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Database

1887.

James Dodson

MINUTES
OF THE
REFORMED PRESBYTERY.

2732 BROWN STREET, PHILADELPHIA,

June 1st, 1887, 10 o’clock, A.M.

Presbytery met according to adjournment, and was opened with prayer by the Moderator. Members present: Messrs. J. F. Fulton and D. Steele, ministers; with Messrs. G. Alexander, D.A. Renfrew, and R. Alexander, ruling elders.[1]

Days of Fasting and Thanksgiving had been observed by all our people.

The Commissioner’s report was satisfactory, and the Commission continued. The report of Messrs. G. Alexander and H.M. Hartzell on Miss Jane Young’s donation was accepted and approved.

The Committee on the Signs of Times reported, accepted, and having been considered by paragraphs, adopted. It is as follows:

CAUSES OF FASTING.

In taking a view of the different departments of society, we may say with the Psalmist, "All the foundations of the earth are out of course." The complaint of the prophet is still true, "There is no truth, nor mercy, nor knowledge of God in the land."

The evils which we have hitherto lamented have not been removed, but are greatly aggravated by their continuance and increase. We note the following in the Family, the Church, and the State:

1. Even professed Christians utterly disregard the law of God in entering into the marriage relation. Indeed there is scarcely anything that so arouses the enmity of the carnal heart to the Divine law as a faithful endeavor to expound its teaching in this matter. Like the "sons of God" before the flood, they take them wives of all which they choose. Neither their own eternal welfare, nor that of their offspring, nor the authority of their Redeemer avails to counteract their wilfulness in this matter, fraught with so much good or evil to themselves and the Church of Christ. Even the dictates of common sense are disregarded in marrying those of whose character and disposition they know nothing. The consequences of such folly are seen in desertions and divorces, embittering not only the lives of the parties themselves, but marring the peace of those connected with them.

As marriage is entered into by too many without any regard to prudence or duty, as far as the parties themselves are concerned, so there is less attention paid to the great end for which marriage was instituted, the training of children in the knowledge and practice of their duty to God. It is to be feared that the duty of gaining the knowledge necessary to instruct their offspring is seldom, if ever, thought of by those entering into that solemn relation. As a necessary result, their children grow up in ignorance of their duties as members of the Family, of the Church, and of the State.

No doctrine is more clearly taught in the Bible than that the man is the head of the woman. All the nations of the earth, with one consent, show the work of the law written on their hearts, by embodying this Scriptural principle in their laws, though fearfully corrupted by their lusts and tyranny.

The tendency of modern teaching and legislation is to render the family a headless monster, and to unfit it for the great ends of its institution. We believe this teaching to be one of the fruitful sources of alienation of affection between husband and wife, family contentions, and insubordination; thus making the Scriptural training of children impossible. This and all similar sentiments spring from the conception that it is disgraceful to be in subjection to anyone, and that our true dignity and happiness consist in being entirely free from control—a thought coming from the father of lies.

That authority which others have over us is a ray of the Divine majesty, and in obeying them we obey God himself. A great part of our duty to him consists in the performance of the several duties we owe to others in our different places and relations. He has said, "Them that honor me, I will honor; and they that despise me shall be lightly esteemed."

The want of preparation by parents to bring up their children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord is naturally followed by its neglect, unconsciously making one sin the justification of another. The evils of this omission of duty are many and flagrant. A generation has grown up that know not the God of their fathers, and that are ignorant of the wonders He has performed in delivering them from Pagan, Papal, and Prelatic tyranny, and of the great Scriptural doctrines those worthies sealed with their blood. "That the soul be without knowledge, it is not good."

Parents are the natural instructors of their children, and it is an irreparable loss to a child when his parents neglect this duty. No instructions take such deep root in his heart as those of his father and mother. Especially is this true of a mother’s teaching. Her strong love for her offspring, and their reciprocal affection, are peculiarly calculated to make a deeper impression. How often has the collection of a mother’s love and a mother’s teaching and prayers brought tears to the eyes of the most hardened criminal!

History shows that many of those who were pre-eminent for good or evil, owed their pre-eminence to their mothers. What a vast amount of good came to Israel through the prayers of pious Hannah! When the mother of Augustine lamented to Ambrose the evil course her son was pursuing, he replied that "he never saw the son of so many prayers given up." Augustine still instructs the Church by his writings, which are quoted with respect by that prince of divines, John Owen.

