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(From the "Advance Almanac for 1904 and Manual of Congregationalism" published by the Advance Publishing Company of Chicago, Illinois--no author listed)
"Although the Congregationalists have no denominational creed they have always been interested in theology as a science and have distinctly manifested their preferences as to creed statements. A general Synod of the New England churches, which met at Boston in 1680, approved and consented to the Savoy Confession which had been adopted in 1658 by representatives of the Congregational churches in England. This Confession differs from that of the Westminster divines only in the omission of the chapters on church discipline, and in some unimportant variations in respect to doctrine. Besides giving assent to the doctrinal portions of the English Puritan and Independent Confessions and manifesting an extraordinary interest in theological discussions; Congregationalists have on three occasions to some extent denominationally, given expression to their views of theology.
"We have no Confession like that of Augsburg, no Catechism to take the place of that of Westminster. The real Confession of our denomination is the summation of the thousands of confessions of our churches. The three to which allusion has been made are, however, of great importance and are given below. The first is known as the Plymouth, or Burial hill, or Boston Declaration, having been adopted by the Boston national Council of 1865, while visiting the home of the Pilgrims of 1620. It was considered at the time by those who drew it up to be an indorsement of the old symbols. "It said only, This is the faith which w hold as did our fathers.:
"The second is the Oberlin Declaration. In 1871, the National Council was established as a body to meet at stated times. The Council of 1865 dissolved without providing for any future gathering; but in 1871, the churches, "by elders and messengers assembled." associated themselves in National Council and provided for triennial gatherings. The basis of their union was the statement given below. This like the Boston Declaration is a re-affirmation of the doctrines held by the fathers. There were suggestions from some quarters that the Evangelical doctrines, as there referred to, embraced but a part of the doctrines of former creeds, and were merely those doctrines which all sects hold in common, but this is never held when the view is fully stated. Such an interpretation of the word evangelical destroys Scripture authority which has always been supreme in our denomination.
"The third expression of doctrine referred to is the Creed of 1883. This was intended to be a statement "for the instruction and edification of the churches." The matter was before the National Council at first as a suggestion, afterwards as a scheme deserving practical consideration. At the triennial gathering in 1880 a committee of eleven was appointed to select a commission of twenty-five to be charged with the duty of preparing for our churches a "simple, clear and comprehensive exposition of the truths of the glorious gospel of the Blessed God." The result was the New Creed. It was signed by twenty-two of the commissioners and sent out to the churches to receive such favor as it might seem to deserve. A committee was appointed by the National Council of 1882 to prepare a Manual for the use of Congregational churches. This committee reported to the National Council of 1895 such a manual, which was approved by the Council. The creed of 1883 was re-affirmed and approved for use in this manual, with the sole exception that in the eleventh clause the words, "to believers and their children," were omitted."
BURIAL HILL CREED OF 1865
"Standing by the Rock where the Pilgrims set foot upon these shores, upon the spot where they worshipped God, and among the graves of the early generation, we, elders and messengers of the Congregational churches of the United States in National Council assembled--like them acknowledging no rule of faith but the Word of God--do now declare our adherence to the faith and order of the apostolic and primitive churches, held by our fathers, and substantially embodied in the confessions and platforms which our Synods of 1648 and 1680 set forth and re-affirmed. We declare that the experience of the nearly two and a half centuries which have elapsed since the memorable day when our sires founded here a Christian commonwealth, with all the development of new forms of errors since their times, has only deepened our confidence in the faith and polity of those fathers. We bless God for the inheritance of those doctrines. We invoke the help of the divine Redeemer, that, through the presence of the promised Comforter, he will enable us to transmit them in purity to our children.
"In the times that are before us as a nation, times at once of duty and of danger, we rest all our hope in the gospel of the on of God. It was the grand peculiarity of our Puritan fathers that they held this gospel not merely as the ground of their personal salvation, but as declaring the worth of man by the incarnation, and sacrifice of the Son of God, and therefore applied to its principals to elevate society, to regulate education, to civilize humanity, to purify law, to reform the Church and the State, to assert and defend liberty; in short, to mould and redeem, by its all-transforming energy, everything that belongs to man i his individual and social relations.
