MINUTES OF THE GENERAL MEETING OF THE REFORMED PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH.
HOUSE OF MISS LIZZIE ANDERSON,
NORTH UNION, Butler Co., Pa., June 6, 1898.
The General Meeting of the Reformed Presbyterian Church convened, according to adjournment, and was opened by prayer.
Members present: James F. Fulton, minister; George Love, H.M. Hartzell and George Alexander, of Allegheny City.
Mr. George Love was continued chairman. The minutes were read and adopted. While the chairman of the Committee on the Signs of the Times was reading its report, the meeting took a recess. Recess having expired, the meeting came to order. James Blair appeared. The reading of the Causes of Fasting was finished. They were then adopted, and the Committee directed to complete the Causes of Thanksgiving.
The financial report of George Alexander and. H.M. Hartzell was approved. It was directed that the printing of the minutes be paid for out of funds on hand and the remainder should be given to Rev. James F. Fulton. A committee was appointed to consider what would be the best investment of the funds belonging to the General Meeting. George Love, H.M. Hartzell and James Blair were appointed that committee. The days of Fasting and Thanksgiving had been observed. The last Thursday of November, 1898, was appointed as a day of Thanksgiving, and the last day of February, 1899, as a day of Fasting. The Committee on the Signs of the Times was continued.
The meeting adjourned by prayer to meet in the bounds of the North Union congregation on the first Monday of June, 1899.
GEORGE LOVE, Chairman.
HENRY M. HARTZELL, Per. Clerk.
CAUSES OF FASTING.
The present time is perilous and portentous. Society, savage and civilized, civil and ecclesiastical, is in a state of effervescence. Feeling deeply that something is wrong, men resort to various and unscriptural means to remedy the evils under which they are groaning. Though at times they have purblind conceptions of the inadequacy of their own inventions to afford relief, they still cleave to their idols. Isa. 57:10: "Thou art wearied in the greatness of thy way; yet saidst not thou, there is no hope; thou hast found the life of thine hand; therefore thou wast not grieved." They find such a suitableness in these things to their own vain and carnal minds, that though they do not answer their hopes, yet from some satisfaction and advantage they find in them, they conclude that if some deficiencies were supplied and some improvements made, all would be well. 2 Tim. 3:13: "Evil men and seducers wax worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived."
Ignorance of God abounds among all classes of society. This is the root of all alienation from God. Eph. 4:18: "Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart." Of their rebellion and living in their lusts, 1 Pet. 1:14: "As obedient children, not fashioning yourselves according to the former lusts in your ignorance." Under ignorance of God and rebellion against the gospel, the sins are summed up that bring the flames of Divine wrath upon men. 2, Thess. 1:8: "When the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from Heaven with his mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that, obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ."
This ignorance is unspeakably aggravated by the multitudes who are guilty of it, its grossness, though the means of knowledge are abundant, many being ignorant even of the letter of the scriptures, of their own sin and misery, of the way of recovery through Jesus Christ, and also of their duty to their fellow-men.
Some professing belief in the Scriptures seem to be much disturbed when the fearful casualties that befall men are declared to be the righteous judgments of God, thereby discovering their ignorance of the righteousness of the Judge of all the earth, their enmity to Him, and that they are more debased than the heathen of Greece and Rome, who attributed whatever befell them to their gods. A great and precious promise is given to those who observe God’s providence. Ps. 107:43: "Whoso is wise and will observe these things, even they shall understand the loving kindness of the Lord." Fearful threatenings are denounced against those who pursue an opposite course. Ps. 28:5: "Because they regard not the works of the Lord, nor the operation of his hands, he shall destroy them and not build them up." See also Isa. 5:11,12, Ps. 107:7-13. To deny God’s providence is to deny his being. Those who do so are atheists, and their atheism is the fruit of the highest impiety. Ps. 36:1: "Wherefore doth the wicked contemn God? He hath said in his heart, thou wilt not require it."
What has been said, is clearly proved by the fact, that while God has been pouring out his judgments on men, destroying life and property by war, famine, pestilence, fire, storm and flood, they generally ascribe these things to second causes, as if these were not under the control of Him who created them. Even the pulpit has been shamefully silent, not boldly and faithfully pointing the hand of God in these things and warning their hearers that if they do not repent, greater judgments will follow. To deny that the hand of God is in these things is flatly to contradict the Scriptures. Amos 6:1: "Shall there be evil in the city and the Lord hath not done it?" See also Jer. 10:5, Luke 12:7. The constant increase of this sin, although there are daily evidences that there is a God that judgeth in the earth, is an alarming sign of the times.
