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Historic Documents in American Presbyterian History


This is a document from the history of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A., but its importance figures more broadly across the history of all American Presbyterian denominations, and so it is reproduced here.

Subsequent to the northern Presbyterian Church's 1903 revision of the Westminster Standards, the General Assembly of the PCUSA produced the following Doctrinal Deliverance. The document was produced by the Committee on Bills and Overtures in response to a situation arising out of the New York Presbytery in which three candidates for the ministry were ordained even though they refused to affirm the doctrine of the virgin birth of Christ. While the 1910 PCUSA General Assembly dismissed the complaint brought against the three men, it did instruct its Committee on Bills and Overtures to draft a statement which all future candidates would have to affirm in order to be ordained. The Committee's completed Doctrinal Deliverance set out five articles of faith judged "essential and necessary." Thus it can be seen that the 1924 Auburn Affirmation was written almost entirely in opposition to this Doctrinal Deliverance. Sadly, by 1927 the General Assembly overturned the Deliverance with the conclusion that the Assembly cannot mandate certain doctrines as "essential and necessary." In so doing, the 1927 Assembly effectively loosed the Church from its moorings.

1. It is an essential doctrine of the Word of God and our Standards, that the Holy Spirit did so inspire, guide and move the writers of the Holy Scriptures as to keep them from error. Our Confession says [Chapter I, Section 10]: "The Supreme Judge, by whom all controversies of religion are to be determined, and all decrees of councils, opinions of ancient writers, doctrines of men, and private spirits, are to be examined, and in whose sentence we are to rest, can be no other but the Holy Spirit speaking in the Scriptures.

2. It is an essential doctrine of the Word of God and our Standards, that our Lord Jesus Christ was born of the Virgin Mary. The Shorter Catechism states, Question 22: "Christ, the Son of God, became man, by taking to Himself a true body and a reasonable soul, being conceived by the power of the Holy Ghost, in the womb of the Virgin Mary, and born of her, yet without sin."

3. It is an essential doctrine of the Word of God and our Standards, that Christ offered up "himself a sacrifice to satisfy divine justice, and to reconcile us to God." The Scripture saith Christ "once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened in the Spirit." [Cf. the Westminster Shorter Catechism, Q. 25]

4. It is an essential doctrine of the Word of God and our Standards, concerning our Lord Jesus, that "on the third day he arose form the dead, with the same body in which he suffered; with which also he ascended into heaven, and there sitteth at the right hand of his Father, making intercession." [Cf. the Westminster Confession of Faith, Chapter VIII, Section 4]

5. It is an essential doctrine of the Word of God as the supreme Standard of our faith, that the Lord Jesus showed his power and love by working mighty miracles. This working was not contrary to nature, but superior to it. "Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people" [Matthew 9:35]. These great wonders were signs of the divine power of our Lord, making changes in the order of nature. They were equally examples, to his Church, of charity and good-will toward all mankind.

These five articles of faith are essential and necessary. Others are equally so...

Resolved, That, reaffirming the advice of the Adopting Act of 1729, all the Presbyteries within our bounds shall always take care not to admit any candidate for the ministry into the exercise of the sacred function, unless he declares his agreement in opinion with all the essential and necessary articles of the Confession.
[Minutes of the General Assembly, 1910, pages 272 - 273.]


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