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in this respect, shall be considered a traducer of his brethren, and shall be answerable for the same.
By inserting the words "these respects" for "this respect" it will be readily seen how much the change implied.
At the General Conference of 1885 a large majority of the delegates felt that there ought to be a restatement and a rearrangement of the doctrines expressed and implied in the old Confession. There had been trouble in the Church at different times on certain points of doctrine which were not clearly defined in the Confession of Faith. In 1849 the General Conference found it necessary to settle the doctrine of future endless punishment; which it did by inserting it in the Discipline in the form of a question to be asked candidates for ordination. In like manner the General Conference of 1857 settled the doctrine of depravity, which at one time came very near producing a rupture in the Church. These, together with the doctrines of the Christian Sabbath and call to the ministry, while they are implied in the old Confession and always taught and believed by the Church, are not explicitly stated, but are to be found here and there in the Discipline. A large majority of the delegates comprising the General Conference of 1885 believed that the time had fully come when there should be a restatement of the cardinal doctrines taught and believed by the Church. And in order to secure "grammatical accuracy and definiteness of expression, some verbal changes and reconstruction of sentences" were found to be necessary. It was also desired that our Confession of Faith should be written in distinct articles, and the doctrines implied in the old creed and scattered through the Discipline set in their appropriate places in the revised Confession. Every fundamental doctrine expressed or implied in the old creed is incorporated in the revised, and there is not a single doctrine in the revised Confession that is not either expressed or implied in the old.
To accomplish this revision in the most orderly manner possible, the General Conference of 1885 appointed a Commission, composed of twenty-seven members, includ
ing the bishops of the Church. This Commission was instructed by the General Conference to "preserve unchanged in substance the present Confession of Faith, so far as it is clear." In accordance with this action, the Commission, after six months' preparation and thought, met in the city of Dayton, Ohio, November 17, 1885. The Commission felt that a very great responsibility rested upon it, so that nothing was done in a hasty manner; but after much prayer and careful thought, the work was accomplished. Every word and every sentence was carefully analyzed by a number of the best scholars in the Church. Perfection is not claimed, but "that a great improvement has been made as regards order, maturity, fullness, and serviceability," will be readily seen by all who will take the time to compare the revised with the old creed. This is the testimony of such men as Drs. Schaff and Strong; also of Bishop Walden, and other scholarly men of other denominations.
A learned theologian of another Church, who has made the subject of creeds a special study and who took time to compare our revised with the old creed, says of the revised that “it is more full and more specialized and better ordered, is more extensive and elaborate, and represents what may be regarded as a maturer type of faith. I may confess that I regard the old creed as crude in form, in order, and in statement."
Soon after the Commission had completed its work, its report was published in pamphlets, tracts, and the Church organ, and sent out through the Church. Every reasonable effort was made to put it into the hands of every member of the Church, and this was continued for three years. During this time those who were opposed to the measure did all they could to defeat it. In November, 1888, the vote was taken and the result was that fourteen-fifteenths of all the votes cast were in favor of the revised Confession of Faith-in round numbers, fifty-one thousand votes for, and three thousand three hundred against.
The work done by the Commission, together with the number of votes cast for and against the revised Confes
sion of Faith, was submitted to the General Conference which convened in York, Pennsylvania, in May, 1889. That body, composed of one hundred and thirty members, fresh from the members which had elected them, and with a distinct understanding as to their views concerning the revision of the creed, carefully reviewed the work done by the Commission, together with the number of votes cast for and against the revised Confession, and put its official seal upon it by a vote of 110 for, and 20 against; so that the revised Confession, a review of which is given in the following pages, is now the fundamental belief of the Church of the United Brethren in Christ. It was well understood throughout the Church that the matter would come before the General Conference for final action, and the delegates were elected in view of that fact.
Judge Slough, before whom the case was heard, closes his very able decision with the following words: “Indeed, this court feels called upon to say, in view of all the evidence and the law of the case, that this Church has done its work in these matters in not only a lawful but Christian manner, and with a degree of care, wisdom, and correctness commendable to the Churches of the world."
It is a fact worthy of special mention that learned men and theologians who regard creeds and confessions as human productions, and as only approximate expressions of revealed truth, readily concede the right to revise them. This has been the order ever since the first creed was written. The fathers in our own denomination claimed this right, and revised our Confession a number of times. Those who deny this right can hardly be recognized as members of the Protestant family. In view of this right a large majority both of the ministers and members of the United Brethren in Christ accepted the revision of the Confession of Faith, and are well satisfied with it. Every cardinal doctrine dear to the Church is clearly stated in the revised creed. If those who formulate creeds and confessions were inspired, then it would be hazardous to revise them; but this is not claimed by any Protestant
of sound mind. All the great creeds of Christendom have been revised; some in one way, others in another. The creed-revision movement at this time is somewhat general. The result will be to bring the orthodox denominations "nearer together, on the basis of concensus in essentials, liberty in non-essentials, and charity in all things." Dr. Schaff remarks that "we live in an age of research, discovery, and progress, and whosoever refuses to go ahead must be content to be left behind and to be outgrown. Whatever lives, moves; and whatever ceases to move, ceases to live. It is impossible for individual Christians or churches to be stationary; they must either go forward, or go backward."
But however necessary the revision of a creed or confession of faith may be, it never meets with universal favor. There are always some to oppose, even though they cannot give any good reason for their opposition. In these days of speculation, research, and discovery, it is highly important that every denomination which has a written creed or confession should aim to have set forth in clear, unmistakable language all the fundamental doctrines believed and taught in that denomination. This was the sole aim in the revision of the Confession of Faith of the Church of the United Brethren in Christ.
THE CONFESSION OF FAITH
IN the name of God, we declare and confess before all men the following articles of our belief:
OF GOD AND THE HOLY TRINITY.
We believe in the only true God, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost; that these three are one--the Father in the Son, the Son in the Father, and the Holy Ghost equal in essence or being with the Father and the Son.
Two cardinal doctrines are affirmed in this article; first, the existence of God; second, the Holy Trinity.
First in order, we have a solemn declaration of our belief. "In the name of God, we declare and confess before all men the following articles of our belief." As an introduction this is altogether proper, and it is reasonably expected that all members of the Church, and those who desire to become members, subscribe to the Confession of Faith. Creeds and confessions are intended to serve as the "basis of ecclesiastical fellowship among those so nearly agreed as to be able to labor together in harmony." Upon this, Dr. A. A. Hodge says, "It must be remembered, however, that the matter of these creeds and confessions binds the consciences of men only so far as it is purely scriptural, and because it is so."
THE EXISTENCE OF GOD.
"We believe in the only true God, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost." Extended arguments on this, or any other proposition, in a work of this kind, cannot, and should not, be attempted. All that is aimed at is a brief and concise statement of the doctrine affirmed in each article of the Confession. Comments upon a creed properly belong to practical theology, and in this order we shall seek to review the several doctrines stated in this Confession of Faith.