It is asserted in a religious (?) address, "That all truths are doubtable—that there is no absolute proof for any one of them—even that fundamental truth, the existence of God, no man can prove by reason. The ordinary proof for the existence of God involves either an assumption, an argument in a circle or a contradiction." What is to be thought of ministers and editors, professing to be covenanters, who will encourage any, not to mention candidates for the ministry, to attend places of instruction where men holding such abominable sentiments are employed as teachers or lecturers.
Divine ordinances are still treated with contempt. Instrumental music still continues to be introduced into the public worship of God, not because those who do so believe that it is necessary to render such worship acceptable to Him, but because it pleases their own carnal minds. Some have had the hardihood to avow that they desire to attract carnal and worldly men to the sanctuary.
The way in which the advocates of the right of women to preach, interpret the Scriptures, show how little their plainest declarations are regarded when they stand in the way of men’s carnal designs. Because the Spirit of God declares by that "Elect Organ of God," Paul, that He does not suffer a woman to teach nor to usurp authority over the man, a prominent, advocate of "woman’s rights" says: "She will pass Paul and go to the Master." Had she never read, "He that heareth you, heareth me; and he that despiseth you despiseth me; and he that despiseth me despiseth him that sent me."
To misinterpret God’s word is an aggravated sin, especially when it arises from stubborn enmity to the Divine will. Deut. 4:2: "You shall not add unto the word which I command you nor diminish aught from it, that ye may keep the commandments of the LORD your God which I command you." Deut. 12:32 "What thing soever I command you, observe to do it; thou shalt not add thereto nor diminish from it." Rev. 22:18,19: "For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, if any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book; and if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things that are written in this book." 1 Sam. 15:23: "For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry." Prov. 30:6: "Add those not unto his words, lest he reprove thee and thou be found a liar."
Although the evils of the "Sunday school" are so many and so gross as to call for very severe criticisms, even from its advocates, they stubbornly refuse to see that these evils are inherent in the system itself. The following are some of the evils specified: When the parents are entering the house of public worship the children are going out; few children attend public worship; a large percentage of such scholars never become members of the church; it fails to impart adequate instruction; many of the pupils become criminals; the mass of Sunday school teachers are ignorant. There are qualifications clearly laid down in the Bible for every ecclesiastical officer, from the deacon to the minister; but it knows nothing of the "Sunday school" teacher, and therefore prescribes neither moral nor intellectual qualifications for him. As far as we know, no church court has made any rules to govern the election, installation, or qualifications of these "lawless" ones (anomoi). 2 Thess. 2:8: "Then shall that wicked (anomos) be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming."
Profanity continues to be one of the crying sins of the land. Not only the openly profane and irreligious, but even members of the church, are guilty of this heaven-daring sin, a sin to which God, that cannot he, has annexed the threatening, that "He will not hold them guiltless that take his name in vain." Parents by example teach their children to use profane language. It is wonderful to see what progress even small children make in this unprofitable and heaven-daring sin. Every curse and oath shows how deeply the sense of a holy and righteous God is engraven on the hearts of men, and that there is a place to which he will consign the wicked. Men do not swear by anything that does not, in their own or others’ conceptions, possess the attributes of Divinity: If there were no other sin to bring desolating judgments on the land, this would be sufficient. Jer. 23:10: "Because of swearing the land mourneth." Zech. 5:3,4: "Then said he unto me, This is the curse that goeth forth over all the earth; for everyone that stealeth shall be cut off as on this side according to it; and everyone that sweareth shall be cut off as on that side according to it. And I will bring it forth, saith the Lord of hosts: and it shall enter into the house of the thief, and into the house of him that sweareth falsely by my name; and it shall remain in the midst of his house, and shall consume it with the timber thereof, and with the stones thereof."
Sabbath desecration was never more openly practiced than at present. Immense sums are spent on parks, museums, libraries, and on buildings for musical entertainments to furnish men with facilities to gratify their carnal minds on that holy day. Railroads run their trains at reduced rates to enable people to attend games of ball, and every species of Sabbath desecration, and it is to be feared that these things are largely patronized by professing Christians. We question whether the great religious conventions of the day are less deleterious to the sanctification of the Sabbath than the secular amusements.
