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I was born on the 2d of November, 1803. The place of my nativity was a village called Upper Creevaugh,[1] about two miles from the city of Londonderry in county Donegal, Ireland. The river Foyle is the natural boundary between the counties Donegal and Derry, yet the city. is on the Donegal side of the river; and three miles on that side of said river are called the "Liberties of Derry." I can, therefore, in a similar sense, say with Paul, "I was free born." And here I may remark, that I know not any people who understand liberty better, or are more law-abiding than the Protestant, and especially the Presbyterian population of the Ulster province of Ireland—a love of liberty and law inherited from their Scottish ancestry.

I was the first subject of baptism by Rev. John Alexander after his ordination, and under his ministry were spent the first twenty years of my life. We naturally form a high estimate of the pastor’s abilities whose ministrations have been engaging: and instructive to us in youth. Mr. Alexander, in my apprehension, was born an orator; his sublime conception voiced in flowing eloquence often thrilled my youthful frame with such delightful emotion as no other speaker has since effected. He subsequently removed to Belfast, where he died.

My grandparents, on both sides of the house, were Covenanters. My paternal grandfather resided in Fauet, and the other in Killilastian, where Messrs. William Gamble and William Gibson were competing candidates for the congregation in that vicinity. Mr. Gamble, I have often heard, was chosen "by a small majority." My grandfather, John Steel, had removed from Fauet before my time, to the place of my birth. My father, David, removed about a mile from Creevaugh to Altaughaderry, where he died in February, 1804. My only recollection of him is as he sat at the table with the family Bible, conducting the worship of God. I need hardly say, he also was a Covenanter; and although I had not the benefit of his instruction, being the youngest of six sons, it was pleasing, and I trust profitable to me, to know that his memory was fragrant among surviving friends. Frequently, when our widowed mother, in answer to the kindly inquiry of friends after the names of her boys, would come to me as the last, and say, "He was named for his father," O how pleasant, and I hope stimulating, was the remark, "I wish he may be such a man as his father." Our leasehold "for thirty years, or three lives," as such documents ran, contained about 140 acres, running up a hill, where abundant turf for fuel was found. The farm afforded sufficient work for us all, with two hired men, one girl, and a herd-boy six months in the year. I took my place on the farm and at school like the rest till my sixteenth year. Our mother was in the best sense, and in the judgment of many, a "strong-minded woman": strong in her convictions of divine truth, the truth sealed by the blood of our martyred progenitors. Family worship and catechizing on the Sabbath evenings were the order of the household. Common school education, if not so expanded as now, was generally more thorough. The civil powers had not then assumed the control of this part of the church’s work. In my boyhood, it was customary for a number of contiguous farmers to employ a teacher, most commonly for a term of three months, and in any season of the year. In addition we often had a night-school in Winter. Reading, writing and arithmetic were the most important parts of our education; and I believe as thoroughly taught as they are now in the common public schools. The Bible and the Shorter Catechism were among our text-books; and whether our teacher was Papist or Protestant he "gave out the questions" of the whole Catechism on each Saturday, and the labors of the week were ended at noon. I have a vivid recollection of a pompous pedagogue, who always dismissed us on Friday evening with the solemn charge—"Tomorrow is Satchursday; bring your catechizes with you." About this time some farmers began to suggest the propriety and urge the necessity of adding Grammar to our course of study, and a few wished their sons taught Bookkeeping. Geography was not yet introduced. In connection with Catechism, I committed to memory "Murray’s Abridgment;" and under a succession of incompetent teachers. I underwent the drudgery of repeating both for years, when teacher and pupil were about equally skilled in grammar and theology! Another task of similar intellectual discipline was the daily memorizing of a column of Entick’s Dictionary; every word to be spelled, the definition given; and especially the parts of speech at some peril, while neither teacher nor scholar could discriminate between a noun and a verb! I was, moreover twice conducted through "Jackson’s System of Book-keeping by Double Entry." Such, in brief, is a synopsis of my common school education.

In my seventeenth year, I entered an Academy in Derry, efficiently conducted by a principal and two ushers; and within the first term of three months, besides other studies, I penetrated the mysteries of English Grammar nearly as far as I have been able to do in some sixty years since—thanks to competent instructors. How great the value of such to society at large! For a period of three years, short annual vacations excepted, I prosecuted the study of languages and cognate branches in the aforesaid academy. During this period I walked every morning about four English miles to the city and returned home in the evening.[2] Most of my committing to memory was done on the road; and to those years, I look back as among the most happy and healthful of my life.

By this time our large family had been diminished. My eldest brother had married and left us. The third had died years ago. The second and fifth had emigrated to America. These two, after the eldest had separated from us, conducted our domestic worship alternately. The fourth, who was more than five years my senior, was now dealt with by our mother to lead in family worship. The urgency of our godly mother was unavailing. He was no infidel. He attended the public ordinances as regularly as the rest, and indeed excelled us all in memorizing the Larger Catechism. He was singularly taciturn and a habitual reader of solid literature, especially civil history. But the reader may have noticed that this fourth brother had already allowed the fifth, his junior, to alternate with the second in the worship of the family.

Among the religious books of the household, those which made the deepest impression on my mind and heart in the days of my youth, next to the Holy Scriptures, were Boston’s "Four-fold State of Man" and The "Cloud of Witnesses." In the former is clearly and forcibly demonstrated the awful truth, that "childhood and youth are vanity:" in the latter, the principles which make martyrs, sustain and comfort them, are practically exemplified. Pike and Hayward’s "Cases of Conscience" were also useful.

A crisis had now occurred in our family, and I was providentially called to bear the cross. The fire must not go out on the domestic altar. Failing to prevail with my much older brother to "take the book," my precious mother turned to me; but oh! how can I describe her tender solicitude and my consequent emotions? As yet only "in my teens," to assume Christ’s yoke in this form, my senior brother sitting by, I felt to be overwhelming; yet maternal authority, sympathy and loving encouragement prevailed. And now, when nearing the end of my earthly pilgrimage, I owe it to our Lord as part of a personal testimony, that "his yoke is easy and his burden is light." Those who have made the experiment will endorse the testimony of Jeremiah—"It is good for a man that he bear the yoke in his youth." During the few following years of my residence in our family, I officiated as I had tremblingly begun. My brother never could be induced to "take the book."[3] On the 19th of April, 1824, I left Moville on the river Foyle in the brig Ceres of Kirkaldy, Scotland, and on the 7th of June following, arrived safely in Philadelphia.  [back to CONTENTS]


On landing at the wharf, I could distinguish only one person in the crowd whom I had ever seen before. After a day or two, I set out for the town of Huntingdon, some 200 miles west. Four other passengers with whom I became acquainted on the ocean were going in the same direction, but to the then "Far West," in southern Ohio. Details of incidents in this part of my journey must not be inflicted on the reader’s patience. One incident only may be mentioned. Five of us having engaged a public wagoner to haul our baggage to Huntingdon, and having paid him in advance, (as he affirmed was customary), when we reached Harrisburg, the team was seized for debt; we got our baggage, but we saw our teamster no more. Thus early were we swindled, not by a Yankee, but by a genuine son of Erin! About two weeks were occupied in reaching Huntingdon; there my companions and I separated and I never saw them afterward. Two of my father’s brothers, William and Samuel, were among the early settlers of Huntingdon, and were merchants in that county-seat for half a century or more. I spent nine months with the former as storekeeper, meanwhile prosecuting my pleasant classical studies. While there the younger of my two brothers who had six years before preceded me to America came fifty miles to see me. From him I learned that both had become citizens. He at once asked me to "file my intentions," etc. Being already not only a naturalized citizen but "a limb of the law," he urged the importance of speedy action on my part, and at once he would attend to the legal steps. This was my second great trial. I desired to know the nature of the oath to be taken by an alien. He immediately procured for me a copy of the Constitution. Wishing to act with deliberation, I succeeded in gaining time to examine the famous document, and we parted for the time. Some months afterward he visited me the second time, confident that I would be fully prepared for the initiatory steps toward citizenship. Our interview was substantially as follows:—"Well, I presume you have read the Constitution." "Yes." "Well, what do you think of it?" "Of the greater part of it I think favorably." "Very well, you are now ready to file your declaration of intention" etc. "No, not yet." "Why, what objections can you have?" "I think I have discovered atheism and slavery in this document," as I held it my hand. "But you do not swear to perpetuate these: the Constitution provides for its own amendment." "So I perceive; but I must swear to the document as it is—not to future amendments." He expatiated on the advantages of political influence, lamented and·extenuated my scruples, and continued to press the subject "till I was ashamed." At length I closed the discussion by saying with deep emotion:—"Brother Stewart, I have resolved that by divine grace, and while I have the use of my reason, I will never swear that oath." We lived in amity thirty-seven years till his death, but he never again proposed to resume discussion of that question. And here with grief I mention, that like too many other Covenanters, these two brothers who had alternately led in our family worship in my boyhood, left this part of their religion in Ireland and forsook the Covenanted Testimony.

April, 1825, I taught in the first academy erected in Ebensburgh, Cambria Co., Pa., and continued in that position till September 1826, still pursuing my personal course of study. At that date I went to Pittsburg. On entering the stage-coach I found only one passenger. We soon became acquainted. His name was James Teas, from Milton, Pa. We found that his father and my uncle William had been fellow-passengers from Ireland, and still corresponded by letter. Moreover, Mr. Teas and I were going to the same place with the same object—to enter college. Having engaged boarding together, we entered the Western University of Pa. I expected to be placed among the Freshmen, or at most to be associated with the Sophomores. On examination by a committee of the faculty, to my surprise and alarm they assigned me to the Senior class, and likewise my new friend, Mr. Teas. He was a most amiable companion, but of not brilliant intellect. As the time of graduation approached, he was perplexed in selecting a subject for public exhibition. I suggested a topic that pleased him, and he set about composing his speech. He so often interrupted me for assistance that I besought him at length to allow me to finish, and he should have whatever help I could give. I soon found it would be less labor to make than to mend his essay. In short, I framed his speech: he committed and delivered it verbatim, and passed as creditably as others in the graduating class.

After graduation, I began the divinity course under the direction of Rev. John Black, D.D., then pastor of the R.P. congregation in Pittsburg, and Professor of Latin in the aforesaid University. I had not been under the Doctor’s tuition at college, but I was under his ministry every Sabbath since my coming to Pittsburg. Doctor Black was a profound theologian, and in my opinion very few were equal to him as a critic. Whether in language, metaphysics, or theology, his acuteness of intellect and powers of discrimination often excited the surprise and admiration of his audience in the class and in the congregation. I knew one infidel who paid liberally for a pew to "enjoy the luxury of Doctor Black’s reasoning powers." Under his direction and the care of the Pittsburg Presbytery, I spent the usual time in the study of theology. One year before the end of the usual curriculum, the Presbytery deputed Rev. Thos. C. Guthrie to negotiate with me relative to accepting licensure. This overture was declined. Mr. Guthrie urged me by arguments needless to recount. I utterly refused.

