Reasons for Being a Presbyterian


The great thing in the Church is CHRIST, the blood of Christ, the Spirit of Christ, the presence of Christ among us. The great thing is Christ, but there is also advantage in a certain government of the Church of Christ. I am a Presbyterian, not only of situation, but of conviction and choice. Our Presbyterian way is the good middle way between Episcopacy on the one side, and Congregationalism on the other. We combine the two great principles that must be maintained in the Church — Order and Liberty: the order of government, and the liberty of the people.

Merle d’Aubigne.


Reasons for Being a Presbyterian

They continued stedfastly in the Apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread and in prayers.

Acts ii. 42.

Built upon the foundation of the Apostles and Prophets. Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner-stone.

Eph. ii. 2.

1. I AM A PRESBYTERIAN — because I know of no Church that in Doctrine, in Discipline, in Government, and Worship rests so entirely on the Word of God. The Bible, and the Bible alone is the religion of Presbyterians. In all matters, whether of faith or practice, Holy Scripture is supreme and sufficient. To this rule all creeds and confessions, canons and articles, opinions of ancient writers, doctrines of men, and private spirits, are to be brought for examination: To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them. — (Isaiah viii. 20.) It is not “Thus saith antiquity,” nor, “Thus saith tradition;” nor “Thus saith the Church;” but to the Presbyterian the sole word of authority is, “Thus saith the Lord.”

2. I AM A PRESBYTERIAN — because I know of no Church that maintains more firmly, and sets forth more faithfully the great leading doctrines of the Word of God. The unity of the Godhead, and the trinity of persons therein — the utter depravity and helplessness of mankind in consequence of the fall — the recovery and salvation of the Church by the Redeemer — the Incarnation of the Son of God, His Atonement, and all His mediatorial work and offices — the work of the Holy Spirit in the Conversion and Sanctification of the sinner — the sinner’s interest in the finished work of Christ, and his Justification by Faith alone — the Second Advent of Christ to Judgment — the Resurrection of the dead and the eternal separation of the righteous and the wicked — these are among the truths embodied in the Confession and Catechisms of our Church, taught in her schools, and preached from her pulpits. And our Church has specially been privileged to maintain the truths relating to the deep things of God; — the covenant of redemption entered into by Jehovah, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, before the foundation of the world; the salvation-blessings secured in Christ as covenant head and surety, and flowing down to the Church through Him; the communication of these covenant-blessings by the Holy Spirit, together with the whole doctrines of free grace, — the sovereign, distinguishing, free grace of God. — (Eph. i. 3, 4, 5; 2 Tim. i. 9; 1 Cor. iii. 11; Eph. ii. 8.)

3. I AM A PRESBYTERIAN — because the form of Church Government, which we call Presbytery, is founded on the Word of God. The office-bearers in our Church are Scriptural in their offices and authority. In each of our congregations there is a Minister, whose special office it is to preach the Word and dispense the Sacraments. There is no difference of rank among these Ministers or Presbyters. All are equal as brethren, having one Master and King, even the Lord Jesus. — (Matt. xxiii. 8, 9, 10.) This is what we mean by Presbyterian parity. All our ministers are alike bishops or overseers, not of other ministers but of their own flocks; not prelates but pastors, as in apostolical times.

In our Presbyterian Churches, besides the minister, there are others whose office it is to aid in the oversight and government of the Church, in visiting of the sick, and other spiritual superintendence of the people. These are usually termed “the Elders of the Church;” or sometimes Ruling Elders or Presbyters, (1 Tim. v. 17,) to distinguish them from the Pastors or preaching Presbyters, “who labour in word and doctrine.” And lastly, there are Deacons (Acts vi.), whose special office it is to care for the poor, and superintend those arrangements which promote the outward comfort of the congregation.

These three orders of office bearers are all that we believe to be permanent in the Church of Christ. That “Bishop” is only another name for “Presbyter;” and that there were not two distinct orders signified by these names, is proved by many parts of the Word of God. When Paul called the Elders (Presbyters) of the Ephesian Church, he charged them to take heed to the flock over which the Holy Ghost had made them overseers (Bishops). — (Acts xx. 17–28.) So also Peter, in his 1st Epistle, ch. v. 1. — “The Elders who are among you I exhort, who am also an Elder.” Having therefore no sanction of Divine authority, nor apostolic usage, whence come Diocesan Bishops, Archbishops, Deans, Archdeacons, Lords Spiritual, Cardinals, or Pope, in the Church of Christ? Are these successors of the men whom Jesus called unto him and said, “Ye know that they which are accounted to rule over the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and their great ones exercise authority upon them. But so shall it not be among you.” “One is your Master, even Christ, and all ye are brethren.”