"It was the faith of our fathers that gave us this free land in which we dwell. It is by this faith only that we can transmit to our children a free and happy, because a Christian, commonwealth.
"We hold it to be a distinctive excellence of our Congregational system that it exalts that which is more above that which is less important; and by the simplicity of its organization, facilitates, in communities where the population is limited, the union of all true believers in one Christian church; and that the division of such communities into several weak and jealous societies, holding the same common faith, is a sin against the unity of the body of Christ and at once the shame and scandal of Christendom.
"We rejoice that through the the influence of our free system of apostolic orer, we can hold fellowship with all who acknowledge Christ and act efficiently in the work of restoring unity to the divided Church, and bring back harmony and peace among all "who love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity."
"Thus recognizing the unity of the Church of Christ in all the world, and knowing that we are but one branch of Christ's people, while adhering to our peculiar faith and order, we extend to all believers the hand of Christian fellowship upon the basis of those great fundamental truths in which all Christians should agree. With them we confess our faith in God, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, the only living and true God; in Jesus Christ, the incarnate Word, who is exalted to be our Redeemer and King; and in the Holy Comforter, who is present in the Church to regenerate and sanctify the soul.
"With the whole Church, we confess the common sinfulness and ruin of our race, and acknowledge that it is only through the work accomplished by the life and expiatory death of Christ, that believers in Him are justified before God, receive the remission of sins, and through the presence of grace of the Holy Comforter are delivered from the power of sin and perfected in holiness.
"We believe also in an organized and visible Church, in the ministry of the Word, in the sacraments of Baptism and the Lord's Supper, in the resurrection of the body, and in the final judgment, the issue of which are eternal life and everlasting punishment.
"We receive these truths on the testimony of God, given through prophets and apostles, and in the life, the miracles, the death, the resurrection of His Son, our divine Redeemer--a testimony preserved for the Church in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, which were composed by holy men as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.
"Affirming now our belief that those who thus hold "one Faith, one Lord, one Baptism," together constitute the one Catholic Church, the several households of which, though called by different names, are the one body of Christ; and that these members of His body are sacredly bound to keep "the unity of the Spirit in the bonds of peace," we declare that we will co-operate with all who hold these truths. With these we will carry the gospel into every part of the land, and with them we will go into all the world, and "preach the gospel to every creature." May He to whom "all power is given in heaven and earth" fulfill the promise which is all our hope; "Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world." To Him be praise in the Church forever. Amen."
THE OBERLIN DECLARATION OF 1871
"The Congregational churches of the United States, by elders and messengers assembled, do now associate themselves in National Council:--
"To express and foster their substantial unity in doctrine, polity and work; and
"To consult upon the common interests of all the churches, their duties in the work of evangelization, the united development of their resources and their relations to all parts of the kingdom of Christ.
"They agree in belief that the Holy Scriptures are the sufficient and only infallible rule of religious faith and practice; their interpretation thereof being in substantial accordance with the great doctrines of the Christian faith, commonly called evangelical, held in our churches from the early times, and sufficiently set forth by former General Councils.
"They agree in belief that the right of government resides in local churches, or congregations of believers, who are responsible directly to the Lord Jesus Christ, the One Head o the Church Universal and of all particular churches, but that all churches, being in communion one with another as parts of Christ's catholic church, have mutual duties subsisting in the obligations of fellowship.
"The churches, therefor, while establishing this National Council for the furtherance of common interests and work of all the churches, do maintain the Scriptural and inalienable right of each church to self-government and administration, and this National Council shall never exercise legislative or judicial authority, nor consent to act as a council of reference.
THE CREED OF 1883. (REAFFIRMED IN 1885)
"I. I. We believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth and of all things visible and invisible.