Most of my time as student in Pittsburg, I boarded in the house of Mr. Hugh McMaster. His oldest son John was my fellow student in divinity, as he had been my fellow graduate from the University. While preparing pieces of trial for licensure our intercourse was similar to that in my experience with Mr. Teas already noticed. I finally had to write his Latin exegesis. We both passed the usual examination before Presbytery and were licensed together. In due time he became distinguished as Rev. John McMaster, D.D.!  [back to CONTENTS]


Having been licensed as probationer on the first Wednesday of April, 1830, I received and fulfilled appointments within the bounds of Pittsburg Presbytery until the following September, when I passed regularly into the Presbytery of Ohio.[see Appendix I.] After assisting Rev. James Blackwood at two communions, Jonathan’s Creek and Walnut Creek, I went on southward and westward till the spring of 1831. During this time, leading men in five congregations within the bounds of those two presbyteries had approached me privately relative to settlement, but without receiving either grant or encouragement. I accepted the unanimous call of the sixth at Brush Creek, Adams Co., Ohio. I married Eliza Johnston, Chillicothe, Ross Co. Ohio, on May 4th, 1831; was ordained and installed on the 6th of June following, by the two Rev. brothers, Gavin and Hugh McMillan. Then began my pastoral labors and attendant responsibilities.

The Session consisted of six members, and at our first communion about fifty partook of the Lord’s Supper. These were scattered to a distance of about 16 miles, and locally intermingled with the members of several congregations of the Associate Reformed Church. These people at the time of my settlement were without pastors, and invited us to occupy one of their houses of worship, central to most of my charge. They came in crowds as hearers.

My settlement was at the rate of four hundred dollars a year, but only such proportion of my time was called for, as would amount to $160.[see Appendix II.] The rest of my time was at the disposal of presbytery. I supplied two stations, each forty-five miles distant, and in opposite directions, one of them in Kentucky. My trials in the ministry very soon began. As a preacher, I was acceptable to our Associate Reformed neighbors, and knowing how meagre a salary was promised me, soon the temptation reached my ears, that if I would only join their church, and be their pastor, my salary would be $800 per annum. One of them said, many years after, "Mr. Steele was not for sale;" (and he is yet living [in 1883; ED.] to vouch for this.) The meagre salary was never fully paid, although much of it came in farm produce—flour, corn, pork, etc. The arrears annually increased, so that I find on my account book at settlement, February 7th, 1834, the balance due was $60.25. I note this merely as a sample. Farther on this may be corroborated.

But pecuniary matters were not my greatest trials. Most of the members of session I believe were honest men, but not intelligent or faithful. Of one I must in duty speak plainly, but briefly. When a candidate for the eldership, an elder of the Associate R[eformed] Church, and brother-in-law to the candidate, kindly cautioned our minister against ordaining him as being unfit for that office; yet he was ordained. A neighbor and this elder quarreled about their accounts. They had a war of words. The neighbor avoiding an action of slander, is reported as having thus replied to his adversary. "Sir, I am no hypocrite. Although I do not pretend to belong to any church; yet I never killed my neighbor’s steer in the woods, hid the skin and sold the meat. I never cut down a bee-tree on Sunday, nor do I always wait to be sued before paying my debts," etc. I believe these stinging words from a man of the world were not without some grounds.

Our congregation, in five years, had increased to the number of 150. I believe that when outwardly most prosperous, we were spiritually in our worst condition. I began to see that I must put a stop to the loose action of the session in admitting applicants. An opportunity occurred. After repeated solicitation by an elder, who lived some eight miles to one side, to call a meeting of session there, I at length reluctantly complied. All the members were not present, but there was a majority. Session being constituted, a woman, who was a stranger to all but the one elder, appeared before us. She had been raised a Presbyterian in Ireland, been married to a Papist in America, and raised a family. I asked her some of the first questions in the Shorter Catechism. Her answers were all apologetic. "She knew the Catechism in her youth, but had forgotten it," etc., I then asked some simple questions in other words. Still nothing but apologies. I then said to the session, "I presume it is not necessary to proceed with the examination." "Oh, I think not, Moderator," came from one, and all seemed to assent. "Well, what farther order do you take ?" Instantly it was moved and seconded, that the woman be received. The motion was put and carried unanimously! What course could now be legally taken? I said, "Brethren, I am sorry that I feel constrained to protest against this action. I must appeal to Presbytery." They were all silent, not knowing what to do. They dreaded to meet me at Presbytery. I pitied them in a dilemma, from which they knew no way of escape. To open a way for their relief I said, "It is true that a Moderator has no negative over the court, but a majority have a right to move a reconsideration of their own action." Immediately a motion for reconsideration was carried, and instantly a reversal of their first action passed unanimously! Then the woman opened her mouth in billingsgate [i.e., vulgar abusive language] and profanity till she passed out of the door. "Now, brethren" said I, "you must all be convinced that this woman was not fit to be received." They all assented.

The anti-slavery agitation had now pervaded all communities, in the Northern States. In 1836, abolition societies were forming in all directions. I attended at the first organizing of one in our vicinity. A salaried agent presided. I offered a series of resolutions as a preliminary test. The chairman stated that the proposed organization "had nothing to do with the Bible or religion." That was enough for me. I went home; but some of my members joined the society, and voted for its periodical meetings, on the day of our usual fellowship meetings! No one who had a drop of the martyrs’ blood in his veins, could be apathetic at such a time; especially when Congress had passed the "Fugitive Slave Law"; requiring every man to assist the slaveholder, or his pensioned agent, when called upon, to arrest the panting fugitive, under a penalty of one thousand dollars fine and imprisonment. Many yet living will attest that I had always borne public testimony against slavery, even to such extent that some who sympathized with that inhuman system took their hats and left the audience.[4] Most of our ministers had joined the local abolition societies, and some of them had accepted an appointment from the American Anti-slavery Society at a salary of forty dollars a month! It was soon noised abroad that I refused to join, or to occupy a public platform in common with drunkards, Sabbath-breakers, infidels, etc., to oppose slavery. It also became known that I declined to be identified with similar characters, slaveholders included, to oppose drunkenness: in short, that I utterly refused to co-operate for moral reform with any association, outside of God’s ordinances, in violation of our covenanted unity and uniformity.

One day a "two-faced" member of my charge, to ingratiate himself with me, said, "I will show you a letter in confidence received lately from Pittsburg, if you will not tell." I replied, "I cannot pledge myself to conceal any matter of public interest to the church." He seemed chagrined (he is yet alive [in 1883 ED.] and knows whereof I write), and I never saw the letter. On the rapid increase of my charge, as already noticed, my salary was raised from $160 to $300, but was never paid; for I soon heard that by counsel the subscriptions had been erased "to starve me out." This measure failing, as I was neither "for sale," nor likely to be "starved out," resort was had to another expedient. By counsel, as before, a libel of five counts was preferred before a pro re nata Presbytery. Rev. Robert Wallace was Moderator. Only one of the counts was found relevant—"baptizing a child against the will of the session." This could not be proved, and I was cleared. The Moderator lodging with me, expressed his wonder at my equanimity [5] during the trial of the libel. We had some conversation in the evening on the engrossing topic of our relation to the existing societies for reform. Mr. Wallace gave a little of his recent experience. A Quaker on his way to an Anti-slavery Convention had lodged with him over night. At evening and morning worship his guest "neither joined in praise nor bowed in prayer, but sat upright, his head covered with his broad-brimmed hat." "Really," said Mr. Wallace, "I began to think we were getting into bad company;" yet he continued in that company [i.e., the Anti-slavery societies]!  [back to CONTENTS]


Rev. James Blackwood had been my predecessor in a brief pastorate at Brush Creek, and, as reported, "had been starved out." He certainly had not been unpopular for his strictness, either in doctrine or practice. He had favored what have since usually been called "union prayer meetings." Moreover, when a minister of the General Assembly occasionally came into the neighborhood, Mr. B[lackwood], at the close of the Sabbath service, "would announce preaching by the Presbyterian minister, and himself attend." This may partly account for my attempt at reformation first in the session. In the Reformed Presbyterian Church the first step of disorder and incipient defection has ever been Occasional Hearing, and this step, though often insensibly, yet by logical necessity, leads to all succeeding steps which end in open apostasy—if not prevented by grace working repentance and reformation. In 1834, a memorial and petition was presented to General Synod, against this inconsistent, unfaithful, and suicidal practice; the operation of which had caused the lamentable disruption of 1833.[6]Rev. Thomas Sproull, then young in the ministry and consequently inexperienced, spoke strongly against the memorial. He was doubtless anxious equally to enlarge his congregation and thereby to augment his salary. He closed an earnest speech by expressing "hope that Synod would just leave that matter to him and his session." The memorial was shamefully and sinfully "returned." Synod having failed when respectfully asked, or having refused to declare the law of the church and of the Bible in the case, the carnal mind would naturally and readily infer that every one was at liberty to do that which was right in his own eyes. Let this matter of occasional hearing be briefly considered here:

With a few exceptions in Continental Europe, all the churches of the Presbyterian family in the British Empire and in the United States are composed of members descended from the loins of covenanted progenitors. The "Act rescissory" passed by Charles II. and his prelatic counsellors forcibly overthrew the "Covenanted Reformation," more than two hundred years ago. The majority then broke their most solemn oath of allegiance to the Lord and his Anointed, transferring it to Charles and his rebellious successors to the present time. But God was and still is a party, and the principal party in those solemn vows. Centuries are nothing to him with whom "a thousand years are as one day;" and who visited the children of Israel "on the self-same day as he had promised to Abraham four hundred and thirty years before." "The Lord is not slack concerning his promise as some men count slackness." Shall we who profess to own the obligation of our fathers’ solemn engagements to God, follow a multitude to do evil—the great evil of perjury? Is this a scriptural way or rational expedient to bring them to a sense of their hereditary sin; to repentance and reformation? Surely not. No; the divine command and direction in the case is very plain and very express,—"Let them return unto thee; but return not thou unto them." "Waiting upon the ministry" of those who have gone away backward from our scriptural reformation and broken the "brotherly covenant," is to neutralize totally our testimony against them; and the divine injunction is peremptory, "Be not partaker of other men’s sins; keep thyself pure."

