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the continuation of the previous life of the Church, of one substance though not of one form with what this was in all past ages, is at once to pronounce it antichristian and false.
But in any case, what has the orthodoxy of the German Reformed Church, as such, to do with these articles of the “Mercersburg Review ?" The Synod has never made itself responsible in any way for all that might appear in this publication ; and has never been called upon, so far as we know, to express any opinion upon the particular historical discussions which are here in question.* Most probably this could not be done with any sort of unanimity. All that has had place thus far, is, that the discussion has been allowed to take its free course. This, in the circumstances, is indeed much ; more, it seems, than many noisy advocates of free inquiry and free speech consider right; more a great deal, no doubt, than suits the humor of many of our affectedly liberal and independent sects; more in particular by far than could be made to square at all with the genius of the Reformed Dutch Church. But the German Reformed Church has now, and always has had, a very different genius.
CONCLUSION. Altogether then as it appears, the controversy between the German Reformed Church and her Puritanic opponents involves very real issues of the highest significance and moment, which show it to be anything but an empty battle of words. Underneath all the sophistical pretences that are put forward to conceal or caricature the true points at stake, lies the felt presence and force of the most interestingly solemn question that is before the Christian world at the present time. It is emphatically the question of questions for the whole cause of Protestantism ; that which rests at the foundation, we may say, of its universal controversy with the Roman Catholic Church, and includes thus the validity of the very title or charter by which it claims the right of existing and being known as a part of true Christianity in the world. Is Protestantism built
* Who thinks of holding the Presbyterian Church responsible, for all the views that appear in the Princeton “Repertory?" A succession of articles has been given to the world there lately on the Church Question, which, notwithstanding the most respectable paternity to which they are ascribed, we should be sorry indeed to regard as a fair exposition of the faith of Presbyterianism, or of its want of faith rather, on this important subject. We are glad to see too, that from within the denomination itself a disposition is shown to demur and protest against the doctrine of the articles, as being in truth subversive of the idea of the Church altogether. But no one feels it necessary, we presume, that the General Assembly should pass judgment in form on the Princeton publication, in order to - define its own position;" and the Dutch Church in particular would hardly think of breaking fellowship with that body for not doing so-even if the predilections of Young Amsterdam were not but too well satisfied, as they probably are, by the exceedingly low ground the “Repertory' has seen proper to take.
upon the only true sense of the Bible as we find this primarily settled in the Apostles' Creed, and in the faith of the universal Primitive Church? Can it assert in its own favor steadily the attributes of the Christian Church, as described in the Creed, one, holy, catholic, and historical, by showing in its constitution a continual want and endeavor at least after their full actualization? The Catholic Church of course maintains the negative, and sees in it the sure prognostic of dissolution for the whole interest. Our reigning sect system is disposed for the most part to acquiesce in the same denial, seeing in it, however, what it considers the glory of Protestantism and the best pledge of its prosperity in time to come. The idea of the Holy Catholic Church, we are told by it, is a mere superstitious “figment,” having no necessary relation whatever to true Christianity; the notion of an apostolical ministry and of sacramental grace is absolutely unevangelical; we care for no history, and we want no unity; any sect, starting up anywhere and at any time, with the Bible in its hand, may have at once all the powers and prerogatives of Christ's kingdom, to a greater extent than they were ever possessed by the so-called Catholic Church of the Middle Ages. Should this extreme Puritanical view succeed, as it threatens to do, in making itself the only true sense of Protestantism, the cause will be changed into another thing altogether from what it pretended to be in the beginning; it will be clearly the negation of what has been considered Christianity in all past ages ; and it is easy enough to see, how in these circumstances it must run itself out finally into sheer infidelity, justifying in
full the worst presages of the Roman Catholic Church. The grand question of the present time is then : Shall this Puritanic theory of Protestantism be allowed to prevail, and the scheme on which it pretended to start in the sixteenth century, be given up as one shown now by the course of events, to be hopeless and false? Who will say that this is not a great and terribly solemn question ? It forms in truth the Thermopylæ of the whole Catholic controversy. This surrendered, all is lost. And now right in the midst of the critical pass, and at this time pre-eminent among its defenders, appears the small band of our German Reformed Church heroically contending for the original principles and maxims of the Reformation. She does not pretend to settle positively the form in which the claims of the Church question are to be set in harmony with the cause of Protestantism ; but she feels the claims themselves to be real, and cannot consent to have the Gordian knot of their adjustment hewn asunder by the rationalistic axe of a scepticism, which seeks to destroy both Church and Creed together with one and the same blow. She is not prepared yet to yield the point to Romanism, as so many sects around her seem ready to do, that Protestantism is constitutionally unchurchly; that it runs necessarily into Puritanism ; that it must sooner or later break with the Creed, turn the sacraments into mere signs, resolve the idea of the Church into a figment or phantom, and renounce all part and lot in its past history. Very real, we say, in such view, is the matter of difference between her and the opposition which has arrayed itself against her in the present crusade ; and most important it is,
; not only for her own sake but for the interest also of Protestantism in general, that she should continue steadfast and immoveable in her position, “nothing terrified by her adversaries," and faithful always to her trust. Should she fail to do so, by giving way to the anti-popery tide, it would be indeed a sad calamity for Protestantism; for it would amount to the most humiliating practical confession, that this is in its essential nature at war with all that is comprised in the idea of the Church as it is made an article of faith by the ancient Creeds, and that no effectual stand can be made within its bosom against the desolating flood of Puritanism under its most unchurchly form. When the Catholic controversy shall have come to this all round, it will be in truth fairly at an end. Protestantism, without faith in the sacraments, and in no historical union with the mystery of the Church, will soon be found another name only for universal unbelief.
