C. Hodge (by way of A.A. Hodge):

Dr. Hodge says himself in his “Retrospect of the History of the Princeton Review,” 1871,

In all the controversies culminating in the division of the church in 1837-8, the conductors of this Review were in entire sympathy with the Old School party. They sided with them as to the right and under existing circumstances the duty, of the church to conduct the work of education and foreign and domestic missions by ecclesiastical boards instead of voluntary independent societies. They agreed with that party on all doctrinal questions in dispute; and as to the obligation to enforce conformity to our Confession of Faith on the part of ministers and teachers of theology under our jurisdiction. They were so unfortunate, however, as to differ from many, and apparently from a majority of their Old School brethren, as to the wisdom of the measures adopted for securing a common object. In our number for January, 1837, it is said: ‘Our position we feel to be difficult and delicate. On the one hand, we respect and love the great mass of our Old School brethren; we believe them to constitute the bone and sinew of the Presbyterian church; we agree with them in doctrine; we sympathize with them in their disapprobation and distrust of the spirit and conduct of the leaders of the opposite party; and we harmonize with them in all the great leading principles of ecclesiastical policy, though we differ from a portion of them, how large or how small that portion may be we cannot tell, as to the wisdom and propriety of some particular measures. They have the right to cherish and express their opinions, and to endeavor to enforce them on others by argument and persuasion, and so have we. They, we verily believe, have no selfish end in view. We are knowingly operating, under stress of conscience, against all our own interests, so far as they are not involved in the interests of the Church of God.’

The FIRST point of difference related to the Act and Testimony, and the measures therewith connected.

Such departures from the standards of the church in matters of doctrine and order; such diversity of opinion as to ecclesiastical boards and voluntary societies; such alienation of feeling and agitating controversy had for years so disturbed the peace and impaired the efficiency of the church as to produce a state of things which on all sides was thought to be intolerable. With the view to reform these evils, and secure the peace and purity of the church, a meeting of ministers and elders was held in Philadelphia, May 26, 1834. At that meeting it was determined to issue an Act and Testimony, setting forth the evils under which the church was laboring, and proposing means of redress. This document was originally signed by thirty-seven ministers and twenty-seven elders. It was sent forth among the churches, and all the friends of sound doctrine and of Presbyterian order were exhorted to sign it ‘We recommend,’ say the original signers, ‘ all ministers, elders, Church-sessions, Presbyteries and Synods, who approve of this Act and Testimony, to give their public adherence thereto, in such manner as they shall prefer, and communicate their names, and when a church court, a copy of their adhering act’ It was further recommended ‘ that on the second Thursday of May, 1835, a Convention be held in the city of Pittsburgh (where the General Assembly was to meet), to be composed of two delegates, a minister and ruling elder from each Presbytery, or from the minority of any Presbytery, who may concur in the sentiments of the Act and Testimony, to deliberate and consult on the present state of the church, and to adopt such measures as may be best suited to restore her prostrated standards.’