From the time of licensure, as I journeyed among our people, the inquiry was often made, "Do you know anything about a man by the name of Lusk, who was formerly a minister in our church?" My usual reply was, "I never saw him, but I have heard that he has lost both his ministerial and moral character by cheating his neighbor and taking a false oath to cover the iniquity." This man, Rev. Robert Lusk, had lived for some years in comparative obscurity in an almost literal wilderness in the southern part of Indiana, and under an act of suspension by General Synod in New York city in 1825, for his faithfulness. After our division in Philadelphia, 1833, Mr. Lusk charitably hoped that we who were known as "Old Lights" were purged from preceding error and disorder. Having read our Minutes, and seeing my name as Clerk, he addressed me by letter, in which he said, "These are the first honest Minutes of Synod, and the only ones that can be legally used as testimony." He also expressed his desire for restoration to our fellowship. In reply, I encouraged him to make regular application to the Ohio Presbytery. He applied in person accordingly; and adverting to the local fama clamosa against his character, he earnestly desired Presbytery to send a Commission to investigate the charges on the spot. His petition was granted, and Messrs. Charles B. McKee and John B. Johnston, ministers, with two ruling elders, were sent to Walnut Ridge, Washington Co., Indiana, "to take testimony and report to Presbytery.’’ The report was accordingly submitted to Presbytery at next meeting, and Mr. Lusk was also present. When the report was read in court, Mr. Lusk complained of partiality by the Commission, especially the ministers.[7] Mr. McKee, chairman, on the way to Walnut Ridge, had made an appointment to preach to the Presbyterians in Salem, the county seat, on a certain day. To fulfil the appointment at Salem, seven miles distant, and complete the Commission’s duties at Walnut Ridge, the chairman found to be impossible. Mr. Lusk’s complaint was, that "the Commission finally adjourned while two of his witnesses were standing on the floor!" He asked for another Commission and this request was granted. Rev. John Wallace and I, with Messrs. William Ramsay and Robert Craig, elders, were sent to ascertain whether our predecessors had been partial as a Commission. We found the charge partially proved, not only by the two witnesses who had been left "standing on the floor," but by other members. On our way homeward, Elder Ramsay in homely figurative style thus expressed his estimate of the people—"Mr. Lusk’s friends are the cream of the congregation, the rest are but skim milk."

I think this case merits some farther amplification, in its hearing upon subsequent transactions, as tending to illustrate important principles and also to develop variety of character.

The two reports of the aforesaid Commissions were obviously in conflict and tended to complicate the case when laid before Presbytery. The documentary testimony submitted by the first Commission was shown by the report of the second Commission to be incomplete. After laborious investigation and protracted discussion, Presbytery, still unable to come to an intelligible decision, unanimously referred the whole matter to the Western Subordinate Synod shortly to meet not far distant. The reader should now understand the gist of the case as it came before the superior court, probably for final adjudication. The sins and scandal preferred against Mr. Lusk, before the first Commission were expressed in variety of language. It was alleged that he had "cheated his neighbor and taken a false oath—had violated the eighth and ninth commandments—was guilty of swindling and perjury." But how did Mr. Lusk become liable to the charge of these heinous, these enormous sins and scandals. Those who have heard and read of such charges in the Bible and outside of it laid against Christ’s faithful witnesses, will be likely to suspect slander instead of crime in such cases.

Mr. Lusk, "as a minister and a witness," among other social sins, had borne public testimony against Freemasonry. A lodge of this "unhallowed club" existed in the neighboring town of Salem. A member of Mr. Lusk’s congregation had been inveigled into the lodge. This man had done some clearing on Mr. Lusk’s farm, in seeming grateful recompense for boarding and medical attendance duping protracted sickness in his benefactor’s family. When he became a Mason, the "brethren of the mystic tie" instigated him to make out a "trumped up account" against his former pastor and benefactor. Mr. Lusk, in necessary self-defence, made oath that he did not owe the amount of the prosecutor’s claim. Such is the substance of the whole matter.

When the case came before the Sub. Synod, Mr. Lusk being present, Rev. J.B. Johnston, one of the members on the first Commission, argued and strenuously insisted that Mr. Lusk could not be heard in defence: that the court must confine itself to the "documentary evidence" taken by the Commission of Presbytery. At this juncture, Mr. Blackwood rose and indignantly asked, "Moderator! Shall this court be insulted by refusing to hear a culprit at your bar?" Without taking or asking additional testimony, a motion was made and carried that the accused declare before the Synod "his sorrow for having been the cause of so much trouble to the church." With deep emotion, visible in copious tears, Mr. Lusk addressing the chair, said, I cannot make that acknowledgment and be an honest man." This was a moment of much and diverse feeling among the members of court. At length a member moved, That the word occasion be substituted for cause, and this was accepted at once by the court. Mr. Lusk immediately assented, for he was a man who understood the import and force of language. He was then "restored"—rather recognized as in full possession of all the rights of a brother in the ministry.  [back to CONTENTS]


The system of slavery incorporated with organic law in the United States of North America, was perhaps the most potent factor in shaping the policy of the national government for generations. And this wicked system was perhaps no less powerful in its bearing upon ecclesiastical relations. About the beginning of the present century, the Reformed Presbyterian Church prohibited slave-holders from entering her fellowship. In several sections of the slave States, especially in South Carolina, members of this church had effected settlements in the last century. The continuance and increasing influence of the system in the general government, and consequently in the Southern States, rendered the condition of the Covenanters more and more uncomfortable. Many of them in consequence had removed to the Northern States, by courtesy called the "Free States." Among these was Rev. Hugh McMillan, followed in succession, by many or most of the members of his South Carolina charge. A plan had been devised and a society organized for colonizing emancipated slaves in Africa, "their fatherland." This Colonization Society soon became popular. It was liberally supported by many pious people. Its enthusiastic advocates in "towering eloquence," pictured a grand republic in Africa, destined soon to evangelize that "Dark Continent,"—a republic which would in time even rival the United States in liberty, religion and glory! The society was patronized by slaveholders and non-slave-holders alike. In 1828, the aforesaid Mr. McMillan brought before General Synod the claims of the Colonization Society in a lengthy and eulogistic speech. A unanimous vote followed the address, pledging the church to the support of the Society. Doubtless slaveholders, humane and inhuman, from different motives, supported colonization. Infidel editors who hated slavery, were not slow to detect the policy and expose the hypocrisy of the taskmasters, who favored colonization. Slaveholders, the infidel press affirmed, liberally supported the African Colonization Society, "to get rid of the free blacks," who rendered the tenure of their property insecure by tempting the slaves to strike out for liberty; and they gave a tithe of the profits derived from the unrequited toil of the negroes to convert the heathen abroad, while by wicked laws prohibiting the education of the heathen at home. (Sic licebat nobis ab hoste doceri.) Thus the Lord made the infidel an unconscious instrument to teach Covenanters the ultimate object of the colonization scheme. Accordingly, though General Synod, in 1834, refused to revive the law of the church against occasional hearing, the habitual violation of which had severed the body the preceding year in Philadelphia; yet almost all our ministers were converted from the colonization cause. There was, however, one notable exception, Rev. John Cannon. He had been a zealous advocate of the colonization scheme, almost from its inception. I had sufficient evidence of this, by the fact that so early as 1830, I had incurred Mr. Cannon’s displeasure, in refusing at his earnest solicitation, while traveling as a licentiate, to become an agent for the circulation of a monthly magazine, conducted in the interest of the Colonization Society. Discussion waxed hot in Synod. Mr. Samuel M. Willson was Moderator, and while Mr. Cannon was strongly urging the claims of his favorite society, the Moderator’s feelings were roused and became uncontrollable. Without leaving the chair, he vociferated,—"I hold myself prepared to prove that the Colonization Society was a scheme devised to perpetuate slavery," or words to that effect. Alas! the acrimonious discussions at that meeting furnished lamentable evidence that we were not yet purged from leaven that rent us asunder the year before. I was then comparatively young in and in the ministry; yet I was as old as George Gillespie, or Hugh Binning, each used his pen in giving to the church and to the world their unanswerable arguments against "unlawful confederacies." In my simplicity I had confidently expected that after 1833, our generation-work would be to redeem the promise of 1806, by completing the Plan upon which Reformation Principles Exhibited had been projected—adding the Argumentative part. Some of us pressed this important matter on the attention of Synod, and with such success, that Rev. William Sloan was appointed to prepare a paper on "The Power of the Civil Magistrate circa sacra," and Rev. Moses Roney, on "The Arminian Controversy:"[8] [back to CONTENTS]


The General Synod was a delegated body, restricted in membership by the presbyteries. The conventional law fixing the ratio of delegation was as follows,—"If a presbytery had only two ministers, both were entitled to be delegates. Of three ministers, only two could be delegated, and of four, only three, etc. The ruling elders were to be equal in number to the ministers. This constitutional law of delegation was frequently violated by dominant parties. General Synod met only biennially. The two Subordinate Synods had been created by the General Synod, and to them was assigned all business requiring judicial cognizance within their respective bounds during the years which intervened between the meetings of General Synod. The Allegheny Mountains constituted a natural boundary between the Eastern and Western Sub[ordinate] Synods. The question excited much feeling, as already noticed, General Synod in 1834. In the fall of the following year, the anti-slavery sentiment of surrounding communities still increasing, the Western Sub. Synod passed a resolution that each minister in Synod should preach a sermon before next meeting, on the subject of slavery. To the general surprise one vote was heard in the negative. This came from Rev. Samuel McKinney.[9] He and Mr. Hugh Walkinshaw had professed a good profession, before many witnesses about the time of their licensure, and of course had gained the confidence of the sounder part of the. church; but in time these two ministers developed quite different traits of character.

The anti-slavery sentiment was rapidly crystallizing in surrounding society when the General Synod met in Allegheny City, in 1836. Since the majority of the members had been by the popular breeze already detached from the Colonization Society, to which a unanimous pledge had been given in 1828, the reader may easily anticipate that the feelings which found expression from the Moderator’s chair and on the floor of Synod would be greatly intensified. Among the papers laid on Synod’s table, bearing upon both doctrine and discipline, (for conflicting views had already engendered disorders) a Memorial and Petition came up from the congregation of Brush Creek. The purport of the document was that the public ear being generally opened, Synod would give more point and publicity to the church’s testimony. This paper indicated the course which the conservative part of the church desired to pursue. But alas! it soon appeared that these were already in the position of a hopeless minority, the majority of the ministers being inveigled in the popular confederacies.