The general position of the German Reformed Church, then, in the midst of the downward tendencies that surround her on all sides, speaks clearly enough for itself; and the significance of it is amply attested by the power of provocation it carries in it for the unchurchly and rationalistic spirit generally of the times. To stigmatize it as Romanizing means nothing. It is so, of course, for all who have no faith in the Creed, and for whom its article of the Church is only an empty figment. But it leads necessarily over to Romanism, we are told, and offers no ground to stand upon short of this system. The more pity if it be so, we reply, for Protestantism. For only see, to what the assumption amounts. It is not simply, that the views of her Professors on the Creed, the Church, the Sacraments, the relation of Protestantism historically to Catholicism, offer no secure standing-place for Protestant faith; but that the German Reformed Church, by merely suffering such views and owning the force of the principles on which they rest, though without pledging herself formally to them in any way, has virtually placed herself on like untenable ground. No position is safe for Protestantism, according to this view, which so much as tolerates any disposition or endeavor to set it in harmony with the claims of the Creed and of Christian antiquity, or to clothe it with a truly historical character in its relations to the Catholic Church. Alas, we say again, for the whole interest, if this be in truth the predicament in which it stands. Then the only tenable ground for it to occupy must be, not even the bald, bleak profession of the unsacramental Baptists, but the unbelieving platform of Unitarianism itself. As a body, certainly, the German Reformed Church has no difficulty whatever in maintaining her full Protestant consciousness; nor is she likely to be smuggled soon into Popery, as some hypocritically affect to fear, without her own knowledge and consent.
It is said, however, that the general system here in consideration is likely to carry some actually over to the Catholic Church; and any such result, it is pretended, must convict it of being essentially at variance with Protestant principles. But this does not follow necessarily by any means. Suppose a conversion of such sort. It would be of no force as regards the system, unless it were found to flow with necessary logic from its premises. It is certain, too, that if any one should become a Catholic in this way, it would have to be in the end by giving up, not merely the general position of the German Reformed Church, but the whole so-called Mercersburg theology also, as being in reality Protestant only and not Catholic. The conversion would hinge on the abandonment of this standpoint, not as one less secure, but as one felt to be more secure and promising a great deal, than any other which Protestantism is able to offer. The possibility of such a conversion may be admitted, without any difficulty; and in this respect it may be allowed also, that the general position now in view is more exposed to it than any less churchly and less historical scheme of thinking ; just because it forms in truth the last and strongest resort of all rational trust in Protestantism, so that to despair of this is necessarily to despair of the universal interest at the same time. No thoughtful and earnestly serious mind, having become awakened to the issues which are here at stake, and having them fully in view, can think of taking refuge from their claims in any order of thought which involves and requires a full rupture with the Creed and all that the mystery of Christianity has been taken to be in past ages. In such circumstances, to lose confidence in the historical and churchly character of Protestantism, to feel that it is hopelessly at war with the Christian life of previous ages, to be forced to the conclusion that no construction can show it to be derived from this in the way of organic and legitimate progress, must be indeed as a matter of course to bow to the claims of the Catholic Church. The alternative would be felt as being either