The Presbyterian Creed: A Confessional Tradition in America, 1729-1870

Overview

The American Presbyterian creed up until the second half of the twentieth century has been the confessional tradition of the Westminster Assembly (1643-48). Presbyterians in America adopted the Westminster Confession and Catechisms in 1729 through a compromise measure that produced ongoing debate for the next hundred years. Differences over the meaning of confessional subscription were a continuing cause of the Presbyterian schisms of 1741 and 1837. The Presbyterian Creed is a study of the factors that led to the...

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Overview

The American Presbyterian creed up until the second half of the twentieth century has been the confessional tradition of the Westminster Assembly (1643-48). Presbyterians in America adopted the Westminster Confession and Catechisms in 1729 through a compromise measure that produced ongoing debate for the next hundred years. Differences over the meaning of confessional subscription were a continuing cause of the Presbyterian schisms of 1741 and 1837. The Presbyterian Creed is a study of the factors that led to the ninteenth-century Old School/New School schism and the Presbyterian reunions of 1864 and 1870. In these reunions, American Presbyterians finally reached consensus on the meaning of confessional subscription that had previously been so elusive.

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Meet the Author

S. Donald Fortson III is Associate Professor of Church History and Practical Theology at Reformed Theological Seminary, Charlotte, North Carolina. He earned his BA at Covenant College and his MDiv and DMin at Columbia Theological Seminary. He lives in Charlotte with his wife Nancy and children Caroline and Samuel and is an ordained minister in the Evangelical Presbyterian Church.

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Table of Contents

Foreword David B. Calhoun xiii

Preface xv

Chapter 1 The Colonial Confession 1

Subscription in the Old World 1

American Subscription 6

Compromise of 1729 10

Practicing Confessional Subscription 13

Synod of 1736 17

Chapter 2 Schism and Subscription 21

The Great Awakening 22

Old Side Protest 23

Synod of New York 25

"That Paragraph About Essentials" 28

Reunion in 1758 34

The Subscription Formula 37

Chapter 3 New Divinity and Revivalism 42

Jonathan Edwards and New England Theology 42

1801 Plan of Union 47

New Divinity and Subscription 49

Revivals in the South 54

Finney and New Revivalism 57

Chapter 4 Missions, Education and Taylorism 61

Debate Over Missions 61

Educating Presbyterian Ministers 65

Taylorism 71

Reaction to New Haven 75

Old School Discord Over Subscription 78

Chapter 5 A House Divided 82

First Trial of Albert Barnes 82

"Letters to Presbyterians" 87

Protests Against the General Assembly 92

Southern Awakening 98

Chapter 6 The Great Schism 103

Second Barnes Trial 103

General Assembly of 1836 111

Reaction to the Assembly 119

Catastrophe of 1837 123

Chapter 7 New School Presbyterians 128

A New Church 129

New School Calvinism 135

Colonial Heritage 138

Understanding the Schism 146

Chapter 8 Old School Charles Hodge 152

The Constitutional History 152

Reply to Dr. Cox 160

"Adoption of the Confession" 162

Practicing Discipline 167

Chapter 9 Presbyterians in the South 172

United Synod of the South 173

Reunion Proposal and Old School Response 177

Old School Schism of 1861 180

Union with the Independent Presbyterian Church 183

Old School Pursues the New School 187

Lynchburg Conference189

Chapter 10 Southern Churches Unite 194

Old School Resistance 194

Reunion of 1864 201

Cumberland Presbyterians 207

Southern Moderation 209

Chapter 11 Northern Reunion and Sectional Division 213

Henry B. Smith and New School Subscription 214

Road to Reunion 222

New School Vindication 227

Spirituality of the Church 228

Correspondence North and South 232

Conclusion 239

Bibliography 243

General Index 265

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