It may not be improper here to advert to the public conduct of some who at this meeting rendered themselves conspicuous, rather more by their zeal than by their influence. Two only are selected as examples; one of the junior and one of the senior ministers. Rev. James M. Willson appeared for the first time as a member of court. He was the eldest son of a distinguished father; Rev. James R. Willson, D.D. His aspect to a stranger was that of a stripling yet in his teens, tall and slim. He seemed equally full of zeal and self-confidence. Of voluble tongue and long-winded, he also attempted to occupy the floor oftener than the rules of the house permitted. So persistent and protracted were his speeches that old and gray-headed members could scarcely obtain a hearing, as the saying is—"get in a word edge wise." This conduct in a young man, for the first time a member of Synod, appeared to some of us, also junior members, to be disorderly and very unseemly. He was full of the exciting and popular feeling of the time. Not less so was the conduct of Rev. Jas. Milligan, one of the senior members. His zeal became enthusiastic, and in the heat of discussion, sometimes degenerated into a perfect craze. The Moderator; knowing how to manipulate and make the best use of those of his party, appointed Mr. Milligan chairman of the special committee to which the memorial from Brush Creek was referred. Since the year 1828, the greater part of the ministry had become convinced of the pernicious effect of the indorsement given by Synod at that date to the Colonization Society; not because of the corrupting confederacies resulting from said indorsement, but because of the deception involved in that plausible scheme. When Mr. Milligan brought in the committee’s report on the Brush Creek memorial; instead of regarding the petition of the memorialists, by framing some scriptural arguments to "give point and publicity to the church’s testimony against slavery," the report merely recommended, "That Synod transfer its patronage from the Colonization to the Abolition Society." Every reader may perceive, as it may be assumed every member of Synod perceived, that the committee’s report, instead of granting the , prayer of the petitioners, proposed that Synod should lead the whole church on a side issue—merely opposition to slavery. "Nature itself teacheth" that slavery is a moral wrong. A man does not need to become a Christian to be an Abolitionist. The report was considered as an evasion of the matter referred to the committee, and an implied insult to the court. It was referred back to the committee with instructions. Next day the chairman returned with the report substantially as before, "That the Synod transfer its patronage from the Colonization Society to the Anti-slavery Society." The persistence of the chairman produced general and visible irritation among the members. A motion was made that the report be again returned to the committee, with peremptory orders to remodel and forthwith complete it. This proved too much for Mr. Milligan. He declared he "could not"—that is he would not, "report otherwise," etc. He then became exasperated, and with tears exclaimed, "I would rather live in the centre of Africa than"—his emotion rendered inaudible the rest of the sentence. Some members moved that the report be amended and completed in court, by substituting for the "Abolition Society," the words, "cause of abolition." This amendment was accepted and the report adopted, to read as follows: "That Synod transfer its patronage from the Colonization Society to the cause of Abolition." From this decision Lusk and Steele caused their dissent to be entered on the minutes. A considerable number asked to have their dissents also marked. Among these I distinctly remember Rev. James Faris and elder Samuel Wright. At this juncture Mr. Milligan’s paroxysm had so far subsided that he had presence of mind to promptly resort to a technical expedient. He asked—"Moderator! Did these members vote in the negative ?" They replied that they had not voted either way. Mr. Milligan instantly said,—"Then, Moderator, according to rule, silent votes go with the majority." Aspirants for popularity and leaders in defection published through the church that only two had voted in the negative, as was evident on the minutes; namely, Steele and Lusk: and some of the brethren thenceforth designated them in derision as—"The two Witnesses!" Mr. Milligan expressed his intention to call upon William Goodell, editor of an anti-slavery paper, confidently expecting on his way home from Synod, to "make him a Covenanter!" I also heard soon after that he honored Steele with the appellation of a "pro-slavery man in heart," as his senior son [i.e., Alexander McLeod Milligan, D.D.]: more publicly and recently attempted to revive the contemporary one of drunkard; simply because he never did, nor ever would, join an abolition, temperance, or any other organization for moral reform outside of God’s ordinances.

At this meeting Messrs. Sloan and Roney submitted their respective papers for the argumentative part of the original "Plan" of Reformation Principles Exhibited. Synod so far expressed its approbation of the brethren’s diligence, as to order the publication of the two papers in overture; and that was the last of them, so far as the Synod was concerned.[10]

At this meeting a monthly magazine was projected, not as Synod’s organ, although Mr. M[oses] Roney was appointed editor. With the following spring appeared, The Reformed Presbyterian. I subscribed for it and aided in its circulation, until its partizan course became manifest. It refused "to hear both sides." Individual contributions, and even presbyterial proceedings, were refused a place in its pages. I paid all dues and, in a lengthy letter to the editor, assigned some reasons for discontinuance. Of this letter I kept a copy, anticipating possible prosecution for libel. This however was not attempted on that ground.

The Western Sub. Synod met at Brush Creek in the fall of 1837. Little business of public interest was transacted at this time, except the final disposal of a complicated case, which had for some time troubled the brethren within the bounds of the Ohio Presbytery. Mr. Armour McFarland, probationer, had accepted a call from the congregation of Utica, Licking Co., Ohio, and I was appointed chairman of a Commission to ordain and install the candidate. In his trial sermon he taught, and with much confidence labored to prove, that repentance precedes faith. Among various ways of statement by the young man, I took down in writing the following: "Some degree of true (sometimes he used ‘genuine’) repentance necessarily precedes believing the gospel for salvation." A majority of the commission considered this doctrine unsound. The members dealt with the candidate in the presence and hearing of a large audience, but could not prevail to change his position. Rev. J.B. Johnston (the same who had been on the first Commission to Walnut Ridge) suggested that the young man might feel more free in private than before the congregation. The suggestion was unanimously embodied in a resolution to adjourn and meet at the house of one of the Elders. After partaking of refreshments, the members of Commission, in an extra-judicial and most free manner, resumed the conference with Mr. McFarland. Mr. Johnston, who affected to sympathize most with the candidate, was allowed to propound most of the questions with a view to mutual understanding. Although the conference was continued till midnight, no agreement was effected. Before separating at the meeting-house, I saw the candidate contemptuously throw his certificate of licensure on the floor. Some said he "trampled on it," but I do not believe this.

The Commission, unable to proceed, referred the case to the Ohio Presbytery, for advice. When this court met, Mr. Lusk, now for the first time hearing of the difficulty, made light of the matter; "the young man had not sufficiently studied the subject: he thought that in a brief interview he could easily convince him of his error." Accordingly a committee was appointed, with Mr. Lusk, chairman, and a recess was had, allowing time for conference with Mr. McFarland. On the court coming to order, the chairman said, "Moderator, your committee can report no otherwise than as reported by your Commission.’’ What legal steps could be further taken in the case? The young man persisted in his error, and in casting away his certificate had treated the Presbytery with contempt. He was, of course, suspended. This for the time was no cause of serious concern to the young man, for he could find congenial employment by lecturing among the abolitionists; and by doing so, express his deeper contempt of the Presbytery.

About this time I assisted Rev. Robert Wallace at a dispensation of the Lord’s supper. He told me of dissension among his people, growing out of the anti-slavery excitement. He mentioned one prominent member, George Stewart, with whom he desired me to have no intercourse. On the fast-day evening, as we were about to separate, Mr. Stewart invited me to lodge with him. I assented, against the remonstrance and incurring the displeasure of the pastor. After supper, Mr. S[tewart] entered upon his grievances. He said in substance, "For a long time we have got no preaching, but abolition, abolition; nothing but abolition every Sabbath. We are all abolitionists, and many in the congregation are as tired of this soul-starving gospel as I am. We want you to come and preach to us, that we may get anti-slavery teaching and something more," &c. Mr. Stewart was a man of sanguine temperament and generous disposition. He would listen to friendly counsel. I showed him the illegality and dangerous consequences of my "intruding on another man’s line of things," and besides the irregularity of my interference, his proposition would be impracticable at a distance 130 miles. This interview put a stop to Mr. Stewart’s devisive intentions, and I heard no more of him or his troubles.

Before the meeting of the Sub. Synod Mr. Johnston [11] had by letters biased the minds of the ministers of Pittsburg Presbytery in favor of Mr. McFarland. He boasted that he had "an array of men, especially of Elders, who would strike terror to the hearts of the Ohio Presbytery." But though members of that Presbytery were not at all terrified, they were amazed and grieved by the high-handed measures of Synod. It was known to all concerned, that for error and contumacy, Mr. McFarland had been laid under suspension by the Ohio Presbytery; that he had continued in an attitude of open rebellion, treating the authority of that court by word and act with the utmost contempt.[12] When his case came up in the Sub. Synod, a succession of illegal acts crowded on each other. The Ohio Presbytery was divided without just cause; the Lakes Presbytery was organized within the jurisdiction of the Ohio Presbytery: and finally, Mr. McFarland was ordained by the new Presbytery, with the concurrence of members of Pittsburg Presbytery, without removing the suspension! While these outrages were in progress, Rev. John Crozier of Pittsburg Presbytery lodged with me and in sight of the meeting-house. I asked him if he was going over to the ordination? He replied that he would have nothing to do with the disorderly proceedings. Rev. Thomas Sproull attended, but was reported as hesitating to cooperate. When the moderator invited all ministerial brethren present to join in the imposition of hands, Mr. Sproull remained in a distant part of the assembly. The moderator paused and reiterated the invitation. At length with an apology, that only to prevent farther confusion he cooperated in the action of laying hands on the candidate. Thus terminated the tragico-comedy, long afterwards vulgarly called, "The McFarland Scrape."

At next meeting of this Synod Mr. J.B. Johnston, as clerk of the recently and disorderly erected Lakes Presbytery, reported, "That the Rev. Armour McFarland been regularly ordained by said Presbytery, and is now entitled to a seat in Synod." As clerk of the Ohio Presbytery, I publicly announced, "That Mr. McFarland had not been regularly ordained." Mr. Sproull arose to express his "astonishment at Mr. Steele’s statement. Did I not lay my hands on the head of the candidate?" This was of course readily admitted as true, but did not make the ordination regular. This act of a profane farce was ended by an order of Synod, "That the Presbytery of the Lakes report to Synod at next meeting the steps taken in the ordination of Mr. McFarland." Of these disorderly steps Synod never heard!  [back to CONTENTS]


General Synod next met in New York city, Oct., 1838. Rev. Js. Blackwood was Moderator and Rev. Js. M. Willson, clerk. The anti-slavery agitation at this date had become still more intense in all classes and sections of the community, and not perhaps less exciting in all parts of our church: And about this time another question began to assume more importance among us than heretofore. This was the office of the deacon; or rather, the nature and number of his functions, with the sphere and extent of their exercise: for, as on the question of slavery, only one minister, Samuel McKinney, was known to be unsound; so on the deacon’s office, only Rev. C.B. McKee was known to be in error. All other ministers in the church believed alike in the divine institution and permanence of this office. Slavery was for the time the absorbing question, the chief "bone of contention." Synod’s table might be figuratively said to groan under the accumulation of papers. These presented almost all forms of documents known in ecclesiastical jurisprudence,—petition, memorial, dissent, complaint, protest and appeal. The most important of all the papers, I believe and know, was from the congregation of Walnut Ridge, Indiana. It comprised memorial and petition. It asked of Synod two things, "That the term testimony be restored to its former ecclesiastical use, and that certain cases of discipline be subjected to review." It excited little attention and produced no visible feeling. To the members, it seemed to contain some insolvable enigma. Even Mr. Sproull came to me and inquired "what the paper meant?" I declined to be an interpreter of what every minister at least ought to understand. Whether the ignorance of members was real or feigned, Synod took no farther action on the paper than to refer it to a member, instructing him to write an answer to the petition of the Walnut Ridge congregation. In his answer, I believe the writer ignorantly called the "Memorial and Petition"—a Letter!

