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Commentary on the Preliminary Principles (1926)

In David S. Kennedy, Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A., The Presbyterian on 01/09/2010 at 01:47

I have looked for a long time trying to find some commentary on the Preliminary Principles.  There are a few sparse paragraphs in J. A. Hodge’s class What Is Presbyterian Law?  But otherwise, it was difficult to locate anything, until I ran across a series of articles that appeared in The Presbyterian, an old Philadelphia journal that was a mainstay for conservative Presbyterians up until about 1929 and the time of the reorganization of Princeton Seminary.
The Preliminary Principles were authored by John Witherspoon in 1788, in preparation for the first General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America.  The Principles technically remain a part of the constitution of the PC(USA) to this day, though they are sequestered into a section of “historical foundations”.  The Orthodox Presbyterian Church also adopted the Preliminary Principles into its constitution (1936), as did the Presbyterian Church in America in 1973.  The OPC was coming out of the PCUSA, so it was understandable that they would include the Principles.  But the PCA was formed by churches leaving the old Presbyterian Church, U.S. (aka, Southern), and interestingly, the Southern Presbyterians did not see fit to include the Principles as part of their constitution when they adopted their
Book of Church Order in 1879.
But to get to the matter, presented here is the first part of
Studies in Presbyterian Government, by David S. Kennedy.  More about him in preface to some subsequent post, but for now, here is his treatment of the first two paragraphs of the Preliminary Principles.  I do hope you will find this useful. Read the rest of this entry »