Among the 19th century American Presbyterian works on the Westminster Confession of Faith, one by Henry Rowland Weed (1789-1870) stands out: Questions on the Confession of Faith and Form of Government of the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America (1842).
In question-and-answer format, Weed’s study guide tackles both the Confession of Faith and the Form of Government of the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America, delving into both its ecclesiological history and principles. Further, there is a brief section on admission to the sacrament of baptism. His questions are not always followed by an answer — sometimes the reader is just meant perhaps to go back to the source document, or discuss, or ponder. Sometimes his questions are answered with a simple Scripture reference. And at other times, the answers given are more full.
An extract from the section on the Confession relating to the chapter on God is given as a sample:
Q. 1. Are there more Gods than One? Deut. vi. 4. 1 Cor. viii. 4.
Q. 2. What is God? John iv. 24.
Q. 3. Why do the Scriptures ascribe bodily members and organs unto God?
A. It is an accommodation to our weakness, to express those perfections and acts, of which those bodily parts are known emblems: as hands, of power; and eyes and ears, of knowledge. Q. 4. How is God distinguished, in Scripture, from idols? 1 Thes. i. 9. latter part.
Q. 5. What are some of the attributes of God? Ex. xxxiv. 6, 7.
Q. 6. Are the divine attributes really distinct from God himself, or separable one from another? A. Certainly not; such ideas would be inconsistent with the infinite perfection of the divine nature.
Q. 7. How are the attributes of God commonly divided ? A. The most commonly received division is, into Communicable and Incommunicable.
Q. 8. What are the Communicable attributes? A. Those of which some resemblance may be found in creatures ; as wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness, truth.
Q. 9. What are the Incommunicable attributes? A. Those, of which there is no resemblance in the creature ; as Independence, Infinity, Eternity, Unchangeableness.
From the section on the Form of Government, another sample extract pertaining to ruling elders is given:
Q. 1. What is the office of the Ruling Elder? 1 Tim. v. 17.
Q. 2. By whom are Ruling Elders to be chosen?
Q. 3. How is this office designated in Scripture? 1 Cor. xii. 28. 1 Tim. v. 17.
Q. 4. How are they distinguished from Pastors? 1 Tim. v. 17.
Q. 5. While inferior in rank to Ministers of the word, have they an equal vote in the Judicatories of the Church ? A. Yes.
Q. 6. What are the duties of this office? A. Excepting the administration of the word, and sacraments, they are the same as those of the pastoral office. Heb. xiii. 17. James v. 14.
Q. 7. By what arguments does it appear that this office ought to be maintained in the Church? A. 1. Christian Churches were formed after the the model of the Jewish Synagogue, in which there was a class of officers of this kind. 2. It appears from a careful examination of Rom. xii. 6—8. 1 Cor. xii. 28, and other passages already referred to, that there was such a class of men in the Churches organized by the Apostles. 3. The early history of the Church; and 4. The necessity of the case.
Appended to this exposition of the standards of the Presbyterian Church is Ashbel Green’s Questions and Counsel for Young Converts. Altogether, Weed’s work is a valuable 19th century compendium of information about what the Presbyterian Church believes and how it is to be governed. Download it here for your own edification, study and reference.