Some of the papers on Synod’s table were complaints of distraction and alienation in several congregations, by a recent innovation in public worship. This was what came to be known as "continuous singing." It was remarked at the time, that the only two ministers who had as yet ventured to introduce this innovation were natives of Scotland, viz., Messrs. James Milligan and David Scott! Several members spoke earnestly in condemnation of this senseless and unscriptural novelty. Dr. James R. Willson especially, in one of his animated and powerful speeches, delivered a lengthy and conclusive argument against the practice, from the Scriptures and Directory; closing with scathing rebukes of any minister who would dare thus to outrage the cherished feelings and pious associations of aged disciples. Nevertheless, the innovation continued to spread, and in time became general. Although the Doctor’s arguments were weighty and convincing to many, he omitted the one grounded on the obstruction of edification, largely insisted on by the apostle, 1 Cor. 14.

But the greatest trouble, confusion and violence at this meeting were occasioned by a certain licentiate, Francis Gailey, and the course pursued by Synod in dealing with his case. And because I was uncharitably suspected to be then and some years afterwards in collusion with this man, the reader will bear with me in the statement of public facts in some detail. I had never seen Mr. Gailey till this time, nor ever had any correspondence. But, although our fields of labor had been well nigh a thousand miles apart, I had heard of him as a "troubler in Israel," by his strong and "violent opposition" to voluntary associations. He was unquestionably a man naturally endowed with intellectual vigor and perhaps equally strong passions. By his irritating testimony against confederacies, he had exasperated the ministers of his presbytery; but for some reasons they had never taken judicial cognizance of his conduct. At this juncture, the Clerk of Synod being absent by sickness, I was called to fill his place. Some one of the Eastern ministers introduced the generally unexpected and strange motion, That a special committee be appointed to inquire into the conduct of Mr. Gailey, or words to the same purpose. This motion was advocated in severe language by several ministers, notably by Messrs. James Chrystie and M. Roney. As the motion was about to be put to vote, Mr. Gailey, evidently having anticipated some such action in his case, rose in a pew and began to read from a manuscript. It was instantly discovered that he was reading his protest and declinature. Then arose a great cry. Members called out, "order, Moderator!" The Moderator cried "order!" Some cried, "Put them out," and one shouted, "Bring the constable.’’ All these sounds were intermingled. The house was well filled, in expectation, it may be presumed, of some such exciting scenes. Mr. Gailey, as soon as the uproar began, ceased reading and resumed his seat. He had sympathizing friends in the audience. Two men, James Sharpe and James Bartley, publicly declared adherence to his protest. Two aisles ran lengthwise in the building from the pulpit. I sat at the Clerk’s table, as his temporary substitute. All others, I think, were on their feet. My position did not permit me to see all that transpired in the commotion. But I saw Rev. John Crozier, cross an aisle to arrest Mr. Gailey’s reading. He instantly stopped reading. I saw some vaulting over the backs of pews. I saw Mr. Roney seize Mr. Sharpe by the breast of his coat, and violently push him backward along the aisle toward the door. I saw Sharpe raise his clenched hand in an attitude to strike, when Roney released his grasp. What was transpiring along the other aisle I "could not see for the press;" but it was currently reported that Mr. Bartley’s coat was "torn on his back!" Amid the noise, confusion and violence, I sat in amazement and mentally asked, "Is the Lord among us, or not?" During recess, at the dinner-table of the hospitable elder, Mr. Andrew Bowden, I remarked, "I think it would have comported as well with decorum and the Synod’s dignity to have allowed those men to ‘have their say,’ and deal with them afterward." To this, Mr. Roney forthwith replied with emphasis and asperity, "Well—if men will not keep order, they ought to be made keep order." I merely added, "The first principle of church government is, that her power is wholly spiritual," and the subject then dropped. Mr. Gailey, as a matter of course, was promptly suspended by the Synod.

But, however deserving of censure the licentiate might be, Synod disposed of his case. (clave errante) in violation of ecclesiastical order. Resort to the exercise of original jurisdiction in the case was wholly unwarranted and manifestly wrong. If the probationer was worthy of censure, he had refused to accept a succession of calls—"without assigning any reason:" and if "he went through the congregations stirring up strife among the people," etc., as was charged against him illegally on the floor of General Synod; any unbiased and intelligent person will naturally ask,—Why did his Presbytery and the Eastern Subordinate Synod suffer him to run at large in such a course? The attempt by General Synod to give him over to a special committee, for examination, was obviously irregular and tyrannical. For, suppose the Synod had original jurisdiction in the case, there was no formal libel furnished to Synod’s special committee; no witnesses named, or time allowed to summon them, or for the accused to prepare his defence.

Mr. Gailey continued to preach and had a considerable number of adherents in almost every section of the church. He also began to publish a bi-monthly magazine. After my return home from Synod, Mr. Sproull wrote me, as a matter of startling news, "Gailey has commenced editor!—and without a shadow of literature!" This was true, as I had both facts verified ere Mr. Sproull’s letter reached me. As to many others, Mr. Gailey mailed to me a copy of his first issue. I was pleased with this first number, because; it was mostly filled with important and seasonable matter; and hoping for a continuance of such matter—having discontinued what Mr. Blackwood designated, "that shackling thing," (Mr. Roney’s Reformed Presbyterian), I subscribed for "Gailey’s pamphlet,"—"Without a shadow of literature." This first number contained copies of certain papers framed by intelligent and faithful elders, and which had been presented to the late Synod. They had been disposed of by Synod so as neither to be incorporated with its Minutes nor added as an Appendix; but, as warmly expressed by some members,—"Let such papers be kicked under the table!" Indeed, I was pleased to see those documents resurrected, that others might see them and be instructed by them. A succession of these papers disseminated among our people added to the popularity and influence of the editor [i.e., Gailey], whom too many supposed to be the author of them. When this supply became exhausted, and the editor had to rely mostly upon his own resources, his incompetence in doctrine and order, as in literature, became gradually apparent. In the time of his brief popularity, he became quite self-confident in conduct and denunciatory in his language: yet there was one thing lacking and earnestly desired—ordination. He was so anxious to be clothed with office that he was not at all scrupulous as to the source whence it might be obtained. Accordingly he applied to the New Lights [13] in Ireland, but without success. He made application to the Presbyterians in the city of Baltimore, but was not successful. He had recourse also to the New Lights ,in America. When his overture was known to Dr. Samuel B. Wylie, he said to some of his ministerial brethren in ironical style,—"O yes, ordain him—by all means ordain him, and get him to curse the pro re natas!" He did not accomplish his object with them. It is probable that his last application was to the Reformed Presbytery. He appeared as the bearer of a petition ostensibly signed by several elders among his followers. He again and failed to obtain his cherished object. He was heard to boast afterward that elders’ names had been "signed with Brush Creek ink!" Having failed to ordination from any quarter, he became increasingly abusive through the medium of his illiterate pamphlet, denouncing ministers of the Covenanter name as "malignants, apostates," etc., and in his invectives not even sparing the female sex. His adherents wished to establish correspondence among themselves. He set his foot upon this proposal, telling them that he was the "only authorized correspondent." This alienated some, and others became horrified when they heard him, in a paroxysm of rage, declare from the pulpit,—"James Chrytie and Moses Roney (horresco referens,) shall go down to hell and damnation!" He usurped the office of the ministry, declaring all acts of our ministers not only irregular but invalid. He administered both seals of the covenant, baptizing some of three generations, even proceeding to rebaptize such as had been baptized in the Reformed Presbyterian Church in Ireland: and, what is not less remarkable, he found some ignorant and zealous enough to countenance him in profaning and prostituting this divine and holy ordinance. Mr. Gailey’s followers gradually lost confidence in him and dwindled away to nothing. He had married a daughter of a worthy elder in Baltimore. He was "old enough to be her grandfather." He took her to the City of New York, and after the birth of several children, her brother took her back to her paternal home, and the old man spent his last few years in forced widowhood and in straitened circumstances.

Mr. Francis Gailey’s career was not altogether singular. Several prototypes may be seen in the times of trial in Scotland. Both in the time of persecution and afterward, may be found such pretentious and impracticable individuals, as Andrew Young, William Willson, James Dunnet, Hugh Innes, and others, who tried the patience and the faith of Christ’s covenanted witnesses. "There must be also heresies; among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you." This warning enforces the divine injunction, little heeded in our time, "the spirits whether they are of God," etc.   [back to CONTENTS]


As the time of General Synod’s next meeting approached, I heard the whispered prediction,—"Mr. Steele will have his neck cut off at this Synod." I have read and heard similar predictions, both before and since that meeting. It is one of the grand Adversary’s devices with which, through willing agents, he has always assailed Christ’s public witnesses (Neh. 6:12, 13); but they have been enabled, every one of them, to say with Paul, "None of these things move me."

On my way to Synod, I attended a meeting of the Ohio Presbytery. It consisted of four constituent members, Messrs.·Robert and John Wallace, father and son; Lusk and Steele, ministers, with ruling elders. At this meeting, delegates to Synod were to be chosen. Mr. Wallace, senior, and I, were elected without opposition. Messrs. Lusk and Wallace, junior, were both nominated: but as, according to the ratio fixed by our conventional law, only three out of four in a Presbytery could be legally sent to Synod, evidently only one of the two nominees could be chosen. The vote was put for one and stood even. Then a vote was taken on the other, and the result was the same. So neither of the candidates was elected by the members of court. Then, according to rule, the decision devolved on the Moderator. He gave the "casting vote" for his son. It was afterward understood that an elder had been recently ordained expressly for this emergency!

I have described this case a little in detail, that the reader may understand one of the mysterious modes by which carnal minds commonly manage to secure what in history is called a "packed court"—a court consisting of illegal members; or so many corrupt members as may be able to reach carnal ends by the votes of a majority.