4. I AM A PRESBYTERIAN — because there is no form of Church Government that so combines the two great principles, Order and Liberty — the Order of Government, and the Liberty of the People.

The government is conducted by the office-hearers in individual churches, who constitute what we call Church Sessions; by the office-bearers of a number of churches, who form what we call Presbyteries; and by the office-bearers of a still greater number of churches, forming Synods or General Assemblies. A Church Session consists of the minister and the elders of a congregation; a Presbytery, of ministers and representative elders of several churches; and a Synod or Assembly, of ministers and elders of churches in a larger district or province. — (Acts, xv.) In countries where the number of Presbyterian Churches is very great, the Assemblies are composed of representative ministers and elders chosen by each Presbytery. In all cases, Presbyteries and Synods consist of ministers and elders in equal numbers, deliberating and voting together. The Moderator or President of these Courts holds office only for a definite period, and is appointed sometimes by election, and sometimes by rotation. By these several and successive Church Courts mature deliberation, impartial justice, and ecclesiastical order are secured. In cases of difficulty reference may be made, and advice sought, and in dispute appeal may be taken from the Session to the Presbytery, and from the Presbytery to the Synod or Assembly of the Church.

Every congregation is free and independent in its local government and discipline, in the election of its office-bearers, in devising and executing its plans of Christian usefulness, and in the whole management of its affairs, so long as its acts are not inconsistent with the general rules and with the common weal of the Church. In all good government, civil or ecclesiastical, there is some central authority to confirm and regulate local liberty. This superintendence is exercised by each Presbytery over the several congregations within its bounds, and Presbyteries are under the control of Synods, provincial or national, in which the supreme power, legislative and executive, is vested.

5. I AM A PRESBYTERIAN — because I know of no Church that so secures the rights and privileges of the Christian people. The people, that is, the members of the Church, choose their pastor, their elders, and deacons. Those only can be chosen and called to the pastoral charge of our congregations who have been educated under the superintendence of some Presbytery, and been admitted, after examination and trials, as Probationers of the Church; all means being used to provide a well qualified and suitable ministry for the supply of our Church.

The people also manage all ecclesiastical affairs; and they do so in the only wise and practicable way among large bodies of men — by representative government.

If all the members of the Church are alike rulers, to whom are these Divine precepts addressed, “Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves” (Heb. xiii. 17); and, “Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honour?” — (1 Tim. v. 17.)

In those Congregational Churches which act without representation, matters of business continually occur which cannot without inconvenience, and cases of discipline which cannot without impropriety, be discussed before a public Meeting; and for the most part the conducting of affairs by the whole Church is only nominal; a few individuals having the real authority and management. Now what is elsewhere done by “Committees” and “Managers” is done in the Presbyterian Churches by an authorized and responsible court, the Church Session, composed of the ministers and elders chosen by the people and transacting affairs in their behalf.

6. I AM A PRESBYTERIAN — because I know of no Church whose form of worship is so simple and so scriptural. Not any other book but God's Book is made to claim the attention of the people. Every Sabbath-day the word of God is read, expounded, and applied. In the devotional services, those who cannot worship the Father in spirit, will find no substitute of form and ceremony to delude them. There is a consent of all our Churches in those things that contain the substance of the service and worship of God: but the public prayers are not restricted to a written form, as if from sabbath to sabbath, and from year to year, there never could arise any variety in the wants, the desires, the circumstances of sinful men, as if there were not constantly new subjects of thanksgiving to God, new requests to be made known to our Father in heaven. The word of God is my prayer-book, and I find in the book of Psalms, in the Epistles, and other parts of the Bible, examples and forms of prayer, not in words which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth. In other matters there is that variety in public worship, according to local usage and other circumstances, which Christian liberty allows and Christian prudence dictates, in things external and non-essential.

7. I AM A PRESBYTERIAN — because the Sacraments are in our Church administered agreeably to the Word of God. We baptize adults on profession of their faith in Christ, and we baptize the infants of such as are members of the visible Church. — (Acts xvi. 33; Gen. xvii. 7, with Coloss. ii. 11, 12; 1 Cor. vii. 14.) In the dispensation of the Lord’s supper we do not kneel before an altar, but we sit at the Lord’s table, receiving the sacramental bread and wine in the customary posture of men who celebrate a feast, as Christ and His disciples set the example. We have no altar in our Churches, because the sacrament of the supper is not a sacrifice, but an ordinance commemorative of the one sacrifice of Christ. The admission of members to the Lord’s supper is after examination and warning and instruction as to the nature and objects of the ordinance. — (1 Cor. xi. 26–28.)