Many Old School men, as zealous as any others, could not sign this document. They did not object to it as a testimony against false doctrine; nor as a means for arousing the attention of the church; nor as designed to concentrate the energies of its sounder members for the reform of existing evils; but, 1. Because it contained assertions as to matter of fact, and expressions of opinion (not, however, as to matters of doctrine) in which they could not conscientiously concur. 2. Because it operated as a new, unauthorized and invidious test of orthodoxy and fidelity. Those who did not sign it were looked upon as timid and recreant. The editor of the Presbyterian (Aug. 21, 1S34) said, ‘We verily believe that every orthodox minister and elder, who refuses his signature under existing circumstances, will throw his weight into the opposite scale, and strengthen the hopes and confirm the confidence of those who aim to revolutionize the church.’ 3. Because its obvious tendency, and as the event proved, its actual effect, was to divide, instead of uniting, the friends of orthodoxy and order. The document was never signed by a moiety of the Old School body. 4. Because the issuing a document of this kind, calling for the signatures of all sound men, who, by their delegates, were to meet in convention and prepare for further action, was an extra-constitutional and revolutionary measure, which many good and true men could not approve. They believed that when evils exist in any organized community, civil or ecclesiastical, redress should be sought in the regular exercise of the constitution and laws, unless the evils be such as justify revolution. 5. From the natural tendency of the measures adopted, and from the open avowal of some of the leaders in this movement, it was believed that if the party represented by the Act and Testimony did not gain ascendancy in the church, the result would be secession and schism. There were, however, many who believed that secession, under the circumstances, would be a violation of principles and a breach of trust. They, therefore, stood aloof and abstained from taking part in measures of which, as it seemed to them, schism was the natural consequence, if not the intention. They held that so long as the standards of the church were unaltered, and its ministers were not called upon to profess what they did not believe, or prevented preaching what they believed to be true, or required to do what their conscience condemned, to withdraw from the church was the crime of schism, which the Scriptures so expressly forbid. Moreover, they regarded the funds, the institutions and the influence of the church as a trust committed to their care, which they were not authorized to throw up or to leave in the hands of those whom they regarded as likely to abuse or pervert it. To abandon the church whenever an adverse majority gained ascendancy for a time in its administration, would lead to never-ending divisions and incalculable evils. Many of the signers of the Act and Testimony disclaimed any intention to secede from the church; but others, among whom was the venerable Dr. Green, openly declared that such was their purpose- Happily, the matter was not brought to that issue. The reform of’ the church was effected without that sacrifice. Candid men, we think, will admit that the above-mentioned reasons are sufficient to justify the course of those who dissented from the Act and Testimony movement. Their conduct, at least, can be accounted for on other grounds than those of faint-heartedness or unfaithfulness.

The SECOND point on which the Old School men were divided, was the proper grounds of ecclesiastical discipline. Our ministers and elders are required to adopt the Confession of Faith, as containing the system of doctrine taught in the Holy Scriptures. No doctrine, therefore, inconsistent with the integrity of that system is the proper ground of discipline. It is not enough that the doctrine be erroneous, or that it be dangerous in its tendency; if it be not subversive of one or more of the constituent elements of the reformed faith, it is not incompatible with the honest adoption of our Confession. It cannot be denied that ever since the Reformation more or less diversity in the statement and explanation of the doctrines of Calvinism has prevailed in the reformed churches. It is equally notorious that for fifty or sixty years such diversities have existed and been tolerated in our own church; nay, that they still exist and are avowed by Old School men. If a man holds that all mankind, since the fall of Adam, and in consequence of his sin, are born in a state of condemnation and sin, whether he accounts for that fact on the ground of immediate or mediate imputation, or on the realistic theory, he was regarded as within the integrity of the system. If he admitted the sinner’s inability, it was not considered as a proper ground of discipline that he regarded that inability as moral, instead of natural as well as moral. If he taught that the work of Christ was a real satisfaction to the justice of God, it was not made a breaking point whether he said it was designed exclusively for the elect, or for all mankind, etc., etc.

We do not say that the diversities above referred to are unimportant. We regard many of them as of great importance. All we say is that they have existed and been tolerated in the purest Calvinistic churches our own among the rest.

But within the last forty years other doctrines came to be avowed. Men came to teach that mankind are not born in a state of sin and condemnation; that no man is chargeable with either guilt or sin until he deliberately violates the known law of God; that sinners have plenary ability to do all God requires of them; that regeneration is the sinner’s own act; that God cannot certainly control the acts of free agents so as to prevent all sin, or the present amount of sin in a moral system; that the work of Christ is no proper satisfaction to divine justice, but simply symbolic or didactic, designed to produce a moral impression on intelligent agents; that justification is not judicial, but involves a setting aside of the law, as when the Executive remits the penalty incurred by a criminal. The doctrines of this latter class were regarded as entirely inconsistent with the ‘system of doctrine’ taught in our Confession of Faith. In the General Assembly (O. S.) of 1868 a protest was presented against the adoption of the plan of union then before the churches, urging as an argument against the union the alleged fact that such doctrines were tolerated in the other branch of the Presbyterian church. The majority of the Assembly, in their answer to that protest, denied that allegation. They pronounced it to be incredible, on the ground that such doctrines were so obviously subversive of our whole system, that no church professing to be Calvinistic could tolerate them within their borders.

Cited in, A.A. Hodge, The Life of Charles Hodge, (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1880), 291-297.  [Italics added; and underlining mine.]

[Credit to Michael Lynch for the find]

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