General Synod met in 1840, in the place where it had met four years—in the city of Allegheny. Mr. Lusk was admitted to a seat as a consultative member. By a rule in all ecclesiastical courts, such member has no vote, nor can he make or second a motion; but he is allowed to participate in the discussions. For some years, an impression had become quite general that the organization of the church by Sessions, Presbyteries, Subordinate Synods and a General Synod, was unnecessarily complex, cumbersome, and expensive. The conviction of some, and their greatest objection, as already hinted, was, that the existing state of things afforded opportunity for designing men to carry on defection through the instrumentality of a packed General Synod. The Ohio Presbytery, in its reports to said court, had expressed its desire to have the delegation form of General Synod legally abolished. I say legally abolished. This could be legally done only in the same conventional way by which representation had been restricted; namely, by the authority of the Presbyteries. The change in the General Synod’s organization appeared to meet with universal approbation. Indeed, some of the proceedings in the Eastern Sub. Synod had been of doubtful propriety or utility. All being apparently ready to take action in this matter, a special committee was appointed to report on the expediency of the contemplated change and the mode in which it was to be effected. Mr. Blackwood was chairman, and, on his motion, I was added to said committee. After adjournment, we met to consult and prepare the report to be given in next day. No other members of the committee were present. I charitably assumed that the result of our deliberations would be laid before the other members for their inspection previous to submission to the court. When the chairman and I met and were ready to proceed to the business; I, of course, expected him to write our report, and signified my willingness to make any suggestions I could. Mr. Blackwood would not take the pen to make a beginning. I urged him, but he utterly refused, insisting that I should do the writing. I reluctantly complied. As we proceeded in the business before us, it seemed to me that the chairman was manifesting but little interest in our work. When I sought directive suggestions, he was mostly silent, or answered in a monosyllable [e.g., "yes" or "no"]. The only suggestion I can now recall was in that mysterious, sibylline style in which he was well known by his friends often to indulge. It was something about—"laying the Sub. Synods on the shelf." I penned the report. It recommended the abolishing of the delegation form of the General Synod, by the orderly action of the presbyteries, from which it had derived its existence. The chairman offered no objections to the report, and I never knew whether or not he gave the other members an opportunity to inspect or amend the document.

I confess to my surprise and some feeling of chagrin when, on the following day, instead of presenting to Synod our report, Mr. Blackwood offered the astounding unpresbyterial motion, "That the delegation form of General Synod and the two Sub, Synods be abolished!" Whether this suicidal measure originated with himself, (sua sponte et ex animo), and was devised with deliberation; or whether it had been concocted in secret, with the aid of evil counsellors, I could not know; but the disorder and tyranny which it involved were plain indications that defection was still in progress—for, the outrageous motion was carried! Other evidences of a determination to continue the downward course might be mentioned; but all along I endeavored to condense superabundant matter. One case, however, of tyranny and cruelty perpetrated by the lower courts, and now sanctioned by General Synod, must not be omitted. A member of the church from the East, whom I had never seen, appeared as appellant from the lower courts, through which he had brought his case at great expense to the highest court of the church, in quest of justice. He had been suspended (as too many others) for "contempt of ordinances." I think Rev. James Milligan was Moderator of the Session which first inflicted the censure; the same minister whose extravagant behavior in 1836 has been already noticed. This man (by name, James McKinney, I think), had "stayed back from the sacrament." This was the whole of his sin and scandal. When the case came before Synod for review, the appellant, in defence, laid on the table a number of pamphlets, some of them published by several members of Synod now to be his judges. In his own defence, he stated that the Moderator of session neglected pastoral duties: that instead of attending the sick or dying of his own charge, he would be away beyond their bounds, and on a public platform with all sorts of people—"lecturing abolition." Then he cited from the pamphlets the published sentiments of some of his present judges in vindication of his course—all to no purpose, his arguments—the very arguments of his judges—and pleadings were in vain. For him there was no redress. This case was by no means an isolated one. Mr. McKinney was dismissed as he came, wearing the badge of reproach—"reproached," as some believed, "for Christ’s sake."

After the close of Synod in 1838, I left New York, with a heavy heart. The venerable Rev. William Gibson, was then on his death-bed in the city. It was the only time I ever saw him. The Synod paid ,special attention to the old gentleman. Committees were sent to visit him time to time, as his demise was daily and hourly expected. The marked attention of Synod to this long and faithful testimony bearer was plainly indicated and explained by the Minutes, in which Mr. Gibson reported as fully approving the position and proceedings of Synod. He had previously left in writing, when his intellect was unimpaired, his personal testimony against "all confederacies, for moral reform, with the known enemies of God, infidels, heretics," etc., naming several such existing societies. This personal testimony of Mr. Gibson was afterward published as fully attested!

It is true that, in 1840, Synod did not proceed "to the same excess of riot," as before in New York. Doubtless, by the odium and disgrace then incurred, some ministers had learned to be more cautious and discreet; nevertheless I then formed a deliberate and settled purpose, that unless the course of defection should be arrested, through the assistance of divine grace, I would never again but once, be a member in that Synod. Hitherto I had never consciously transgressed the recognized rules of procedure in any court of the church, nor addressed a brother in irritating or insulting personalties. In this statement, some yet living can bear me witness. Whatever others might do, or think, I resolved at this crisis, and in as concise a form as I could, to bring before Synod a summary of the causes of our dissensions and alienations for the past seven years, as a final test. A true copy of that paper is here subjoined, and I trust it will never prove a stumbling-block to any successor of "Scotland’s worthies or silly lasses:"


WHEREAS, It is the province and indispensable duty of this Synod, when society is in a state of agitation as at present, to know the signs of the times and what Israel ought to do: and whereas it is also the duty of this Synod to testify in behalf of truth; to condemn sin and testify against those who commit it; to acquaint our people with their danger, and search into the causes of God’s controversy with them and with us: and whereas it is the duty of Synod further to point out to the people of God the course to be pursued, that divine judgments may be averted or removed, therefore.—

Resolved, 1. That uniting with, or inducing to fellowship, by the members of the Reformed Presbyterian Church, in the voluntary and irresponsible associations of the day—composed of all religious professions and of no profession—be condemned, as unwarranted by the word of God, the subordinate standards of the church, and the practice of our covenanted fathers.

2. That an inquiry be instituted, in order to ascertain the grounds of the Lord’s controversy with us, in the sins of omission and commission wherewith we are chargeable in our ecclesiastical relations.

3. That the sins thus ascertained be confessed, mourned over and forsaken, and our engagement to the contrary duties renewed; that the Lord may return, be entreated of his people, and leave a blessing behind him.

This paper, of course, produced a sensation, but there was no attempt to "cut off Mr. Steele’s neck." No man was able to charge me with disorder. My standing at the moment was as firm as that of any member in court. But no sooner was the reading of the paper concluded, than action was taken. Rev. Thomas Sproull sprang up and moved that it be "laid on the table." He afterward confessed in print, "I knew that it was not strictly in order" to move for action on a paper not before the court. Why, then, did he violate known order? No doubt he feared and hated the paper, as he described it in print as a "firebrand," for the instruction of those who had not seen it, and whom Mr. Sproull did not wish to see it. That "firebrand" will never terrify or burn any but such worldly professors as are symbolized by "wood, hay, stubble." It was indeed finally "laid on the table." But when the Minutes of Synod were published, an appendage was added to the motion in these—"till next meeting of Synod." Alas! forgery is not confined to worldly and wicked politicians. I readily detected the addition as a forgery as soon as I read the Minutes recording the transaction, and I now declare again, that the addition was not in the motion, but forged, either by the Clerk or some other person. The Lord says he "hates robbery for burnt offering," and I detest forgery; therefore, I note this instance of it with reprobation. This degenerate body, however, next year, at Utica, Ohio, gave a quasi endorsement to the falsehood, by referring the "firebrand" to a committee, of which Rev. William Neil was chairman; a novice of only a year’s standing among them, and of course simply employed as a figure-head or tool. He soon learned from his superiors, parrot-like to utter maledictions against the "schismatics of the East, and the schismatics of the West." But the parrot, in a little time, became an elephant on their hands. After traveling extensively among them, and being everywhere unacceptable to the people, he left them and issued a pamphlet, in which he "chastised them with scorpions," more stinging than the "schismatic whips" they had taught him to employ. Like too many among themselves, his pamphlet proved his ignorance of the principles and history of the Reformed Presbyterian Church.

The paper which Mr. Sproull characterized as a firebrand, and described constantly as consisting of only one resolution, will speak for itself. The reader can see that the preamble comprises a statement of several duties incumbent on the Synod. These statements are the grounds on which the resolutions are logically predicated; on the essential principle of the moral law, always recognized by our covenant fathers; that sins and duties involve their contraries. I know that the first resolution is the most obnoxious one, the burning "firebrand," therefore, the others were ignored. To amplify the first resolution, or the sin, and complication of sins which it involves, seems to me to be necessary here. I have been favored with long life, and enjoyed opportunities above most persons for searching the Scriptures. Next to the breach of the first covenant by Adam, opening the floodgates of moral evil, (the crucifixion of the last Adam excepted), I believe the Bible describes the most popular confederacies in the world as the greatest sin. "The sons of God," and "the daughters of men," constituting domestic society, corrupted all society in its very germ. The moral consequences are briefly recorded by the Holy Spirit. The murder of "righteous Abel" did not corrupt all flesh, nor bring the deluge. This was the awful penalty of unlawful confederacies—"voluntary associations." That "righteous man," Lot, could not reform the Sodomites by giving his daughters in marriage to their sons, nor escape the moral contagion himself. His offspring, "the daughters of Moab," by the counsel of Balaam, corrupted the "holy seed:" and in after ages, when God’s covenant people "mingled among the heathen, they learned their works." The land of Canaan was polluted in the same manner: nor did the seventy years’ captivity cure posterity of this hereditary sin, as is evident from the testimony of Ezra and Nehemiah. In all ages, this sin, beginning in the family, has spread as a moral epidemic, corrupting Church and State. The Holy Spirit calls it an "unequal yoke," as of an ox and an ass; and our covenant fathers were alive to this danger. They referred to it in their doctrinal statements and in their historical records. What Covenanter, deserving the name, does not know their dread of infection by their local "vicinity to the sectaries of England." This sin, this breach of our covenanted unity and uniformity, this confederating with the very characters whose erroneous doctrines we had judicially condemned, and whose sinful course had been part of our testimony against them—this complicated and aggravated sin was notoriously rife among us, and ministers were "chief in the trespass." No wonder, then, that the first of the three resolutions called for the condemnation of this sin, and no wonder it irritated those who refused to repent, a "firebrand," to such as hated to reformed.

The second resolution called for an inquiry into our "sinful ecclesiastical relations." It was well known that for seven years the Synods of Scotland and Ireland refused to recognize us as brethren in organic fellowship; while it was also known that New Light ministers were admitted to their pulpits; yea, even some who had been suspended on this side of the Atlantic "for error and immorality." In such a condition, surely it was a present and pressing duty to define and declare our ecclesiastical relations, that we might no longer be justly chargeable with "partaking of other men’s sins." But this resolution was evidently of so little importance in the estimation of confederates in other sinful relations that they never referred to it as a firebrand, nor indeed as in any way offensive to them. They were manifestly willing to continue in this as in other "entangling associations."

