Page:EB1911 - Volume 22.djvu/300

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been validated.

as introducing a discipline of stern repression which made the innocent gaieties of life impossible, and produced a dull uniformity of straitlaced manners and hypocritical morals. The discipline was there before the Reformers. There were civil laws which regulated clothing, food and social festivity. Hence friction, at times, between the Reformers and civic authorities friendly to the Reformation; not as to whether there should be “discipline” (that was never doubted) but as to whether it should be ecclesiastical or municipal. Even, therefore, where people desired the Reformation there were powerful influences opposed to the setting up of church government and to the exercise of church discipline after the manner of the apostolic Church; and one ceases to wonder at the absence of complete Presbyterianism in the countries which were forward to embrace and adopt the Reformation. Indeed the more favourable the secular authorities were to the Reformation the less need was there to discriminate between civil and ecclesiastical power, and to define strictly how the latter should be exercised. We look in vain, therefore, for much more than the germs and principles of Presbyterianism in the churches of the first Reformers. Its evolution and the thorough application of its principles to actual church life came later, not in Saxony or Switzerland, but in France and Scotland; and through Scotland it has passed to all English-speaking lands.

The doctrines of Presbyterianism are those generally known as evangelical and Calvinistic. The supreme standard of Theology. belief is the Word of God in the original languages. The subordinate standards have been numerous, though marked by striking agreement in the main body of Christian doctrine which they set forth. Much has been done of late years to make these subordinate standards of reformed doctrine more generally known. The following list is fairly complete: —

Switzerland.—First Helvetic Confession (1536). Geneva Confession (1536). Geneva Catechism (1545).

England.—Forty-two Articles (1553). Thirty-eight Articles (1565). Thirty-nine Articles (1571). Lambeth Articles (1595). Irish Articles (1615). Westminster Confession (1644-1647). Larger and Shorter Catechisms (1647).

France.—Confessio gallicana (1559).

Scotland.—Scottish Confession (1560). Westminster Confession (1647). Larger and Shorter Catechisms (1647).

Netherlands.—Frisian Confession (1528). Confessio belgica (1561). Netherlands Confession (1566).

Hungary.—Hungarian Confession (1562).

Bohemia.—Bohemian Confession (1609).

The form of worship associated with Presbyterianism has been marked by extreme simplicity. It consists of reading of Presbyterian Worship. Holy Scripture, psalmody, non-liturgical prayer and preaching. There is nothing in the standards of the Presbyterian Church against liturgical worship. In some of the early books of order a few forms of prayer were given, but their use was not compulsory. On the whole, the preponderating preference has always been in favour of so-called extemporaneous, or free prayer; and the Westminster Directory of Public Worship has to a large extent stereotyped the form and order of the service in most Presbyterian churches. Within certain broad outlines much, perhaps too much, is left to the choice of individual congregations. It used to be customary among Presbyterians to stand during public prayer, and to remain seated during the acts of praise, but this peculiarity is no longer maintained. The psalms rendered into metre were formerly the only vehicle of the Church's public praise, but hymns are now also used in most Presbyterian churches.[1] Organs used to be. regarded as contrary to New Testament example, but their use is now all but universal. The public praise used to be led by an individual called the “preceptor,” who occupied a box in front of, and a little lower than the pulpit. Choirs of male and female voices now lead the church praise.

Presbyterianism has two sacraments, baptism and the Lord's Supper. Baptism is administered both to infants and adults by Sacraments. pouring or sprinkling, but the mode is considered immaterial. The Lord's Supper, as generally observed throughout the various Presbyterian churches, is a close imitation of the New Testament practice; and where it is not marred by undue prolixity commends itself to most Christian people as a solemn and impressive service. The old plan of coming out and taking one's place at the communion table in the body of the church is unhappily seen no more; communicants now receive the sacred elements seated in their pews. The dispensing of this rite is strictly reserved to an ordained minister, who is assisted by elders in handing the bread and the cup to the people. The administration of private communion to the sick and dying is extremely rare in Presbyterian churches, but there is less objection to it than formerly, and in some churches it is even encouraged.

Presbyterian discipline is now entirely confined to exclusion from membership or from office. Though it is the duty of a minister Discipline. to warn against irreverent or profane participation in the Lord's Supper, he himself has no right to exclude any one from communion; that can only be done as the act of himself and the elders duly assembled in session. A code of instructions for the guidance of church courts when engaged in cases of discipline is in general use, and bears witness to the extreme care taken not only to have things done decently and in order, but also to prevent hasty, impulsive and illogical procedure in the investigation of charges of heresy or immorality. Cases of discipline are now comparatively rare, and, when they do occur, are not characterized by the bigoted severity which prevailed in former times and was rightly denounced as unchristian.

The extent to which the Presbyterian form of church government prevails throughout the world has been made more manifest General Statistics. in recent years by the formation of a “General Council of the Alliance of Reformed Churches holding the Presbyterian System.” At a representative conference in London in 1875 the constitution of the council was agreed upon. The first council met in Edinburgh in 1877. Since then it has met in Philadelphia, Belfast, London, Toronto, Glasgow, Washington and Liverpool. Churches which are organized on Presbyterian principles and hold doctrines in harmony with the reformed confessions are eligible for admission to the alliance. The object is not to form one great Presbyterian organization, but to promote unity and fellowship among the numerous branches of Presbyterianism throughout the world. On the roll of the general council held at Washington in 1899 there were sixty-four churches. The statistics of these and of sixteen others not formally in the alliance were 29,476 congregations, 26,251 ministers, 126,607 elders and 4,852,096 communicants. Of these eighty churches, twelve were in the United Kingdom, twenty on the continent of Europe, sixteen in North America, three in South America, ten in Asia, nine in Africa, six in Australia, two in New Zealand, one in Jamaica and one in Melanesia. The desire for union which led to the formation of the alliance has, since 1875, borne remarkable fruit. In England in 1876 two churches united to form the Presbyterian Church of England; in the Netherlands two churches became one in 1892; in South Africa a union of the different branches of the Presbyterian Church took place in 1897; in Scotland the Free Church and the United Presbyterian became one in 1900 under the designation of the United Free Church; in Australia and Tasmania six churches united in 1901 to form the Presbyterian Church of Australia; and a few months later the two churches in New Zealand which represented respectively the North and South Islands united to form the Presbyterian Church of New Zealand. “In no portion of the empire,” it has been said, “does the British flag now fly over a divided Presbyterianism, except in the British Isles themselves.”

II.—History in Different Countries

From this general outline of Presbyterianism we now turn to consider its evolution and history in some of the countries with which it is or has been specially associated. We omit, however, one of the most important, viz. Scotland, as the history is fully covered under the separate headings of Scotland, Church of, and allied articles.


The Swiss, owing to their peculiar geographical position and to certain political circumstances, early manifested independence

in ecclesiastical matters, and became accustomed to the

  1. Principal Rous's version is the best known and most widely used. It is an English work. Somewhat reluctantly it was accepted by Scottish Presbyterianism as a substitute for an older version with a greater variety of metre and music. “Old Hundred" and “Old 124th” mean the 100th and 124th Psalms in that old book.