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THE REFORMED BODIES.
THERE are three Reformed churches in the United States, the chief of which are the Reformed Church in America and the Reformed Church in the United States. The Reformed churches belong to the Presbyterian family in polity and doctrine, though their standards are not those of Westminster and their ecclesiastical terms differ somewhat from those generally used by the Presbyterian churches. They have consistories instead of sessions, classes instead of presbyteries, and general synods instead of general assemblies. The origin of the Reformed Church in America is traced to the Reformed Church of Holland; that of the Reformed Church in the United States to the Reformed Church in Germany. For the sake of distinction the former is popularly called the Reformed Dutch and the latter the Reformed German Church. These two bodies, both of which looked for aid and direction to the classis of Amsterdam until late in the eighteenth century, agreed in 1891, through their general synods, upon a plan of federal union, by which, if it should be ratified by the classes, while each retained its autonomy, a community of interest would be established respecting missionary and educational matters, and a federal synod, representing both churches and having advisory powers, would be held annually. The plan, however, failed, the classes of the Reformed Dutch Church declining to ratify it, and the general synod of that body regretfully declaring the fact, in 1893.
1.—THE REFORMED CHURCH IN AMERICA.
The Rev. Jonas Michaelius organized in New Amsterdam, in 1628, the first church of this order in this country. It embraced fifty communicants, “Walloons and Dutch." As the Dutch immigrants settled along the Hudson, on Long Island, and in New Jersey, congregations of their faith were gathered. A number of these churches are still in existence upward of two centuries old. The first organization, termed the “catus," was formed in 1747 by permission of the classis of Amsterdam. It had no ecclesiastical power, but was merely advisory, the classis reserving all power to itself. In 1755 a minority of the “cætus," dissatisfied with the assumption by that body of larger powers, formed a “conferentie.” This was the beginning of a sharp controversy, which was ended in 1770 in the union of the two bodies in a self-governing organization. This system was further developed in 1793, and finally perfected in the present ecclesiastical government of the church.
The stream of Dutch immigration ceased to flow in the latter half of the seventeenth century. This fact, with certain peculiar difficulties encountered by the church, accounts for its failure to attain to greater numerical strength. The Dutch language having ceased to be the language of its worship many years ago, the word “Dutch” was eliminated from its title in 1867. In consequence of a considerable immigration from Holland in late years, which has settled in Michigan and other Western States, there are many
congregations in that section in which the Dutch tongue is now used.
The Reformed Church accepts the Apostles', the Nicene, and the Athanasian creeds, the Belgic Confession, the canons of the Synod of Dort, and the Heidelberg Catechism as its doctrinal symbols. It is a distinctively Calvinistic body. The church has a liturgy for use in public worship, including an order of Scripture lessons, an order of worship, and forms of prayer. These, however, are not obligatory, and are not generally used. Forms for the administration of baptism and the Lord's Supper, for the ordination of ministers, etc., are imperative.
The church has thirty-three classes in this country. There are also four particular synods, which consist of representatives from classes. Above the particular synods is a general synod, which meets annually. The particular synod of New York embraces 8 classes; that of Albany, 9; that of Chicago, 7; and that of New Brunswick, 9.
The largest classis is that of New York, which has 8881 communicants, with church property valued at $3,308,000. The total number of communicants is 92,970. These belong to 572 organizations, and own 670 edifices, only 8 halls, with a seating capacity of 751, being rented for public worship. These church edifices have a total value of $10,340,159, which indicates an average for each church of $15,439. The average seating capacity is 385.
The denomination is represented only in fourteen States. New York has 52,228 communicants, and New Jersey 24,057. In these two States, therefore, are more than four fifths of the entire number of communicants, with church property valued at $9,536,309, or within $803,850 of the entire valuation for the denomination.
Value of ComChurch muniProperty. cants. $169,800 2,820
9,000 172 90,900
2,605 2,500 46 262,800
6,609 10,000 145
7,500 344 2,091,029 24,057 7,445,280 52,228 750
1,756 23,900 594 40, 100 1,349
2 2 8 15 II
670 257,922 $10,340,159 92,970
SUMMARY BY CLASSES.
12 18 21
7 19 14 17 23 19
6,100 17 23 8,455
8 3,150 22
6,024 1372 5,235
4,985 25 1742 7,150
30,850 131,400 73,500 72,000 121,150 65,000 85,700 146,800
749 3,327 1,603 2,530 2,087
984 2,395 2,766
9 10 31 17 I2 30
4,443 1,013 1,417 3,513 4,175 2,708 8,881
2.—THE REFORMED CHURCH IN THE UNITED STATES.
The original source of this body was the Reformed Church established in the Palatinate, one of the provinces of Germany. On account of severe persecutions the Palatine reformers were scattered, many finding refuge in this country in the early part of the eighteenth century. There were Germans among the American colonists, however, before this period. From 1700 to 1746 many thousand settled in Pennsylvania and elsewhere, and a number of Reformed congregations having been gathered, a "catus" (an ecclesiastical organization having advisory powers) was formed in 1747, the same year that the Reformed Dutch organized their “cpetus" in New York.
In response to most earnest appeals from the Rev. Michael Schlatter, who was a sort of general missionary