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the other hand, corrupt and helpless by nature, is directly pointed to this mediator as the only sure hope of his salvation.
The doctrines of our Church are divided into three parts. The first part treats of the fall and misery of man ; his depravity and utter helplessness, and of his absolute dependence upon the grace of God for salvation. The second part sets forth this “salvation through Christ by faith,” representing also the necessary means of grace through which this faith, and salvation by it, can alone be obtained. The third part treats of thankfulness, as the natural and indispensable fruit of a living Christian faith. This beautiful arrangement is of great practical use, as it presents to us the natural course of every sinner's salvation. First he must be convinced of and feel his sins and misery, that he may desire help; then he must come to the Saviour who alone can rescue him, and after the burden of guilt has been removed and his soul realizes the Father's good pleasure through the Son, he must manifest his gratitude for such gracious deliverance. This order is presented to us by the Apostle Paul in his epistle to the Romans.
The doctrines of our Church are not the product of any single Reformer, neither Luther's nor Zwingli's nor Calvin's, although the different elements in which these great men respectively moved, entered into her constitution from the beginning. She received none to the exclusion of the rest, nor did she adopt anything that seemed not fully to agree with Scrip
As she had been born in the element of genuine practical Christianity, so she continued to live and move in it, and hence her doctrines must be practical also. And because the German Reformed Church combined the different elements of the Reformation in a modified form, therefore her doctrines suited Zwinglians as well as Calvinists, and called forth the admiration of the entire Reformed Church in different countries. Yea, it is a well known fact, that even the Lutheran Church, to a great extent, both in the old and new world, have long since acknowledged the more scriptural character of our doctrines; for they have adopted them as their own on all important subjects, and have thus virtually become German Reformed, although many of her ministers go still about proclaiming, “ We are the children of Luther !" But on account of their liberal character, our doctrines have also often been falsely interpreted and grossly misrepresented. With little trouble some have been able to discover ultra Zwinglianism in great abundance, whilst others found Crypto-Calvinism from beginning to end. What feelings and object must have been instrumental in bringing about such wonderful discoveries, it is unnecessary to conjecture. So much is certain, however, that in reality neither one of those extremes is found in our system. Every doctrine grows forth spontaneously from the living consciousness of a purified Christianity, and is supported from all sides by imperishable proof-texts in the word of God. This is overwhelming evidence that the German Reformed Church is rooted in the Holy Scriptures and regards them as her only ultimate rule of faith and practice. Church and Scripture are unitedly represented and perpetuated in our doctrines ; but not the mere views and ideas of any single man. Yet we are held up ever and anon to public gaze as heretics; especially by fanatical “Old Lutherans," who insist upon the purity of their doctrine, to the exclusion of all others, without respect to consequences; like the Jew Shylock insisted upon his right to a pound of flesh. By diligent practice they have acquired wonderful skill in distorting and misrepresenting our doctrines, and to pass wholesale condemnation upon the entire Reformed Church. It would be difficult to find any Pope so full of presumption and arrogance, as some of the famous heralds of this most uncharitable pseudo-Lutheran sect. Instead of Christian love and liberality, they instruct their people in the exercise of prejudice and exclusiveness, which is the mother of hatred and strife. As soon as a warm hearted German Reformed gets among them, he begins to feel immediately that he is surrounded by a set of incongenial spirits, whose strange look and cold breath make him feel chilly and uncomfortable. But why be astonished at their improper conduct toward us, when enmity and denunciations are a common practice among themselves. Whoever has read their papers, must have observed, that a host of “Rotten-Geister” have been sent from Buffalo down to Missouri, and from there back again to Buffalo. Whether the love of Christ moves them to the exercise of such brotherly love, or the Spirit of the Gospel, we will leave the kind reader to decide.
That we have Zwinglianism and Calvinism, as well as Lutheranism in our system of doctrines, no German Reformed will pretend to deny; on the contrary, we glory in the fact, not because it is the product of the Reformers, but because it is real Christian truth. The Apostles' Creed, which occupies a prominent and central position in our Catechism, was held sacred by Luther, Zwingli and Calvin. Modern theologians may call it“ a human invention” and “a relic of Popery;" as long as the German Reformed Church remains faithful to her venerable symbol, so long will she also hold on to the Apostles' Creed; for if this be stricken from our Catechism, all the other doctrines must at once sink into obscurity, because the light has been withdrawn. We cherish the Creed not only on account of its age, or because it is called apostolic, but because it contains the essential truths taught by our Lord and his Apostles. It is a compendium of the entire Revelation of the triune God!
