Rev. J.W. Shaw on Church Standards, The Westminster Confession, and the Church

“The principles she [i.e. the Church] maintains and on which she is based. That some principles plainly understood and publicly acknowledged should form the basis of every association of man, is necessary, as it is evident from the fact that every association has some such principles, either expressed or understood. This necessity for a doctrinal foundation, arises from the appointment of God and his exemplification of the appointment in his Church; the great model social structure, into which it is designed to bring men of all nations, kindreds and tongues. He being the builder of this universal social edifice, the foundation on which it is erected is of course divine. To man, or class of men, or doctrines originating with men, could be a fit foundation for such a structure. She is built upon the foundation of the Apostles and Prophets, Jesus Christ being the chief corner stone. The doctrines which the Prophets and Apostles taught, and are revealed by his Spirit to the soul when he shows it, the things of Christ are the foundation principles of the Church. The Bible, then, is the standard of her belief and practice—” [1] to the law and to the testimony; if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.” Since, however, men differ so widely in their interpretation of Scripture, and are so directly opposed to each other in their belief and practice, that synagogues of Satan are erected, claiming the Scriptures for their foundation, it is necessary that a constitution, founded on and agreeable to the word of God, should be drawn up by man. When this is done, the fact that it is so drafted, does not make it human. The material of which it is composed is divine—the arrangement only, or form of presentation, is human. The doctrines of the Westminster Confession of Faith, are the doctrines of the Bible, as will appear to every impartial examiner. Should it be asked, If its doctrines are scriptural, what is the use of presenting them in any other form than God himself gave them? We reply, the fact we have just noticed—the fact that men seem to consider themselves licensed to interpret the word of God to suit their own fancies, until we have almost as many different denominations professing to take the Bible for their foundation, as we have men of original genius in the ecclesiastical world; and so opposite to it are some of them, that their originators, it would seem, must have been inspired by such spirits as Micaiah saw take possession of Ahab’s prophets, when they persuaded him to go up to Ramoth Gilead. If human phraseology of divine truth will prevent such differences, and presenting it in a form about which those properly enlightened will agree, and thus secure unity in profession and practice, it must be every way profitable. There is evidently, in the present state of things, a necessity for it; and when such a platform as the Westminster Confession is obtained, it should be joyfully embraced and carefully preserved by every lover of truth.” 

Attachment to Zion: A Sermon by Rev. J.W. Shaw First Reformed Presbyterian ChurchNewYork, ON SACRAMENT MONDAYMARCH 15TH1852. 


[1] Isaiah 8:20

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