The third resolution asked that the sins referred to in the two preceding ones, when ascertained, should be "confessed, mourned over and forsaken." The sins mentioned were not "far to seek." They were notorious, for the guilty parties were the majority. A virtuous minority had all along called attention to them. They condemned, in pulpit, these practices as sinful, "unwarranted by the word of God, the subordinate standards of the church, and the practice of our covenanted fathers!" In inferior courts of the church, these had been resisted by memorial, remonstrance etc.; and these faithful documents and written arguments by individuals had been refused a place in "Roney’s pamphlet," that the people might not see them. All these regular and legitimate means had been brought to bear against defection, but without effect, except to exasperate the leaders. The slanders, moreover, which afterward became public, were in constant private circulation, to counteract the testimony and destroy the influence of any whose zeal prompted them to make opposition to the popular course. The reader can judge for himself. Were the statements comprised in the first resolution agreeable to the word of God, our doctrinal standards, or the known practice of our fathers, or were they sins calling for condemnation? Could those who were under the obligation of the National Covenant and Solemn League be at the same time in voluntary and habitual confederacy—even for moral reform—with "persons of all religions and of no religion?" Can the people of God choose such company and "keep themselves unspotted from the world?" To ask these and similar questions is to a Christian to answer them. And finally, were the minority out of order or premature in offering the motion, that "our engagement to the contrary duties be renewed?" The preamble and resolutions laid on Synod’s table were the minority’s last effort, in that body; to stay the progress of declension, of habitual breach of solemn vows. They had exhausted all the legitimate and recognized forms of ecclesiastical procedure, to arrest the downward career of the majority; and seven years of contending were surely sufficient to justify other legitimate measures.

At this crisis, the minority seemed smaller than it really was, as in 1836, when, by a trick, dissents were excluded from appearing on the Minutes. Persons in the minority resided far apart, and facilities for personal interviews, or even postal correspondence, were limited in comparison with those of the present age. And even during the proceedings of Synod, their lodging places in the adjacent, cities of Pittsburg and Allegheny precluded opportunities for mutual consultation. There was, therefore, no concert among them in any united action against the unrighteous measures of the prevailing majority—not even against the cruel tyranny perpetrated in the case forementioned J. McKinney. After the close of the public, irregular and unpresbyterial transactions, a few of the minority succeeded in coming together for conference. Mr. John Hazlett, in Allegheny, whose generous hospitality I had enjoyed on the occasion, cordially afforded every convenience for consultation. After a free exchange of views, the few who were present were unanimous in the conclusion that all legal remedies having failed to stop defection, and the majority having proved irreclaimable; and godly men in different parts of the church asking, "Why don’t they separate?"—"that the cause might not die among our hands," as expressed by Mr. Renwick, it was agreed to "constitute an independent Presbytery." In carrying out this purpose, they adopted the following document.


We, the undersigned ministers and elders of the Reformed Presbyterian Church in North America, familiar with, and having long witnessed defection in the aforesaid church, and having employed all other scriptural means to stay its progress, without effect: Also, recognizing the claims of the Lord Jesus Christ, and of all such as desire to be faithful: compassionating the condition of those who, by unholy confederacies, are still "entangled in the wilderness:" considering the condition of others, who, to maintain a good conscience, have been constrained to unite in the "Safety League," which covers the whole ground of our covenanted system—do now, trusting in the faithfulness of the God of our fathers and relying on the strength of promised grace; after the example of the venerable Rev. William Gibson, who kept the faith,—enter and record our solemn protestation against the aforesaid church, because she has corrupted the doctrines and worship, prostituted the government and discipline of the house of God: and we do hereby decline the authority of all her judicatories.

We acknowledge the supreme authority of the Lord Jesus Christ, the only King and Head of his church; the binding obligation of the solemn deeds of our covenanted forefathers—resting upon our souls by our own voluntary engagements: viz., besides the word of God; the Westminister Confession of Faith; Catechisms, larger and shorter: the Directory for Worship, as they were received by the Church of Scotland, in her purest times, i.e., between the years 1638 and ‘49 inclusive: the Covenants, National and Solemn League: Reformation Principles Exhibited, in agreeableness to the aforesaid standards: together with the faithful contendings of our covenanted fathers: in a word—all the documents contemplated, regarded, and as engaged unto in Terms of Ecclesiastical Communion in the Reformed Presbyterian Church.

In virtue of, and in accordance with, the aforesaid principles and declarations, we unite and agree to constitute a Presbytery.

Ruling Eld.
Done in Allegheny Town,
June 27th, 1840.
Thus the Reformed Presbytery was constituted, or rather reorganized on the original, scriptural, and covenanted foundation, on which the Scottish confessors and martyrs stood, and to which all their legitimate successors affectionately cleaved for generations; but from which the majority of General Synod had grievously and persistently departed. The news, of course, was soon circulated throughout the land, that we had "cut loose from the church;" and the pages of the Reformed Presbyterian—"that shackling thing," were used as "sounding brass, or tinkling cymbal" to ring changes on the late alarming "schism." In the September number of that vehicle, 1840, the reader will find a solemn-like warning addressed to the public in the following words: "Mark them which cause divisions, and offences, and avoid them." It will be noticed that the very grounds of the warning as given by the Holy Spirit are wanting: intentionally omitted. What awful profanity! an obvious violation of the third commandment! a manifest "wresting of the Scriptures" to express feelings which the reader is left to analyze. The words omitted are—"contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned." Now what could induce the writer to mutilate the sacred text? The only and sufficient answer was—he was afraid to quote the text in full, because he knew no one of those acquainted with us in preceding years would believe the full text applicable to us. The child of God makes a sad mistake, and a dangerous experiment in using the words of inspiration to express his own malevolent feelings. Zeal for the truth will always appear in due reverence for word of God.

The most plausible accusation publicly charged against the members of the Reformed Presbytery, and the one which perhaps had greatest weight with honest people was, that they "left the church in a disorderly manner." The question was often asked, "Why did they not table their protest and declinature in open court," etc., etc. The answer to such accusations is the more difficult to satisfy most people, because so few are familiar with church history and the legal steps of order in church courts. It is true that protests and declinatures are usually presented to the proper court; but it is also true that some of the most learned and honored champions for truth have acted otherwise. Among such it may suffice here to cite the example of the famous Dr. Thomas McCrie of Scotland, who deemed it sufficient to publish to the world his protest, declinature and appeal. But our case was peculiar. I know not in history any case that supplies a parallel. Let it be understood that the report on the mode of abolishing the delegation form of General Synod had been kept back by the Chairman: that instead, he moved the abolishment of the delegated form of the General Synod, and also, in the same motion, the extinction of both the Subordinate Synods! Now, the General Synod could legally abolish the Sub. Synods, for they were its own creatures; and the power that made, could certainly unmake them. But when it was proposed that the General Synod should not only abolish the two lower courts, but annihilate itself, this proved too much for Rev. Hugh Walkinshaw. The outrage roused his indignation. With such feelings as the matter justified, he said, "I am prepared, Moderator, to prove that the Eastern Sub. Synod is legally dead. It went into liquidation by failing to meet by its own adjournment." This brief but conclusive argument disconcerted the leaders for a moment. But only momentarily. The complex motion was carried.· Now let the consequences of this vote be considered. One of the Presbyteries, as already proved, had an illegitimate origin in 1837, the Lakes Presbytery: yet its delegates sat in General Synod. This of itself would vitiate the standing of that Synod, and nullify all its acts, according to the laws of the Reformed Church of Scotland. But this packed General Synod, composed of delegates only, usurped the rights of all the presbyteries from which it had its legal existence, and actually committed suicide. While I consider self-annihilation simply impossible; yet I believe this to be the desire and aim of every suicide. The Eastern Sub. Synod being "legally dead," as shown by Mr. Walkinshaw, it follows that the Western Sub. Synod expired with it: for a single court in subjection to a superior is equally absurd and contrary to Presbyterianism. The sum is, the delegated Synod destroyed itself and the two Subordinate Synods; only it killed them after they were dead! Now, where is the ground for our accusers’ allegation, that we acted disorderly in not tabling a protest? Their own outrageous disorder rendered the ordinary and legal use of such a document impossible. And it was then said interrogatively, "On what principles of order or Presbyterianism would those brethren next meet?" and the same questions might be iterated ever since.  [back to CONTENTS]


After the Reformed Presbytery had been constituted, and before it had entered on its appropriate business in prosecuting the objects and ends of its independent and separate existence, its members were assailed in character with personal abuse, and their public proceedings misrepresented, distorted, and misinterpreted. Personally I was distinguished and honored by a large share of the current abuse. My quondam friend and ministerial brother, Rev. Thomas Sproull, displayed superior zeal among "mine accusers." He softened the asperity, however, and toned down the malevolent language of some others. Designated "a pro-slavery man in heart" by Mr. Milligan, I was charged by Mr. Sproull with "pro-slavery affinities" only.

As was understood at the time, on my return home, July, 1840, by "instruction from headquarters," the meeting-house was barricaded to preclude my entrance on the first Sabbath! A simple and honest disciple, as I believe, (Alexander Cavin, by name), a blacksmith by trade, was employed as the agent of those who, previous to our separation, had erased their names from the subscription-paper—to "starve me out:" this guileless man, with suitable tool or tools in hand, fastened doors and windows, and took his position as sentinel inside. Some of my friends suspecting such proceeding, one of them, Mr. David Johnston, had repaired to the house of worship at an earlier hour than usual. Examining the windows, he found one sash which had not been fastened. Raising the lower sash, he vaulted in; and addressing the other party, said, "Do you think to shut me out of my own house?" He had been one of the most generous contributors to the fund for the erection of the building. When I arrived at the usual hour, all was quiet. I conducted the public worship as at other times, and only at intermission was I apprised of the violence and profanation of that morning. I sincerely pitied Mr. Cavin as the unconscious tool of violent men, and especially when he tremblingly feared a civil prosecution, to answer for a breach of the peace. His apprehensions, however, were groundless, no one wishing to give him trouble. Soon afterward, to strengthen the opposition, Rev. J.B. Johnston, who has already been introduced in this Narrative, appeared in our neighborhood. He announced a public lecture in the Associate Reformed meeting-house. The time was exciting and the theme popular. He proposed to treat of recent schism and to delineate the character of the schismatics—quite an interesting subject. The audience consisted mostly of Associate Reformed neighbors with whom I had intermingled for the past ten years. Two criticisms I heard among those neighbors,—"That man ought to have been a lawyer," said one; "I heard him say things about Mr. Steele that I know to be false," said another. The lecture, on the whole, was beneficial, both to me and to the cause of truth—the truth of God, and truth between man and man; that truth which we are commanded to speak "every man to his neighbor." Rev. J.B. Johnston, the aforementioned lecturer, was the eldest of four sons of that elder, Nathan Johnston, who co-operated in organizing the Reformed Presbytery, and whose name stands affixed to its Deed of Constitution, in memoriam rei perpetuam. His brief but sententious comment on his son’s raid into our neighborhood is worth rehearsing here. "My son, J.B., came down from Logan Co., to destroy Mr. Steele’s congregation; and soon after Mr. Steele, who had never interfered, was invited to visit and preach to a part of J.B.’s congregation!" When Mr. J.B. Johnston returned home, after lecturing in our vicinity, he continued to abuse the members of our Presbytery, denouncing their course from the pulpit.· "These schismatics, under pretence of reformers, are breaking down the carved work of the reformation with axes and hammers: the Synod is a reforming body," etc. Yet, this same minister, within two years after, declared from the same pulpit, "the Reformed Presbyterian Church has been retrograding for the last two hundred years."

