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Database

1896.

James Dodson

MINUTES

OF THE

GENERAL MEETING

OF THE

Reformed Presbyterian Church.

HOUSE OF MISS LIZZIE ANDERSON.

NORTH UNION, BUTLER CO, PA., June 8. 1896.

The General Meeting of the Reformed Presbyterian Church met, according to adjournment, and was opened by prayer.

Members present: James F. Fulton, minister, George Love, David A Renfrew, Henry M. Hartzell and James Blair, of North Union congregation, and George Alexander, of Allegheny City. George Love was continued Chairman.

The report of the committee, appointed at our last meeting to complete the Causes of Fasting and Thanksgiving, was approved. The financial report of George Alexander and H.M. Hartzell was approved. This meeting thankfully acknowledges a donation from Mrs. Mein and her sister (now deceased). This, with the interest on the donation in the hands of our financial committee, was placed in the hands of D.A. Renfrew, treasurer, who was directed to pay for the printing of the minutes, and to give the remainder to J.F. Fulton. Three hundred dollars were put into the hands of the treasurer by a member of this meeting, which the treasurer was directed to hand over to George Alexander, to be invested with the one thousand dollars already in his hands.

The days of Fasting and Thanksgiving had been observed.

The committee on the Signs of the Times reported progress, and were directed to complete their report, and publish it with the minutes.

Jas. F. Fulton, H.M. Hartzell and James Blair were appointed a committee on the Signs of the Times, to report at our next meeting.

The last Thursday of November, 1896, was appointed a day of Thanksgiving, and the last Thursday of February, 1897, a day of Fasting. The meeting adjourned by prayer, to meet in the bounds of North Union congregation, on the first Monday of June, 1897.

GEORGE LOVE, Chairman.

H.M. HARTZELL, Permanent Clerk.

REPORT OF THE COMMITTEE ON THE SIGNS OF THE TIMES.

Durham, in his Treatise on Scandal, says "Consider this spirit of delusion is in a special manner fore-prophesied of to have a great reviving in the latter days. It is said. 1 Tim. 4:1: ‘That in the latter times, some shall depart from the faith.’ And why is that expressly added, but to give warning more clearly, that men may at their duty? Again, 2 Tim. 3:1: ‘This know, also that in the last days perilous times shall come.’ It is an observation of a holy and learned man, ‘that in this place, it is the last days; in the former, the last times’; as if this did relate to a time nearer the end of the world; and so the first looks to the Popish superstition and abominations, (and indeed the nature of the doctrines there reproved doth favor this) and this last place cloth relate to the gross delusions, that reader the pretext of the form of godliness were to succeed these; and therefore men, according to their places, ought in these times to be so much the more watchful and zealous, seeing the trumpet hath given so distinct a sound."

The Apostle, by saying, this know also in 2 Tim. 3:1, clearly indicates that he intends an apostasy entirely different from the one he had described in 1 Tim. 4:1-3. The Greek phrases translated "in the latter times" and "in the last days" are entirely different in sound and in meaning. The phrase, in the last cited passage, should be rendered "in time to come" or by an equivalent phrase. In the former passage, it is properly translated "last times." The term rendered last, signifies an extreme, a limit, a boundary.

The description given by the Apostle shows clearly that he intends two apostasies different in time and in their prominent outlines. The first, the great popish apostasy, may be compared to a counterfeit bank bill, engraved on inferior paper, and so poorly executed that it may be detected by any one possessed of a moderate measure of skill; the latter, the great protestant apostasy, to one on better paper, and so skilfully engraved that one versed in such things is liable to be deceived by it.

The peril of these times is the mask of godliness they assume. It is not because they are times of financial distress, of war, famine, or pestilence; but because they are times of spiritual plagues, walking in darkness secretly. Self-love, covetousness, pride, vanity, &c., are spiritual plagues, as deadly in their nature as the "Black Death."

This passage of Scripture clearly proves its own inspiration. No orator, however acute and observant, with all the facts before him, could draw so complete a portrait of the moral character of the present time, not to speak of predicting it eighteen centuries ago.

The charges of selfishness and corruption, which form so great a staple of the public news. prove that self-love is a predominant feature of the present time. Combinations are entered into by the laboring, the agricultural, the manufacturing and mercantile classes of society to protect themselves from the grasping avarice of each other.

But it is in the church that these evil propensities manifest themselves in their greatest malignity, and it is with their baneful influence on her we have chiefly to do.