We have seen by the confession of its advocates, that the "Sunday school" is one of the most effective means to train up children to disobey the fourth commandment. Lev: 19:30: "Ye shall keep my sabbaths and reverence my sanctuary. I AM JEHOVAH." Can we expect those who have been accustomed, in their tender years, to leave God’s sanctuary when public worship commences, to reverence it? or that returning home when they are from under parental inspection and control, that they will not engage in seeking their own pleasure? No one will say no, who shows himself a man. God has threatened this sin with desolating judgments. 2 Chron. 36.21: "To fulfill the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah, until the land had enjoyed her Sabbaths; for as long as she lay desolate, she kept Sabbath, to fulfill threescore and ten years."
Parental authority continues to he more and more disregarded, which we believe to be owing to the modern methods of training children. Parents entrust this important work to irresponsible persons, devolving upon these what they are expressly commanded to do themselves. Prov. 22:6: "Train up a child in the way he should go; and when he is old he will not depart from it." Deut. 6:7: "And thou shalt teach diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thy house and when walkest by the way, and when thou liest down and when thou risest up." To say these texts apply to the church or to any persons other than their parents manifests judicial blindness. Isa. 6:9: "And he said, Go and tell this people, hear ye indeed, but understand not; and see indeed, but perceive not." The teaching of parents, whether by precept or example, is authoritative, and to disobey it is rebellion not only against their parents, but against God who has given them this authority. A great part of our obedience to God consists in our obedience to those he has placed over us.
Murders are committed in every corner of the land. The gratification of malice and covetousness are the prevailing motives. The great prevalence of this as well as of other crimes is greatly owing to the want of prompt and impartial execution of the law. Eccl. 8:11: "Because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the hearts of the sons of men are fully set in them to do evil." "Blood defiles the land, and it cannot be cleansed but by the blood of him that shed it." A class of men, called criminal lawyers, is largely responsible for the increase of murders, yet these men are frequently honored by the people with the highest offices in their gift.
Uncleanness keeps pace with other debasing and destructive sins. This not only degrades man to a level with the beasts, but tends to the destruction of the human race. Ante-nuptial fornication has become so common as scarcely to be considered disgraceful; but no other form of uncleanness is more to be dreaded, as it tends to break down every barrier that the Divine law has placed as a hedge against the gratification of unlawful desires. Children should be taught to abhor uncleanness as a sin that should expel them from respectable society, and as one that especially endangers their eternal welfare. Both sacred and profane history teach that a general disregard of the seventh commandment is a sure harbinger of national ruin.
Dishonesty abounds in every corner of the land. Wherever money is handled, we see evidence that there is a want of confidence between employer and employee. The daily press is filled with thefts, robberies, burglaries, embezzlements, and murders committed to obtain money. Combinations called trusts are formed to rob their fellow-men of their just proportion of the profits of agriculture, manufacturing, &c. Thus men of moderate means are compelled to give up their own shops and to labor for these monopolies. This and similar things are producing dangerous discontents among the laboring classes which will result in fearful commotions—the reaping the harvest of the earth.
The defaming and slandering of those who endeavor to maintain the whole testimony of the Witnesses of Jesus Christ, is one of the most aggravated breaches of the eighth commandment. The design of such persons is to destroy their reputation, so that no man will receive their testimony; that is, to murder their character, and such would murder their bodies if they were not restrained by the providence of God. While such persons think nothing too severe to utter against faithful men, they manifest a great tenderness to those who, according to their own showing, have turned aside from the truth.
That covetousness exceedingly prevails, is evident from the many ways devised by men to rob their fellow-men of the fruit of their labors. The great number of men who are exposing themselves to privations and death in quest of gold in an arctic region, proves that the love of money overcomes every other consideration. The frequent elopement of men with their neighbor’s wives, show how little the command, "Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife," is regarded. The swift punishment that frequently follows, does not deter men from the commission of this abominable wickedness—a crime which we believe should be followed by the highest penalty of the law.
CAUSES FOR THANKSGIVING.
True thankfulness consists in a clear apprehension of God’s gifts bestowed on creatures who are unworthy of the least of all His mercies, not forgetting them, but entertaining a high esteem of them as coming from the greatest and best of beings, a willingness to serve Him, and to be more and more indebted to Him, and to take the cup of salvation and to call upon His name.
We specify the following things as causes of Thanksgiving: The earth continues to yield food for man and beast. That it has done so during the whole time of our sojourning in the world, and that we never have been left to cleanness of teeth, should greatly increase our gratitude to God for His unmerited kindness.
We are not left destitute of spiritual mercies. One which we are too apt to forget is, That we have the Holy Scriptures in the "best translation ever made," so that "we can read in our own tongue" the wonderful works of God. To this we may add that copies of this translation are so numerous and so cheap that nothing but sloth and indifference to the interests of their own immortal souls can prevent persons from possessing the "oracles of God."
