Subscription to Creeds

“And thou shalt speak and say before the Lord thy God, A Syrian ready to perish was my father, and he went down into Egypt, and sojourned there with a few, and became there a nation, great, mighty, and populous…”

Duet. 26:5

“This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners”

1 Tim. 1:15

Hold fast the form of sound words, which thou hast heard of me, in faith and love which is in Christ Jesus.

2 Tim. 1:13




Commentaries on the Westminster Standards

Creeds are Not an Element of Worship




On the Apostle’s Creed

Cunningham, William – The Apostles’ Creed, 1863, p. 79, 14 pages, Chapter 3 from his Historical Theology, vol. 1




On the Nicene Creed 

Cunningham, William – The Doctrine of the Trinity in the Early Church and the Nicene Creed, 1863, p. 267, 38 pages, from his Historical Theolgy, vol. 1





Gebbie, D. Douglas – The Experiemental Religion of the Westminster Standards, 2015, 22 paragraphs.  Rev. Gebbie has been a pastor in the Free Church of Scotland and the Presbyterian Reformed Church.

Harper – The Uses and Value of Subordinate Standards, 1843, p. 93, 8 pages, from the larger work by various authors, Commemoration of the Bicentenary of the Westminster Assembly of Divines: held at Edinburgh, 1843, Containing the Addresses and Conversations,  Buy  158 pages

Hodge, Charles – The Nature and Necessity of a Public Profession of ReligionHTML,  Buy  from his The Way of Life, 1841

All too often Christianity is thought to be a personal opinion that one can keep to themselves and requires nothing.  Here is a Biblical corrective.  Christ said, “whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven.”  Mt. 10:33

Hodge, Charles – What is the “System of Doctrine?” HTML, 1936, the article is edited by Dr. J. Gresham Machen and contains extracts from Hodge’s Discussions in Church Polity

An article on confessional subscription and the meaning of the phrase “system of doctrine” in ministers’ and elders’ ordination vows

Hodge, Charles – What is Meant by Adopting the Westminster Confession?  HTML, from the Princeton Review of 1867 and later published as Appendix II of A.A. Hodge’s The Confession of Faith, Banner of Truth edition, p. 420-426

Kennedy, John – Answer to the Declaratory Statement of 1892 in the Free Church of Scotland, part 1part 2HTML, with the five paragraph Declaratory Act at the beginning.  The Declaratory Act of 1892 in the Free Church was a declaration of the Church’s interpretation of the Westminster Confession under five points, some of which taught against the Confession itself.  The intent of the Act was to open the door to union with the broader United Presbyterian Church.  The Declaratory Act, not being of a constitutional nature, but only a current interpretation of the constitution, did not materially change the constitution.  Thus the conservatives, bound by their unaltered constitutional vows to the constitution of the church, stayed in the church, though two ministers left and formed the Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland.  The foreseen union between the United Presbyterian Church and the Free Church took place in 1900 and the United Free Church was formed.  The Constitutionalists stayed out of the unconstitutional union, continued the Free Church of Scotland, and repealed the Declaratory Act in 1905.

The Declaratory Act includes the statement, “that liberty of opinion is allowed on matters in the subordinate standard not essential to the doctrine therein taught.”  With such ideas rife in confessional churches today, Kennedy’s dismantling of such broad-tent subscription is an example for conservatives today.  

Miller, Samuel – On the Importance of Creeds and Confessions: an Introductory Lecture, with an Appendix entitled A Letter to Scripturista1833, p. 301, 95 pages

Miller, Samuel – The Vows of Teaching and Ruling Elders1833, two pages, abridged by Rev. Morton H. Smith





Miller, Samuel – Doctrinal Integrity,  Buy  by Samuel Miller, including The Utility and Importance of Creeds and Confessions,1839, 138 pages, and Adherence to our Doctrinal Standards, 1833, in three letters, with a Preface by Kevin Reed, 1989

The classic piece showing the Biblical warrant and necessity for creeds in the church, and the great importance of officers upholding them with their vows. 

Miller, Samuel – A Letter to a Gentleman of Baltimore: in reference to the case of The Rev. Mr. Duncan, [in reference to the necessity and utility of creeds] 1826, 91 pages, by Samuel Miller.  This is a lengthy letter to an anonymous friend reviewing Rev. Mr. Duncan’s book Creeds, which argued against the use of creeds due to the sufficiency of the Bible.

Miller, Samuel – Letters to Presbyterians, on the present crisis in the Presbyterian Church in the United States1833, 340 pages

In Defense of the Descent: A Response to Contemporary Critics – Explorations in Reformed Confessional Theology,  Buy  88 pages

This is best on the topic.  It is an excellent short and readable, but very detailed Biblical and historical defense of the phrase that Jesus “descended into hell” in the Apostle’s Creed (and mentioned in the Westminster Larger Catechism).  Hyde argues for a two-fold meaning, reflecting the scriptures, that Christ experienced the curse of being forsaken by God on the Cross and that His body remained under the power of the grave for three days.  This is also a helpful antidote to the all too popular false teaching of our day that Christ actually descended into spiritual hell after His death (see Lk. 23:43). 



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