Keep the Church Honest
Two-hundred years after the writing of the Westminster Standards, pastors from various reformed denominations gathered in Edinburgh, Scotland to celebrate the anniversary. The year was 1843. In typical reformed-celebratory style, the anniversary was remembered with several lectures and talks revolving around theological topics.
Rev. Professor Harper of the United Secession Church spoke on the topic of the value of creeds and confessions in the life of the church. Despite the positive reasons for a church maintaining a confession, he said that there could come a time when the church might put away her creeds and confessions and that should be something we look forward to (as the church is perfectly united in glory). But the reality is that we live in a fallen world where ten pastors, elders, and members may have eleven opinions on five sections of Scripture.
Confessions keep us honest.
Confessions help us to see the fences and boundaries that the church has set up. Confessions house the walled-gardens of fellowship and are reminders of that which we hold dear. Confessions show us the areas where we are free to disagree and yet still maintain ecclesiastical fellowship.
Confessions keep the church honest.
Rev. Harper said:
When the times arrive in which such symbols shall no longer be necessary, we shall hail them with pleasure; but such times are not yet. Ask any man you meet with, in what sense he understands this and the other part of Scripture's testimony, and the possibility is, that out of ten men who you should thus casually catechize, you might not find two exactly agreeing; and some might even prove to be diametrically opposed on points which you would with one consent pronounce fundamental! What remains to be done? Shall we open the door of fellowship wide enough to admit all, however multifarious and conflicting their theoretical opinions? Aware of diversity and contradiction, shall we wink hard at the incongruity, and welcome all--no questions asked? Yes, indeed; if disorder be the law of Christ's house,--if faith mean nothing but that a man say he has it... We have not so learned Christ; and if only those who are agreed can walk together, should we not inquire whether agreement exists; and if inquiry take place at all, should it not be made with precision, that it be made to purpose.
In other words, confessions keeps the church honest.
(To purchase a copy of all of the addresses--with the weird and unrelated facsimile cover, edited by William Symington, go [here]“bicentenary” by Symington.))