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wife? What shall we say of a performance which goes under the name of religion, in which one party asks a question and another answers it, and both parties understand that conscience plays no part? The performance is merely paying respect to traditional ritual, and question and answer are to be understood in a Pickwickian sense.
It is to be noticed, however, that Mr. Vrooman diverges from the Calvinistic system, not only at the points where that system differs from other schools of theology, but at those vital points in which all evangelical churches agree. Take from the Confession of Faith the doctrines of Christ's propitiatory sacrifice, the imputation of Christ's righteousness, and the endlessness of the punishment of sin, and you leave no system of doctrine; not only is the integrity of the Calvinistic system impaired, but the very keystone in the arch of evangelical truth is knocked out, and the whole structure tumbles into ruin.
On the merits of the case, one and a quarter hours were allotted to each party. At the conclusion of the arguments, the commission went into private session for deliberation, the result of which was to sustain the complaint by a vote of fifteen to eight. The judgment of the commission reported to synod to be spread on its minutes as the final judgment in the case was as follows:
"In the case of the complaint of Rev. W. 8. P. Bryan, D. D., and others. against the action of the Chicago Presbytery in receiving the Rev. Frank B. Vrooman on presentation of a letter from a Congregational Church, and his examination in reference to his doctrinal views submitted to a commission of the Synod of Illinois, the said commission recognizes the due care recognized by the presbytery in Mr. Vrooman's examination, and the bonesty of the majority who voted to sustain that examination; nevertheless, without impugning the loyalty of that presbytery to the accepted doctrines of our church, we judge that the evidence presented to us proves plainly that Mr. Vrooman expresses his belief in language too sharply conflicting with our doctrinal standards to entitle him to admission to our ministry, and that the presbytery erred in receiving him.
“We, therefore, direct the said Presbytery of Chicago to reconsider and re-verse its action on the question of sustaining the examination of said Rev. Frank. B. Vrooman, and to return him his credentials."
This resnlt gives pleasure to all those who are interested in the preservation of the Westminster Standards. Had synod given its sanction to the proceedings of Chicago Presbytery, it would have
added the weight of its authority to sink out of sight these stand-
He is not the kind of man that a church can bar from its ministry without a pang of regret. For a young man, his culture is broad and varied, his tastes are literary, his thought fresh and vigorous, his style polished and attractive, and his influence over his audience most marked.
2. The church that asked for him as pastor is an influential church. While young, it contains wealth and social position, and is capable of speaking with a voice that cannot be lightly disregarded. It threatened to go into independency rather than suffer its pastor to be taken from it.
3. The sixty-nine members of the Chicago Presbytery who voted to receive Mr. Vrooman were men of prominence. To demand of them that they should reverse their action was to put on them an unpleasant task. The commission did all it could by sweet and gracious language to so sugar-coat the rebuke as to make it palatable, but it was too bitter to be disguised. It could not be swallowed without a wry face.
4. The thing complained of was a thing already done, and time enough had elapsed for excited feelings to abate. In such case, there is a strong temptation to leave things in statu quo, even though the judgment might wish them otherwise. “He that meddleth with strife is like one that taketh a dog by the ears." Sensible and peaceable men do not fancy taking a dog by the ears, especially an ecclesiastical dog.
All these considerations favored the defendants and give additional weight to the adverse decisions of synod. Two things favored the cause of the complainants, and account for their victory:
1. The ability and thoroughness of their prosecution. Dr. Bryan and his coadjutors left nothing to the hap-hazard of the occasion. They trusted not to any impromptu work, nor did they rely upon memory to recall on the spur of the moment such con
siderations as the exigencies of the case might demand. They carried up to synod a printed brief, containing (1), A history of the case; (2), The complaint, with the grounds and the proof; (3), A statement of facts showing the complaint to be in order; (4), Reasons for proceeding to trial; (5), An elaborate argument on the jurisdiction of synod; (6), An exposition of the method of procedure, and (7), Twenty pages of compact and exhaustive argument on the merits of the case. The whole brief covers forty pages, and suggests the irony which every child recognizes in the title of our “Shorter” Catechism. The complainants looked at the case, with keen eyes, from every conceivable point of view, and were prepared to place it before synod with all its intricacies laid bare. They had won their case before synod met. The Michigan Presbyterian describes the situation happily: "It was like General Grant's seige of Vicksbnrg, everything slowly, deliberately, but invincibly concentrated upon a certain point, which made final surrender as inevitable as a logical syllogism."