When I was expected in Logan County, Mr. Johnston having an appointment outside the bounds of his congregation on the ensuing Sabbath, gave directions to have the meeting-house secured, lest my friends should attempt to "break through," My friends never made the attempt. We soon had a congregation organized there, which included four elders of Mr. Johnston’s session. In process of time, Mr. J. changed his policy intimating to our people that if they would apprise him seasonably of my visit, he make his appointments so as to accommodate us with the use of the house,—especially on our sacramental solemnity! I afterward occupied the house occasionally; and when it was sold, our friends were allowed their just proportion of the proceeds. Our pacific measures produced this result. I may here mention another somewhat analogous case. In Greene congregation, Harrison Co., Ohio, a person had declared, "If ever Mr. Steele attempts to enter this house, it will be over my dead body!" On the first occasion of my journeying in that direction, a deacon handed the key to Mr. Nathan Johnston, elder (already mentioned). I preached there, but the boasting champion did not appear. Oh, how often, have I witnessed the substitution of blind zeal for the love of the truth! And again, alas, that this self-deception has been so often exemplified by ministers and fostered in others!

As time elapsed and I journeyed extensively to visit and minister to a widely-scattered witnessing and despised remnant, that "shackling thing," the Reformed Presbyterian, was diligently employed in shooting its arrows. I never was seriously wounded by them, though I have reason to believe that many others were, but I trust not fatally. Occasionally the language of commiseration was used: that my "talent was hid in a napkin," that I was led (misled) by "that old man Lusk," etc. Anon I was described as a ravening wolf, "prowling among their congregations." To the commiseration and charge it is sufficient to reply; Mr. Lusk never, in my time of connection with him, seemed ambitious of this left-handed honor intended him. He repeatedly remarked,—"To destroy the cause of truth, the Adversary is aiming his shafts at Mr. Steele." He admitted that he had not duly considered nor clearly perceived the corrupting and ruinous influence of existing voluntary associations, until Providence brought us acquainted. So much for "that old man Lusk’s leadership." It was purely an invention. The "prowling among congregations" is even more imaginary. Indeed, I have often thought I was too scrupulous in this respect, in "cutting off occasion from those who sought occasion." And now, after many years, I can truthfully declare that I never intruded myself on minister, elder, or member adhering to the majority of our former fellowship. I did indeed in many instances, and all along for many years, enjoy the Christian society and hospitality of many among them. In all such cases, I merely complied with invitations received, either personally or by letter. And here I deem it proper to confirm and illustrate my statement by an example. I do this more cheerfully, because those interested are yet alive [in 1883; ED.]—a competent number at least, who can vouch for the truth of the facts.

I have already shown that both ministers and ruling elders acted in General Synod with the minority who did not get credit on the Minutes for their fidelity to truth in days of trial—Messrs. Js. Faris and Hugh Walkinshaw. Some others, equally convinced of the truth, but with less fortitude to act out their convictions in Synod, were of the minority. Of these was Rev. James Love. Not long after the constitution of the Reformed Presbytery, Mr. Love was lecturing on the interesting history, where Hilkiah the priest finds "the book of the law of the Lord" among the rubbish in temple. In the application of his discourse, the minister referred pretty plainly to us as having found the truth among the rubbish of Synod’s errors. This application was not relished by a majority of members of his session. These elders, being from Pittsburg, as was understood, not being competent formally to try and censure their pastor, appointed a conference with him at the meeting-house on a day specified. Meantime, Mr. Love. had committed the additional offence of countenancing the present writer. Journeying through Guernsey County, Ohio, near the town of Londonderry, I turned in to lodge with Mr. John Logan, a member of Mr. Love’s congregation. I had, from him and another member, kind invitations to accept their hospitality. As soon as Mr. Love heard of my arrival at Mr. J. Logan’s, he came over from his own house to Mr. Logan’s. There we had free conversation relative to the public cause. Mr. Love stayed for supper, also spent the night there, he and I occupying the same bed. It may be fairly presumed that the elders aforesaid had got possession of these facts, and that they thereby were displeased more than they had been by Mr. Love’s public teaching. Their pastor, though not young in years, was inexperienced as yet in the ministry. An honest, candid, guileless, and unsuspecting man, he walked into the snare set for him by the elders. And it was a snare. No law authorized the elders’ action or required Mr. Love to "compear before them." In laying their snare, they concealed their design from one elder, Mr. Edward Logan. He was that day ploughing in his field, at no great distance from the meeting-house, wholly unaware of the inquisition in progress there. The elders their plied quasi culprit with hard questions, such as, "How could you countenance such a man as Mr. Steele—a suspended minister?"[14] "How could you receive him into your house?" Mr. Love, as harmless and timid as a roe, was trying with sensible difficulty to answer his inquisitors. He could not deny that he had given his countenance as above related—and more. He had invited me to his own house, where I had dined; and he had been my guide after dinner, directing me to the public road, that I might not miss the right course among hills and forests. These facts were undeniable, and how could the accused pretend to justify or defend his conduct? Amid great perplexity and much disconcerted, Mr. L. began to use exculpatory language, and tremblingly replied by resorting to the interrogatory style: "What would any of you do, if Mr. Steele should come along and propose to stop over night? Would you order him out of your house?" This was obviously evasion, and showed that Mr. L. was now "in evil case." Just at this crisis, Elder Logan appeared! Word had some way reached him at his plough, that his pastor was in the hands of his tormentors. He left the plough and hastened to the scene of trial. This elder appears to have been better versed in law and order than the other members of session, perhaps than the inexperienced minister himself. He, of course, at once volunteered as advocate for his pastor. After showing the utter illegality and disorder of their present proceedings, he entered upon the alleged criminality of their pastor, taking up the facts in detail. The substance of his argument in defence of Mr. L., his pastor and present client, was briefly as follows : "Suppose Mr. Steele is a ‘suspended minister,’ you know, or ought to know, that an act of suspension extends no farther than the jurisdiction of the court imposing it; and, therefore, Mr. Steele, outside of our fellowship, possesses his ministerial liberty. As to the charge of lodging, him, we should all remember the exhortation, ‘If thine enemy hunger, feed him,’" etc. Thus Mr. Love was honorably cleared in this singular trial, and thus the reader may see how the Lord "gave us favor in the eyes" of many who either had not sufficient light or fortitude to act upon their convictions, by openly identifying themselves with the Reformed Presbytery. All the misrepresentations, reproaches and slanders of which the opposers made lavish use, common in all ages in similar cases, did not affect my character where personally known, and I always had an abiding and comfortable persuasion that all adversaries would never be able to destroy my character, unless I first did it myself.  [back to CONTENTS]



[1] In 1864, I saw that both these villages, and others adjacent, had been obliterated "by the march of improvement." [back]

[2] I say, "every morning," for our public worship was in Derry and Faughan alternately. [back]

[3] After an absence of nearly thirty years, I visited my early home and found that brother an old man.  He had been many years a ruling elder in the Derry congregation.  Finding him regular in family worship I congratulated him on the change.  He replied, "Yes, David, you shamed me out of that."  [back]

[4] Some of these afterwards earnestly desired and obtained my counsel and prayers on their death-beds. Ps. 141:6. [back]

[5] Mens conscia recti is a good support in times of trial. [back]

[6] The organic causes of that division must be traced along another historical line, that it may be better understood. [back]

[7] Both these men left the church, J.B. Johnston went to the U[nited] Presbyterians and C.B. McKee to the General Assembly [i.e., PCUSA]. [back]

[8] Years before my time in the ministry, this matter had been before Synod. Archibald Johnston, as directed by the court, had written on "Messiah’s Headship," and submitted the document to the Synod. It passed into the hands of Rev. S. B. Wylie, and "never saw the light." The author’s father, however, had taken a copy; and at his solicitation, with other friends of the truth, it was first and finally published 1841, in consecutive numbers of The Contending Witness, Xenia, Ohio. The author died in Cincinnati, 1818, while yet a probationer. Of this young man I heard Dr. John Black say; "Archibald Johnston was the most accomplished orator ever licensed in our church." [back]

[9] This gentleman had been brought up amid slaves in the State of Tennessee, and in time confirmed the truth by his example, that "evil company doth corrupt good manners." He was nephew to the "Great McKinney," who wrote that masterly and original work—The Rights of God; and something great was generally expected from the nephew; yet he hardly rose to the rank of mediocrity. Often did I hear him pray with seeming fervor that the "witnesses might have patience to wear the sackcloth a little longer." After a short pastorate among us, he left the church, joined the General Assembly, and went south to Texas! [back]

[10] Let these two papers on the power of the civil magistrate and the Arminian controversy, be added to Mr. Archibald Johnston’s piece, Messiah’s Headship, to which he prefixed the Latin title, Regnum Lapidislet these three papers be combined as a sample of the argumentative part of the projectors’ "plan;" and it is presumed that any judicious person will perceive the absurdity of the original plan. Why, had the plan been executed according to the specimens above noticed, by this time they would have filled several folio volumes! Is this the plan of the church’s judicial testimony? [back]

[11] This is the gentleman who had been on the first Commission in Mr. Lusk’s case; whose partiality at the previous meeting of the Sub. Synod had called forth Mr. Blackwood’s indignant and scathing rebuke, and who afterwards left the body. In his letters to the Pittsburg brethren he had resented the Commission at Utica as having removed McFarland from the public to a private house—"to him in the dark," the very course himself had proposed. [back]

[12] This man afterwards lost the balance of his intellect, and in his melancholy musings on the past, was heard to say, "Oh, Mr. Steele was right when he said I was not fit for the ministry!" The poor man, I learn is still alive, and for many years useless among his brethren, and a pitiable wreck of humanity. [back]

[13] In writing history an author will sometimes find himself obliged to employ some words and phrases of reproachful character, and to which may have been affixed one or more ideas very objectionable. He cannot be otherwise understood, without much cumbersome circumlocution, Let it here be understood, once for all, that when any such words or phrases may occur, they are not intended or to be interpreted as conveying reproach, contempt, or derision. They are to be understood simply for the sake of distinguishing persons or parties. [back]

[14] "A suspended minister" was a phrase that had more influence with many honest people than all the current slanders. The people did not know that not one minister of the body then living ever believed in the validity or legality of that pretended suspension. This was manifested frequent invitations to return to my former place, "and let by-gones be by-gones!" [back]

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