Though "the present age is one of flippant preaching and men handle the word of God with no more reverence than they would one of Burns’ poems or Shakspeare’s plays," yet we are thankful to our Lord and Master, that we not only have the Scriptures, but we have the writings of the great and good men whom he raised up and qualified with natural, acquired, and spiritual gifts to expound them. Though there seems to be some who would consign the great works of these men to the flames, as the papists did the Bible, yet we are confident that the former will fail as signally in obtaining their desire, as did the latter.
We still enjoy our General Meetings, our fellowship meetings, and the public worship of God, and we rejoice in the promise that a seed shall serve our divine Mediator while sun and moon endure.
God is shaking the heavens and the earth, communities, civil and ecclesiastical, that those things that cannot be shaken may remain.
DRIFT OF THE TIMES.
The present is an age of flippant preaching. Men handle the word of God with no more reverence than they would one of Burns’ poems or Shakspeare’s plays. Sermons are punctuated with sharp sayings, stale anecdotes, and exaggerated statements. All these may strike the minds of sinners as bright, entertaining, and agreeable, but they are not the things to most deeply impress the soul with divine truth. The manner of him who stands in the pulpit to represent God to men should indicate gravity, solemnity, reverence and deep earnestness to show sinners the evil of their doings and impress all with the awful importance of the gospel message.—Farm and Fireside.
The above criticism on our modern preaching, we believe to be entirely true. It shows how base and contemptible a great part of the ministry have become. They are seeking the honor that comes from men, and therefore cannot believe and even be living members of the church. John 5:44.
Rev. Dr. McFarland asserts that his small audience at Tranquillity, Ohio, was owing to the bad impression Mr. Steele had, by his contentious conduct during his pastorate of twenty-five years over the Brushcreek congregation, left behind him. It must have worked by inverse proportion with respect to him and his calumniator. In 1865, Mr. Steele assisted in the dispensation of the Lord’s Supper in what was formerly his own Meeting House. It could not accommodate the audience. To hear Mr. Steele once more was the attraction. While the congregation was assembling, I overheard two venerable United Presbyterians say, one to the other, "It looks like old times to see Mr. Steele among us again." Their countenances showed their delight. The last time Mr. Steele visited Tranquillity, "he had an ovation." The large U.P. Meeting House in which he preached, was entirely filled.
The following anecdote shows the respect in which he was held by the public. Being at West Union, the county seat, to obtain papers to act as guardian, on completing the papers the official said to him, "You must give bail." Mr. Steele replied, "I am not acquainted here, and cannot do so." The officer promptly replied, "I will bail you." Would this man have risked several thousand dollars on a man noted for contention? Being with Mr. Steele some twelve days before his death, I enquired what was the state of his mind in view of the evident approach of death. He referred me to Job 23:10: "But he knoweth the way I take. When he hath tried me I shall come forth as gold." After I had read the passage, he said, "I trust I can humbly appropriate that passage." He seemed that day to be absorbed in a view of the glory of the Mediator. I wished I could listen to him for months. If our great National Reformer [Dr. McFarland], who goes about boasting of what great things he is doing, had heard him, he might have felt how little he knew in comparison of the man he calumniates. We insert some passages, inspired and uninspired, for the consideration of the slanderers of Mr. Lusk and Mr. Steele. Wisdom of Solomon. 5:1-6: "Then shall the righteous man stand in great boldness before the face of such as have afflicted him and made no account, of his labors. When they shall see it, they shall be troubled with great fear, and shall be amazed at the strangeness of his salvation, so far beyond all that they looked for. And they repenting and groaning for anguish of spirit shall say within themselves. This was he whom we had sometimes in derision and a proverb of reproach. We fools accounted his life madness and his end to be without honor. Now is he numbered among the saints? Therefore we have erred from the way of truth, and the light of righteousness hath not shined unto us, and the light of righteousness rose not upon us."
The following is part of a footnote to one of Ralph Erskine’s sermons, printed at Xenia, O., 1844, page 508:
"It has been the fate of the witnesses for the truth of God in every period of the church, especially since the commencement of Christianity, to be burdened and reproached with the most scurrilous epithets and approbrious names. The blessed Author of the Christian religion himself did not escape the obloquy, contumely and censures of the world; and his disciples were accused of being ‘turbulent’ and ‘pestilent fellows,’ and such as ‘turned the world upside down.’ When it fared so with them, we need not be surprised that their successors should be flouted at, maltreated and evil spoken of by those who do not favor the truth as it is in Jesus."
