been poured upon the church in copious floods, for more than a century, and comparatively little has been done by the friends of truth; but they begin now to awake, and are girding on the harness. A spirit is beginning to be aroused, which nothing can quell. That ministry then who are the most learned, intellectual, polemic and faithful, will be the most successful. While the church then should spare no pains to have a pious, and ardently zealous ministry, let her bend her most vigorous efforts, after she has selected pious candidates, to the cultivation of those characteristics, which the signs of the times peculiarly demand. Let her teach her sons of the prophets to expect, and prepare to enter the field of combat. Let them be taught to imitate an
Owen, a Magee, a Horseley, a Scott, a M‘Leod, a Campbell, an Ely, and a M‘Master, in polemic divinity.
We have yet another denomination of Presbyterians to review-the German Calvinists. They are chiefly confined to Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Maryland, though they have a few congregations in New York and in Ohio. A few of these people emigrated to Pennsylvania not long after the commencement of settlements in the colony. They derive their origin from the Reformed church in Germany, and hold in high estimation the character of Zuinglius and Luther. The Heidelburgh catechism is the manual which they use for the instruction of their children, and as their standard of divine truth. They have published no statistical tables; but they are known to have between fifty and sixty ministers. The disadvantages under which they have laboured, in relation to schools of literature, and the tenacity with which they adhere to the language of their fathers, nearly all their ministers preaching in the German language, have rendered it impossible for their clergy to become very learned. There is not much education among the laity. Their religious associations have been, until very lately, much confined to their own society. Among them, there exists very considerable diversity of sentiment in relation to the doctrine of divine decrees, the imputation of Adam's sin, the impotency of human nature, and the extent of the atone. ment. Some of them embrace precisely the doctrines of the Genevan school; they are, however, the minor number. The greater part of them are Arminians, and some are suspected of Socinianism; but as a body, they are opposed to this heresy. It is on this ground that they refuse to admit to their communion, and to associate among them as ministers, emigrants from the reformed churches in Germany, until they have submitted to an examination, as to their sound. ness in the faith; for the general mass of ministers in Germany has been found tainted with Socinianism.
They have for many years contemplated the formation of a theological school, under the patronage of their synod, but they have not yet been able to effect it. Their young