The following article, though written from the perspective of a concern within Congregational churches in the early 19th century, has much that is applicable for us today. One key point is made in the statement that “Doctrinal standards give stability, and secure uniformity of sentiment and discipline.” Dr. John Leith made this same point, though more extensively, some years ago in his Warfield Lecture, “Reformed Preaching Today.” Among other points, Leith stressed that the recovery of great preaching requires a well-educated congregation that can track with the pastor’s sermons:
The recovery of great preaching calls for the revival of the Christian community as a disciplined, knowledgeable, worshiping community of people. The recovery of preaching and the recovery of the community will have to take place together, because there can be no recovery of a vital Christian community, well informed, apart from the recovery of great preaching. And on the other hand, a great congregation makes a great preacher.
And catechesis is the indisputable foundation of a great congregation!
The Assembly’s Shorter Catechism
[The Charleston Observer, 10:29 (16 July 1836): 113.]
In this age of change and boasted improvement, we have witnessed with regret, the increasing disposition of Christians to depart from ancient standards and formularies of doctrines. How far the love of novelty has influence in producing this state of things, we are not prepared to say. The fact is that innovations and changes are easily effected, and the old paths are forsaken; often, seemly because they are old and have been trodden by men of other ages, and new ones are chosen, seemingly because they are new and without examination, whether they will conduct safely or not.
Perhaps in no portion of the Christian church has the change been greater, than in the congregational churches of Connecticut; ancient standards of doctrine in these churches, have been suffered to pass away, not by a public and formal objection, but by silent neglect on the part of individual churches in order to accommodate and receive to their communion such as would dissent from doctrines contained in their old standards. To this as one cause silently operating, may be traced as we believe the gradual decrease of the congregational churches in Connecticut, and the increase of other denominations. Doctrinal standards give stability, and secure uniformity of sentiment and discipline, and then adhered in the denominations embracing them, they serve to strengthen and increase that denomination but when such standards are trodden down or thrown aside, the denomination is changed in its distinctive character, notwithstanding the name should be still retained. Read the rest of this entry »