The doctrine of the Lord's Supper is the principal one on which our orthodoxy has been questioned, and here we have been accused of error and heresy from two sides. As these accusations are repeated from time to time, we deem it of the utmost importance that every member of the German Reformed Church should know them, and make himself fully acquainted also with our doctrine. To aid in this we will here gire a brief statement, 1, of the accusations, and 2, of what our Church really teaches.
1. We are accused of a figurative and rationalistic explanation of the words with which the Saviour instituted this sacrament; it is heralded and rumored abroad that we change them into an empty " it signifies,” and thus destroy their real meaning and efficacy.
2. It has been a common accusation against us, that we consider the Lord's Supper to be nothing more than a memorial, and that the elements are regarded by us as naked signs, or phantoms, significant only for our remembrance. Now we will readily admit that among the strict followers of Zwingli, of whom there have always been some in our denomination, such grave mistakes may have been committed; but we consider it most unjust to bring such charges against our whole Church. The term “ it signifies,” which originated not with Zwingli, but with the Church of Zurich, has been officially abandoned by the same Church ever since the year 1549, and the German Reformed Church, as a body, never used it. Nor has she ever held the Lord's Supper to be a mere memorial, or considered the elements as naked signs. But that these charges could be urged with remarkable propriety against a large portion of the very denomination from which they proceed, needs no proof.
3. We are accused of teaching that at the Lord's table the communicant does not enjoy the presence of Christ unless he first elevates himself in spirit to fetch him down from heaven; and that we consider the Lord's Supper nothing more than an external badge, by which a Christian is to be known; that therefore our doctrine teaches a mere representation or symbol of Christ.
4. From the same quarter we are charged with teaching that " the soul of the communicant must first come to Christ, before the Lord in the fulness of his divine grace comes to him,” and that thus the communicant's act of faith only, which causes Christ to be present, constitutes the Lord's Supper a sacrament. Furthermore it is asserted, that we do not give the proper value to this sacrament, considering the other means of equal importance, and that, therefore, our celebration of the Lord's Supper affords less comfort to the weak in faith than that in the Lutheran Church.
We consider it entirely unnecessary to refute these and many other accusations that are brought against us. It is sufficient to point to our doctrine and to the general experience of our people. This two-fold testimony to the contrary is worth more than our individual vindication would be. Indeed our doctrine of the Lord's Supper needs no vindication ; a simple statement of it ought to silence all objections. And what does the German Reformed Church teach on this most important subject ? According to the letter and spirit of the Heidelberg Catechism she teaches :
1. That invisible treasures of grace are connected with the visible elements, and in the exercise of a living faith she humbles herself before the “great mystery” in child-like simplicity, and believes that in the Lord's Supper the body and blood of Christ are partaken of; so surely as the elements are received; not, however, with the mouth, but in a spiritual, sapernatural and heavenly manner.
2. That in the Lord's Supper, and by means of it, the living Christ offers himself truly to all believers, and that their souls are nourished by him unto life eternal.
3. In the Lord's Supper our Church solemnly proclaims the Saviour's death as the only ground of her salvation; she celebrates it as a covenant-memorial, in which the believer is assured of the forgiveness of his sins, and has sealed to him the inheritance of the saints in glory, and obtains new strength from on high for further sanctification.
4. Our Church regards the Lord's Supper as a perpetual bond of love and unity, and for this reason she considers the celebration of it indispensably necessary for all Church members. At the Lord's table all ranks and distinctions vanish; rich and poor, high and low, learned and unlearned, all stand on a common platform as needy, and must recognize each other as brethren in Christ. It is a thanksgiving-festival for the Saviour's dying love, at which the believers consecrate themselves anew to God and receive nourishment for their inner, spiritual man.
5. In her celebration of this sacrament our Church has always observed the institution of Christ completely, unaltered in word and sign, and in the breaking of bread she maintaing the original order of the Primitive Church. She does not make the efficacy of the sacrament dependent upon the char