Many similar passages can be found in approved authors. We will add a few from the Scriptures: Matt. 5:11: "Blessed are ye when men shall revile you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely for my sake." Luke 6:22: "Blessed are ye when men shall hate you, and when they shall separate you from their company, and shall reproach you, and shall cast out your names as evil, for the Son of man’s sake." John 15:18: "If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you." Acts 24:5: "For we have found this man a pestilent fellow, and a mover of sedition among the Jews throughout the world and a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes."
The following eulogy on Prof. Drummond by the Christian Nation shows to what depths the so-called covenanters have fallen: "Those of our readers who have attended the course of lectures at Northfield, have no doubt been greatly benefited thereby. And among the great speakers, Prof. Drummond would be ranked as one of the best, not only for his eloquence, but for his plain, practical way of presenting truth." The reader will see on page 6 his plain, practical way of presenting skeptical atheism. Atheism "is skeptical when the existence of God is simply doubted, and the conclusiveness of the evidence generally relied upon is denied."—Hodge.
The following can be found on page 14 of the Christian Nation, August 4, 1897. Another said, his voice ringing with earnestness, "I belong to no party or church; I belong to Christ." No party whip could drive him, but directed by God’s Spirit he would do "whatever Christ would have him to do." More than a year has passed, and so far as we know, no protest has been made by any minister or member of R.P.C. of N.A. against the fanaticism of that declaration, nor the silly conduct of the convention in which it was uttered.
It seems from the Rev. W.J. Coleman’s article in the Christian Nation, September 7, 1898, that many so-called covenanters have so far advanced towards Rome that they have pictures of the "Virgin Mother," &c., in their parlors. It seems to us that "Virgin Mother" and "Virgin Mary" is language that true Protestants detested as belonging to Romish idolatry.
What can be expected of a community that homologates Christian Endeavor Societies, Salvation Armies, Boys’ Brigades, Sons and Daughters of the King, &c., &c. This and their disregard of their own Book of Discipline clearly prove that they are in the outer court.
"OLD LIGHT" AND "NEW LIGHT."
The Christian Nation has once or twice invited its "New Light" brethren to take a lower seat. This is perfectly ludicrous to those who are acquainted with the history of the two communities formed by the disruption of 1833. We .advise the editor of the Christian Nation and his coadjutors to study the 16th chapter of Ezekiel and to give especial attention to the 34th and the 51st and 52d verses. We freely admit that the pious men and women in the church generally adhered to the "Old Light" side. But we do say, without fear of successful contradiction, that the community now calling themselves "Old Lights" are not, the Old Lights of 1833, and it savors of judicial blindness for them to say they are. That we are now in the great Protestant apostacy is clear from 2 Tim. 3:1-6. Three things in this passage clearly define this time. "Boasters." Every religious paper is a trumpet more effectual to proclaim men’s goodness than the ones the Pharisees had to let people know how religious they were. "Lovers of pleasures more than God." No one can deny this. The Sabbath is turned into a day of amusement. "Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof." Religious people (?) patronize amusements that at one time were proscribed by every ecclesiastical body. "Official members may be found in box, dress circle, and parquet of opera and theater. Communicants take in the races, give and attend card parties and dances," &c.—Western Christian Advocate, July 19, 1893.
MR. ROBERT J. SHIELDS.
Our acquaintance with Mr. Shields commenced in 1829, when he was about ten years old. His conduct as a son and in every relation was much superior to the generality of those of his own age. Soon after his marriage to Miss Jane Torrence, be united with the Reformed Presbytery, and continued a firm and consistent member all his life. His family need not mourn for him as those that have no hope. He died at Belle Centre, O[hio], aged 77 years, 7 months and some days. We suppose he was born at West Liberty, Ohio, but of this we are not sure.
MR. ROBERT ALEXANDER.
Robert Alexander was born in Ireland and emigrated to the United States after he had reached his majority, and settled in Philadelphia. He was a member of Rev. S.O. Wylie’s congregation until he discovered that his pastor was not a true Covenanter. Soon after this discovery, he united with the Reformed Presbytery, of which he remained a firm and consistent member as long as he lived. He was willing to undergo any labor and to be at any expense to keep up the ordinances. He said to the writer, not long before his death, "I think I can say, I always loved the ordinances." He died at the house of Mrs. Mary Blair, near Brownsdale, [Butler County, Pa.] March 26, 1898, after a severe and lingering illness. His age was over 70 years.