What is a True Presbyterian?
Rev. Angus Stewart
Is a true Presbyterian simply someone who attends, or
is a member of, a Presbyterian congregation? Or is a devout Presbyterian
someone who believes and lives by the biblical doctrines of
Presbyterianism set forth in the Westminster Confession (WC)?
Circumcision and synagogue attendance etc. did not
make one a true Jew, for "he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and
circumcision is that of the heart" (Rom. 2:29). Similarly, he is a
Presbyterian who is one inwardly who believes from the heart the
historic doctrines of Presbyterianism.
For a true Presbyterian, the 66 books of Scripture
are the supreme rule of faith and life (WC 1:2), not unbelieving
science or political correctness. Thus he believes that "some men and
angels are predestined unto everlasting life, and others foreordained to
everlasting death" (3:3); that Christ died only for elect mankind (3:6);
and that free will is a heresy (9:3). He does not look to his own good
works for salvation (16:5) but to the justifying righteousness of Christ
alone (11). He rejoices in God’s covenant (7), which requires the
baptism of believers and their infants (27:1; 28:4). He believes that
the Lord’s Table must be supervised by the elders so that "all ignorant
and ungodly persons" are refused admission (29:8). For he confesses that
"the acceptable way of worshipping the true God is instituted by
himself, and so limited by his own revealed will, that he may not be
worshipped according to the imaginations and devices of men … or any
other way not prescribed in the holy Scripture" (21:1). At home, he
practices family worship (21:6) and in all areas of life he seeks to
obey the ten commandments out of gratitude to God (19:6). He evaluates
churches by the three marks, namely "according as the doctrine of the
gospel is taught and embraced, ordinances administered, and public
worship performed more or less purely in them" (25:4). Thus he opposes
the church and pope of Rome as being "against Christ, and all that is
called God" (25:6) and he understands that the mass is "most abominably
injurious to Christ’s one only sacrifice" (29:2).
Sadly, true Presbyterians are rare today, even though
Presbyterian ministers and elders swear to uphold the doctrines of
Scripture set forth in the Westminster Confession. God warns that
church leaders shall receive the greater judgment (James 3:1). Those who
love Christ and His church grieve at the state of Presbyterianism in our
land and exhort Presbyterians to return to the Westminster Confession,
a faithful summary of the teaching of the Word of God.