"And in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord, who is of one substance with the Father; by whom all things are made.
"And in the Holy Spirit, the Lord and Give of Life, who is sent from the Father and Son and who together with the Father and Son is worshipped and glorified.
"II. We believe that the providence of God, by which He executes His eternal purposes in the government of the world, is in and over all events; yet so that the freedom and responsibility of men are not impaired, and sin is the act of the creature alone.
"III. We believe that man was made in the image of God; that he might know, love, and obey God, and enjoy him forever; that our first parents by disobedience fell under the righteous condemnation of God; and that all men are so alienated from God that there is no salvation from the guilt and power of sin except through God's redeeming grace.
"IV. We believe that God would have all men return to Him; that to this end He has made Himself known, not only through works of nature, the course of His providence, and the consciences of men, but also through supernatural revelations made especially to a chosen people, and above all, when the fulness of time was come, through Jesus Christ, His Son.
"V. We believe that the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments are the records of God's revelation of himself in the work of redemption; that they were written by men under the special guidance of the Holy Spirit; that they are able to make wise unto salvation; and that they constitute the authoritative standard by which religious teaching and human conduct are to be regulated and judged.
VI. We believe that the love of God to sinful men has found its highest expression in the redemptive work of His Son; who became man uniting His divine nature with our human nature in one person; who was tempted like other men, yet without sin; who by His humiliation, His holy obedience, His sufferings, His death on the cross, and His resurrection, became a perfect Redeemer; whose sacrifice of Himself for the sins of the world declares the righteousness of God, and is the sole and sufficient ground of forgiveness and reconciliation with Him.
"VII. We believe that Jesus Christ, after He had risen from the dead, ascended into heaven, where, as the one mediator between God and ma. He carries forward His work of saving men; that He sends the Holy Sprit to convict them of sin, and to lead them to repentance and faith, and that those who through renewing grace turn to righteousness, and trust in Jesus Christ as their Redeemer, receive for His sake the forgiveness of their sins, and are made the children of God.
"VIII. We believe that those who are thus regenerated and justified grow in sanctified character through fellowship with Christ, the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, and obedience to the truth that a holy life is the fruit and evidence of saving faith; and that the believer's hope of continuance in such a life is the preserving grace of God.
"IX. We believe that Jesus Christ came to establish among men the kingdom of God, the reign of truth and love, righteousness and peace, that to Jesus Christ, the Head of this kingdom, Christians are directly responsible in faith and conduct; and that to Him all have immediate access without mediatorial or priestly intervention.
"X. We believe that the Church of Christ, invisible and spiritual, comprises all true believers whose duty it is to associate themselves in churches for the maintenance of worship, and for the conversion of men; that these churches, under the guidance of the Holy Scriptures and in fellowship with one another, may determine--each for itself--their organization, statements of belief, and forms of worship, may appoint, and set apart their own ministers, and should co-operate in the work which Christ has committed to them for the furtherance of the Gospel throughout the world.
"XI. We believe in the observance of the Lord's Day, as a day of holy rest and worship; in the ministry of the Word; and in the two sacraments which Christ has appointed for His church; Baptism, to be administered to believers and their children, as the sign of cleansing from sin, of union to Christ, and of the impartation of the Holy Spirit; and the Lord's Supper, as a symbol of His atoning death, a seal of its efficiency , and a means whereby he confirms and strengthens the spiritual union and communion of believers with himself.
"XII. We believe in the ultimate prevalence of the kingdom of Christ over all the earth; in the glorious kingdom of Christ over all the earth; in the glorious appearing of the great God and our Savior, Jesus Christ; in the resurrection of the dead; and in a final judgment, the issues of which are everlasting punishment and everlasting life.
"NOTE: In the Manual prepared by the committee for the use of Congregational churches and approved by the National Council of 1895, the words, in the creed of 1883, in the eleventh section, "to believers and their children," were omitted. This change was made not to disapprove infant baptism but to facilitate union with the Free Baptists."