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The Presbyterian Church in the United States of America.
The Westminster Confession underwent a limited revision, 1903, in the Presbyterian Church North, as it is popularly called. In the last period of the nineteenth century, a demand arose within the Church for such ecclesiastical action as would relieve objections to its statements on the salvation of infants and divine predestination. In 1887, the clause forbidding the marriage of a deceased wife's sister or a deceased husband's brother was struck out. The right to make changes was 920exercised as early as 1729, when the Synod struck out or altered the chapters on civil government. The report made by a Committee on Revision created by the General Assembly, 1891, was vetoed by the presbyteries. In 1901, the Assembly for the second time appointed a committee stipulating that its work should be 'either by modification of the text or by Declaratory Statement, it being understood that the revision shall in no wise impair the integrity of the system of doctrine set forth in our Confession of Faith and taught in the Holy Scriptures.' The committee was also instructed to prepare a Brief Statement of the Reformed Faith 'expressed, so far as possible, in untechnical terms' for the purpose 'of giving information and a better understanding of our beliefs and not with a view to its becoming a substitute or an alternative of our Confession of Faith.' It was sent forth by the Assembly. In 1906, the Assembly denied an appeal that the Brief Statement be 'used as the Creed of our Church.'22472247Min. of the Gen. Assembly, 1902, pp. 93–96; 1903, pp. 123–26. Also B. B. Warfield: six artt. in Presb. Rev., 1901, 1902; P. Schaff: Creed Revision in the Presb. Ch., N. Y., 1889, 2d ed., 1890, pp. 75. In the preface, Dr. Schaff said, 'I take my stand on the side of a revision of the Westm. Creed, in accordance with the advanced stage of theology and Christianity.'
The Revision of the Westminster Confession, 1903, consists of a Declaratory Statement bearing on the subjects of God's decrees and the salvation of infants, changes in three chapters and two new chapters.
While the ordination vow of ministers, ruling elders, and deacons, as set forth in the Form of Government, requires the reception and adoption of the Confession of Faith only as containing the System of Doctrine taught in the Holy Scriptures, nevertheless, seeing that the desire has been formally expressed for a disavowal by the Church of certain inferences drawn from statements in the Confession of Faith, and also for a declaration of certain aspects of revealed truth which appear at the present time to call for more explicit statement, therefore the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America does authoritatively declare as follows:
First, With reference to Chapter III. of the Confession of Faith: that concerning those who are saved in Christ, the doctrine of God's eternal decree is held in harmony with the doctrine of His love to all mankind, His gift of His Son to be the propitiation for the sins of the whole world, and His readiness to bestow His saving grace on all who seek it. That concerning those who perish, the doctrine of God's eternal decree is held in harmony with the doctrine that God desires not the death of any sinner, but has provided in Christ a salvation sufficient for all, adapted to all, and freely offered in the Gospel to all; that men are fully responsible for their treatment of God's gracious offer; that His decree hinders no man from accepting that offer; and that no man is condemned except on the ground of his sin.921
Second, With reference to Chapter X., Section 3, of the Confession of Faith, that it is not to be regarded as teaching that any who die in infancy are lost. We believe that all dying in infancy are included in the election of grace, and are regenerated and saved by Christ through the Spirit, who works when and where and how He pleases.
CHANGES IN CHAPTERS.
XVI., 7. Works done by unregenerate men, although for the matter of them they may be things which God commands, and in themselves praiseworthy and useful, and although the neglect of such things is sinful and displeasing unto God; yet, because they proceed not from a heart purified by faith; nor are done in a right manner, according to His Word; nor to a right end, the glory of God; they come short of what God requires and do not make any man meet to receive the grace of God.
XXII., 3. Whosoever taketh an oath ought duly to consider the weightiness of so solemn an act, and therein to avouch nothing but what he is fully persuaded is the truth. Neither may any man bind himself by oath to any thing but what is good and just, and what he believeth so to be, and what he is able and resolved to perform.
XXV., 6. The Lord Jesus Christ is the only head of the Church, and the claim of any man to be the vicar of Christ and the head of the Church, is unscriptural, without warrant in fact, and is a usurpation dishonoring to the Lord Jesus Christ.22482248The original runs, 'nor can the Pope of Rome in any sense be head thereof: but is that anti-Christ, that man of sin and son of perdition, that exalteth himself in the Church against Christ and all that is called God.'
THE ADDED CHAPTERS.
XXXIV. Of the Holy Spirit.—I. The Holy Spirit, the third person in the Trinity, proceeding from the Father and the Son, of the same substance and equal in power and glory, is, together with the Father and the Son, to be believed in, loved, obeyed, and worshiped throughout all ages.
II. He is the Lord and Giver of life, everywhere present in nature, and is the source of all good thoughts, pure desires, and holy counsels in men. By Him the Prophets were moved to speak the Word of God, and all writers of the Holy Scriptures inspired to record infallibly the mind and will of God. The dispensation of the Gospel is especially committed to Him. He prepares the way for it, accompanies it with His persuasive power, and urges its message upon the reason and conscience of men, so that they who reject its merciful offer are not only without excuse, but are also guilty of resisting the Holy Spirit.
III. The Holy Spirit, whom the Father is ever willing to give to all who ask Him, is the only efficient agent in the application of redemption. He convicts men of sin, moves them to repentance, regenerates them by His grace, and persuades and enables them to embrace Jesus Christ by faith. He unites all believers to Christ, dwells in them as their Comforter and Sanctifier, gives to them the spirit of Adoption and Prayer, and performs all those gracious offices by which they are sanctified and sealed unto the day of redemption.
IV. By the indwelling of the Holy Spirit all believers being vitally united to Christ, who is the Head, are thus united one to another in the Church, which is His body. He calls and anoints ministers for their holy office, qualifies all other officers in the Church for their special work, and imparts various gifts and graces to its members. He gives efficacy to the Word, and to the ordinances of the Gospel. By Him the Church will be preserved, increased until it shall cover the earth, purified, and at last made perfectly holy in the presence of God.
XXXV. Of the Love of God and Missions.—I. God, in infinite and perfect love, having provided in the covenant of grace, through the mediation and sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ, a way of life and salvation, sufficient for and adapted to the whole lost race of man, doth freely offer this salvation to all men in the Gospel.922
II. In the Gospel God declares His love for the world and His desire that all men should be saved, reveals fully and clearly the only way of salvation; promises eternal life to all who truly repent and believe in Christ; invites and commands all to embrace the offered mercy; and by His Spirit accompanying the Word pleads with men to accept His gracious invitation.
III. It is the duty and privilege of every one who hears the Gospel immediately to accept its merciful provisions: and they who continue in impenitence and unbelief incur aggravated guilt and perish by their own fault.
IV. Since there is no other way of salvation than that revealed in the Gospel, and since in the divinely established and ordinary method of grace faith cometh by hearing the Word of God, Christ hath commissioned His Church to go into all the world and to make disciples of all nations. All believers are, therefore, under obligation to sustain the ordinances of religion where they are already established, and to contribute by their prayers, gifts, and personal efforts, to the extension of the kingdom of Christ throughout the whole earth.
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