When ministers change their ecclesiastical relations to obtain higher salaries and greater popularity, give up their charges to engage in more remunerative callings, and when this is done without taking a single step required in their own book of discipline, the minister taking it into his own hand to dissolve the pastoral relation, he manifests self-love, covetousness, haughtiness and contempt for the "Law of the House." Those are blind, indeed, who cannot see that the community that tolerates such things is treading the outer court. If such conduct is right, ordination and installation are profane farces. The things specified show that ministers guilty of such conduct acted hypocritically when they took their ordination vows upon them. Matt. 16:24: "Then said Jesus unto his disciples, if any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross and follow me."

Boasting of their religion, by professed Christians, is such a characteristic of the present time, that it must be seen by every one that observes what is passing around him. The Jews, while our Savior was on earth, sounded the trumpet before them when they went to do their alms. Those who in this age are actuated by their spirit, have a more effectual instrument in the public press. Are such attempts to gain the applause of men less displeasing to our glorified Redeemer than they were in the days of his humiliation? John 5:44: "How can ye believe, which receive honor one of another, and seek not that honor that cometh from God only?"

This boasting is seen in its most repulsive form in funeral sermons and obituaries. In these the greatest confidence is expressed in the eternal welfare of the deceased. This is presumptuous. Charity requires us to hope the best of all who have made a credible profession. But the Scriptures and the history of the Church teach that multitudes, who had given great outward evidence of the reality of their faith, in time of temptation fell away. We should ponder, with fear and trembling, the words of our Savior. Luke 13:23-24: "Then said one unto him, ‘Lord, are there few that be saved?’ And he said unto them, ‘Strive to enter in at the straight gate; for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able.’"

Funeral sermons and funeral services have a baneful effect on the living, and degrade the Christian ministry to the level of heathen priests.

That haughtiness is one of the prominent sins, not only of professors, in general, but of the ministry in particular, no one of competent intelligence and discernment will deny, unless he is blinded by the spurious charity of the age. Self-love, pride and insolence are the sources of those contests in church courts which are a disgrace to Christianity. A court in which such scenes have become chronic, does indeed, need to be prayed for. And we will add, that all persons, whatever they may pretend, who will show their approbation of a person on trial before a church court, by placing flowers on his desk by "college yells," or by any of those ways which men employ to show their approval, are to be classed with the swine, before which our Savior charges us not to cast our pearls.

By blasphemers, in this passage, we understand, not only those who take God’s name in vain, but especially those who baptize their own inventions as divine institutions, or make them substitutes for divine ordinances, such as Sunday schools, Salvation Armies, Societies of Christian Endeavor. &c. All these declare in act, if not in word, that the church has failed to accomplish that work for which she was instituted by her Divine Head. But let men blinded by their own imaginations, say what they will, He has said. Matt. 16:18: "I say unto thee, that thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it." Whose words shall stand? Those of the Lord Christ or those of the modern corrupters of the Covenant of Levi? His church shall accomplish the purpose of God in gathering His chosen ones. Isa. 55:11 "So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth; it shall not return unto me void, but shall accomplish that which I please, and prosper in the thing whereto I sent it."

That disobedience to parents is a crying sin of the times is admitted by all who are not utterly blinded by modern sentiment. It is mainly owing to the neglect of parents to train up their children,—to bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. They have no work more honorable than to instruct their offspring how to perform their duty to God and man, nor one by which they can so effectually gain their love and esteem, as well as the respect of all right-minded men. It is wonderful with what regard men look upon able and good teachers, who have instructed them even in human learning. It is an unspeakable loss to children, when their parents commit their religious instruction to self-conceited, inexperienced and ignorant young persons, who need to be taught the first principles of the oracles of God. Surely this is one thing that makes the times perilous, especially to the rising generation. Unthankfulness, want of holiness, and want of natural affection, and, indeed, all the evil and sinful qualities, enumerated by the Apostle, grow upon disobedience to parents as their natural root.

We believe we are justified in interpreting trucebreakers, as including those who violate their engagements to the church, both as to doctrine and order. How common it is for men to surrender those truths they once solemnly professed by going into a community, which not only considers those truths unworthy of a place in her terms of communion, but openly opposes them. Shame often compels them to say, "That they have carried all their principles with them." Time fully proves the utter falsity of such an assertion. He who for any consideration sells the least truth, will, if he gets his price, sell the greatest. Luke 16:10: "He that is faithful in the least, is faithful also in much and he that is unjust in the least, is unjust also in much."

Those are false accusers, who praise those who have departed from the truth, and calumniate those as "misguided men," who, at every cost, endeavored to keep their ordination vows.

The word translated "incontinent" signifies primarily want of self-control, and applies as well to gluttony as to intemperance and uncleanness. We are led to believe, from what we read both in the secular and religious papers, that many who declaim loudly against even the use of ardent spirits make a god of their belly.