8. I AM A PRESBYTERIAN — because I love and pray for unity; not uniformity at the expense of truth, but unity based on truth and charity. Our Presbyterian Church has its congregations knit together in mutual dependence and sympathy, as one body in the unity of the Spirit, having one Lord and Head, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all. And all are united under one superintendence and government, holding the same standards, and maintaining the same principles, the strong helping and bearing the burden of the weak, the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, with one mind striving together for the faith of the Gospel. We thus enjoy a visible, as well as a spiritual unity, according to the scriptural idea of the Church, the body of Christ. — (Ephes. iv. 8–16.)

9. I AM A PRESBYTERIAN — because the Church of Christ was Presbyterian in her earliest and purest times. Ecclesiastical history tells me by what steps came the predicted falling away from apostolical doctrine and order (2 Thess. ii. 3); how the Primitive Episcopacy (which we still hold) was supplanted by Prelacy and Popery; and how those Churches which were God’s faithful witnesses in the midst of the Anti-Christian apostacy, the Waldensian, the Albigensian, and other martyr-Churches were Presbyterian. And when the time of reformation came, when men stood, and saw, and asked for the ancient paths, then the good old way of Presbyterianism, with its Evangelical truth, its apostolical order, its wholesome discipline, and primitive worship, was with one consent resumed by the Reformed Churches. In England alone it was not so; but for this we satisfactorily account in the assumption of the headship of the Church by Henry VIII. — the indecision of Cranmer and the early Reformers — the limited extent to which the work of Reformation could be carried — together with other later events in our national history. For more than a century and a half Presbyterianism has been almost unknown in England, in consequence of which Dissenters from the Anglican Church have been driven to form themselves into independent and separate Churches. But now that at length the goodly fabric of the Presbyterian Church has begun to be reared again on English soil, we expect many of the Lord’s people to join in restoring the waste places and building up the walls of our Zion.

Although outward forms in themselves are of minor consequence, yet they are important as means for the building up of the spiritual Church. And if Church history is of any use, we should search it to see which form of Christianity best fulfils the purposes of a Church of Christ. Let Presbyterianism be so tried: contrast the state of the English Church as to vital religion in the Puritan times, and after the restoration of Charles II., and the ejection of the two thousand Nonconformists, nearly all of whom were Presbyterians; contrast the present state of Presbyterian Ulster with any other province of Ireland; contrast the state of Scotland with any other country of Europe; and every friend of Bible instruction, of Sabbath observance, of true religion, ought to rejoice in the prospect of Presbyterianism being revived in England, and extended in every part of the world.

10. I AM A PRESBYTERIAN — because I know of no Church that has been so valiant for the truth, or that has been honoured to do and suffer so much for the cause of Christ on earth. None can shew a more goodly company of confessors, a more noble army of martyrs, than the Presbyterian Church. Let history testify this, from the earliest times, through the dark ages of Popery, down even to our own day, when the Free Church of Scotland, in her noble stand for truth and the sacrifices made by her ministers and people for Christ’s sake, has displayed a spirit worthy of olden times, and shewn that living faith and high principle are yet to be found on the earth. While maintaining in common with other Protestants the truths relating to the Prophetical and Priestly offices of the Redeemer, the Presbyterian Church has especially been called on to testify and to suffer in defence of the Kingly office of Christ; that He is the only Head of the Church, visible and invisible, (Coloss. i. 16, 17, 18,) that Christ alone is king in Zion. — (Psalm ii. 6.) The Bible teaches us to be subject to the powers that be, to render honour to whom honour is due, tribute to whom tribute, to all their dues (Rom. xiii. 1–7), but not to render unto Caesar the things that are God’s. — (Matt. xxii, 21.) While contending for spiritual independence against Erastians on the one hand, we contend against the spiritual supremacy of Papists and Prelatists on the other. Popery has ever found in our Church a stern and uncompromising opponent. She is no less opposed to Arian, Socinian, and other forms of Anti-Christian error. And though some have wrongfully used our name, and some branches of our Church have at times been on the side of error, and others have bartered their freedom for State endowment, true Presbyterians have ever been foremost in contending earnestly for the faith once delivered to the Saints.

For these and other reasons I am a Presbyterian. While I know that God has His people among different denominations of professing Christians, I prefer the Presbyterian Church because I believe it to be most conformable to the Word of God, most conducive to the spread of truth and righteousness, and most fitted for the extension of the cause of Christ on the earth.

These things write I unto thee, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.

1. Tim. iii. 14, 15.

Grace be with all them that love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity. Amen.

Eph. vi. 24.

The text of this article was scanned from a fragile original of the tract in the possession of the Rev G G Hutton. The title page had been damaged rendering the name of the publisher illegible but the year and place of publication were clear (1846, London).