2. The one other consideration that helped the complainants to win their case was the honest adherence of the synod, as a body, to those venerable confessional documents on which the denominational structure of Presbyterianism rests. We are constantly informed, by pulpit, press and platform, that our progressive age is not standing still in theology; that the churches are outgrowing their creeds and leaving them behind; that the nineteenth century cannot be anchored to the seventeeth century. There are some of us who exult whenever such information is discredited by facts. We rejoice when we see a great church paying homage still to that “form of sound words” which braced the hearts of a martyr ancestry. We rejoice that others beside ourselves believe that all true progress in theology is a progress backward. The goal of highest possible attainment was reached when the Apostle John said, “Even so come, Lord Jesus," and laid down his pen. Nothing is left to the church but to study the book, and to formulate its teachings into a logical system.
It is not a violent presumption to suppose that sixteen hundred years allows time enough for the great and good of successive generations to cull out and put in proper relation the leading doctrines of the book. We do not, therefore, offer any apology for regarding with profound veneration the Westminster Standards, especially since the ripest scholarship and devoutest piety of the intervening two hundred years have compared them carefully, over and over again, with the inspired oracles, and pronounced the harmony perfect. We agree with Mr. Vrooman in that we “do not believe in the verbal inspiration of the standards of the Presbyterian Church”; we differ with him in that we believe they are far more nearly in accord with inspiration than his divergencies are. But let the standards of the church be what they may in respect of their conforinity with the word of God, it is perfectly evident that they cease to be standards when the church ceases to use them as the measure of orthodoxy for her teachers. Let not the church go through the farce of demanding subscription to them, if she is going to admit one who subscribes to the ranks of her ministry on the ground of his own private creed. Let her not have it understood that subscription does not bind the conscience, but leaves the subscriber free to hold and teach doctrines fundamentally hostile. Above all things, the church should be honest, and should demand honesty. There are plenty of pulpits and platforms in other communions for those who cannot subscribe ex animo to each and all the doctrines which together make up the system contained in her standards.
IX. CRITICISMS AND REVIEWS.
BEATTIE'S PRESBYTERIAN STANDARDS. THE PRESBYTERIAN STANDARDS: AN EXPOSITION OF THE WESTMINSTER CONFESSION
OF FAITH AND CATECHISMS. By Rev. Francis R. Beattie, B. D., Ph. D., D. D. Richmond: Presbyterian Committee of Publication. 1896. Pp. 431. $2.00.
Dr. Beattie belongs to the Southern Presbyterian Church by adoption. He is a native of Canada. In 1888 he left his pastorate at Brantford, Canada, and removed to Columbia, South Carolina, where he occupied the chair of Natural Science in Connection with Revelation and Christian Apologetics, discharging the duties of that professorship for five years with great ability, and to the satisfaction of his brethren. In 1893 he resigned his place in Columbia, and became the occupant of the chair of systematic theology and apologetics in the Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary, the duties of which he is now performing. He is growing in the favor and love of the church he serves. An able and godly man; ripe and rich in scholarship; strong and courageous, while cautious and tactful, in his defences of the faith; clear and conservative in his expositions of evangelical truth; skilful and successful in his labors as an educator; thoroughly and conscientiously out of sympathy with all radicalism in criticism, in science, in philosophy, in theology, in apologetics-our church is proud of him, and has placed him at the front, given to him its confidence, and believes that he will gnard his trust with fidelity and ability of no ordinary degree.
Dr. Beattie is the author of An Examination of Utilitarianism, l'he Methods of Theism, and Radical Criticism. To this list he has now added the work which is before us. In these books he stands squarely against rationalism, and for conservative and traditional orthodoxy. He is a Calvinist of the school of the Hodges. His theological alignment is with the federalists, and the covenant is, with him, a ruling factor in anthropology and soteriology. He stands in with our own matchless Thornwell.
The book on our desk is what it professes to be—an exposition. It is not a speculation; it is not an attempt to evolve a system of theology from the Westminster Standards as a genetic base; it is an interpretation of those venerable formularies. True exposition devotes itself to the definition of terms, or, rather, more broadly and accurately, to the definition and explication of ideas and generalizations. It is not concerned, at least primarily, with establishing either the falsity or the truth of its subject matter; still, incidentally, good, clear-cut exposition is often the most conclusive form of argument. Disputants would often come to agreement if they would stop to define their terms. This form of composition underlies the whole field of serious and didactic writing. The attributes of good exposition are plainness, clearness, and simplicity. These qualities are found in this book in an eminent degree. We desire at this point to express two or three specific judgments upon Dr. Beattie's work.