The brawls and contentions that so often disgrace church courts, give lamentable evidence, that many of the professed servants of the meek and lowly Jesus, are fierce.[1]

That many, making high pretensions, are not lovers of good men, is demonstrated by their contempt and hatred of all who desire to go forth by the footsteps of the flock and who are unwilling to sell any part of the inheritance of their fathers. The so-called Reformed Presbyterian Synod of North America has for more than half a century, persecuted those who endeavored to arrest her declining course.

That there has been a marked contrast between her treatment of those who endeavored to walk in the "old paths," and of those who apostatized cannot be denied by any one who is in any measure acquainted with her history. As soon as any one manifested his love to these paths "he got the cold shoulder." It is a question whether those who control that community are not as great enemies to true Covenanted principles as the Malignants in Scotland?

That man gives the best illustration of what is meant by betrayers, headstrong, puffed up, who while he is endeavoring to deprive the community to which he belongs, of whatever remainder of truth it still retains, professes great loyalty to it!

That a great majority of professed Christians are lovers of pleasure, more than lovers of God, their whole conduct proclaims as from the housetops. And their eager pursuit of pleasure is undeniable proof of the want of the power of godliness, no matter how much they may superabound in the external forms. 1 Tim. 5:6 "But she that liveth in pleasure is dead while she liveth." No stronger proof can be given of the want of the power of godliness than the silence of the pulpit in regard to the terrible judgments of God, inflicted on many parts of the land. Some of these have been as terrible .as those on Sodom and Gomorrah; but where has the trumpet given a distinct sound? Even the heathen noticed God’s judgments.

The sovereignty of God is denied by those who bring their own inventions, into his worship even by those who repeat every week the words "The second commandment requires the receiving, observing, and keeping pure and entire all such religions and ordinances as God hath appointed in his word."

CAUSES OF THANKSGIVING.

Though the signs of the times are threatening, presaging judgments on the anti-Christian organizations of the present time, they furnish matter of thanksgiving to those who are waiting for the coming of Christ’s kingdom on earth. The Mediator is shaking all things, that those which cannot be shaken may remain.

Though the signs of the times are dark and cloudy, and very trying to the faith and patience of God’s people, they should remember that the darkest hour generally precedes the rising of the sun, and that the Mediator generally chooses the time of his peoples’ greatest extremity for their deliverance.

Our unprofitable lives have been spared another year. We have been permitted to meet, and consult together. We still enjoy communion in word and sacrament.

We are thankful for the sympathy and aid received from Scotland. Though each may seem small in the eyes of carnal professors, we are persuaded that in His eyes, who does not look on the outward appearance, but on the heart, both will be great and receive a corresponding reward.

LOCHGOIN.

The late concourse [2] at Lochgoin, Scotland, was one of the greatest attempts "to garnish the sepulchers of the righteous" on record. The men on this side of the Atlantic, who were the chief projectors and promoters of that assembly, have no more right to be called the children of the Scotch Worthies than the Jews had to be called the children of Abraham. We have already outlined the course they have pursued towards the real lovers of the men they pretend to honor.

The Scotch Worthies censured men of their principles and practices. We believe that three of the ministers, who, if our memory is not at fault, crossed the Atlantic in the same ship, are liable to censure according to the Book of Discipline of the R.P.C. in N.A., if there was any faithful exercise of discipline in that body.

But it has been treading the outer court for years, and if its adherents were not judicially blinded they could see it, even if they would "show themselves men." They should study the following passages of Scripture: Isa. 6:9-10. Matt. 13:10-16, Mark 4:12, John 12:37-41, Acts 28:25-27.

What greater evidence of spiritual blindness can be given than to assent to the declaration: "That the United States is pre-eminently a Christian nation." The nation, by its representatives, has declared: That the Government of the United States is not in any sense founded on the Christian religion, &c.

The people of the United States are in no sense "pre-eminently a Christian people or nation"; 50 per cent. never attend any kind of public worship; 20 per cent. attend irregularly. What is the religion of the majority of the remaining 30 per cent. worth?

Continued poor health is my apology for the delay in publishing the minutes.

Obituaries of Mrs. Eliza J. Steele, relict of Rev. David Steele, and also of Mr. Robert J. Shields, should have appeared at this time; but we are not in possession of several facts, that are often considered important to surviving friends. As for instance, I am not certain where either of them was born, and the dates of their birth. If friends desire it, and I am spared another year, I will insert their obituaries.

J.F. FULTON.

Footnotes:


[1] There must be considerable fierceness manifested, when the presiding officer has to remind the members of the court, "That they are not in a political convention." 

[2] They speak here of the First International Reformed Presbyterian Convention, held in Scotland, 1896. The attendees included several from the R.P.C.N.A. ED.