It is to be lamented that so many mothers, instead of being "keepers at home," and "guiding their houses," neglect these duties to engage in questionable "Moral Reforms" of different kinds, thus leaving their families without that constant inspection which they need. If they would faithfully perform their duties, their children would rise up and call them blessed, and would be prepared to take their places either as private members or office-bearers in the Church.

Parental discipline is greatly neglected, and the use of the rod, the divinely appointed means of driving folly out of the heart of the child, is decried. As soon as the child is able he is permitted "to run the streets," to associate with the vicious, and to learn their language and ways, and thus in his tender years he is schooled in vice. As he advances in years, he more and more disregards parental authority, until finally he sets it at defiance. Being thus early left to his own lusts, it is not strange that he soon begins to frequent the saloon and other dens of iniquity, and is ruined in soul and body. Thus, whilst many are making a great outcry against the saloon, the same persons by the way they train their children are continually furnishing it with victims.

2. The want of Scriptural training in the family has produced its disastrous effects on the Church, in her doctrine, worship, government, and discipline. The members of the Church, having been brought up in ignorance of these things, are easily "carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in weight to deceive." The sentiment that a man must know himself to be regenerated before he can become a member of the Church, is clear evidence that the teaching of our fathers is forgotten. They warned us against "shifting the terms of communion from agreement in doctrine and practice to the supposed goodness of persons." The Lord Jesus Christ never made that a term of communion in the visible Church of which her officers are incompetent to judge. He claims it as His own prerogative to search the heart. "All the Churches shall know that I am He which searcheth the reins and hearts."

Funeral sermons are a great snare to the ministry, and in many ways hurtful to those who hear them. When a so-called minister of the Gospel encourages surviving relatives to hope that the dead who died a drunkard has gone to heaven, what but infidelity can result from such teaching? The Holy Spirit says, "No drunkard shall enter the kingdom of heaven;" yet one professing to be a minister of the Gospel encourages his hearers to hope that this is not true. How wretched the condition of the people who entrust themselves to such guides!

Although all do not run to the same excess, yet by their fulsome eulogies of the dead, ascribing qualities to them they never possessed, and by their asserting that those who during their life gave little evidence of the power of godliness are gone to heaven, they "sow pillows under all armholes," and encourage men to live under the form of godliness without its power.

These so-called funeral sermons are a relict of heathenism, which taught that the dead could not rest in their graves until certain religious ceremonies were performed in their behalf. It is manifest that funeral services are sought for by surviving friends under the thought that they are, in some way, necessary to the eternal happiness of the deceased. It should be enough for all lovers of truth to know that these ceremonies about the dead symbolize with popery, which is heathenism baptized with the Christian name.

The invention and introduction of the Sunday or Sabbath-school has greatly corrupted the Church. Of this evil many sober Christians of different denominations have become thoroughly convinced. A member of the regular Baptist order has said, "The Sunday-school is the theatre in disguise." A minister of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church has expressed the wish, "That all Sunday-school literature and libraries were committed to the flames." And we have no doubt that when Paul’s doctrine returns to the Church, those books of curious arts, which cost more that fifty thousand pieces of silver, will be deemed suitable fuel for a greater conflagration than the bonfire at Ephesus.

We consider all existing voluntary associations, proposing remedies for acknowledged social disorders; such as temperance, national reform, etc., usually recommended by the word Christian, as being of the same tendency as the Sunday-school.

3. As is the character of the Family and of the Church, such will be that of the State.

The general demand by all parties for "Civil Service Reform," loudly proclaims the popular sense of awful demoralization in the State. The official representatives in the several departments of the National and State governments, exhibit the moral character of their constituency.

In the common newspaper may be read every morning accounts of breach of trust, bribery, embezzlement, robbery; and sometimes robbers are so bold as to attack trains in motion, and make a prey of both life and property.

Frequent conflicts arise between employees and employers, betray want of mutual confidence. The foregoing we consider as precursors of Socialism and Anarchy.

We view earthquakes, cyclones, fire and flood, destroying life and property, in city and country, in forest and prairie, as indications of the Divine displeasure against our social sins. We believe that the only effectual remedy for our individual, social, and moral maladies is provided in the moral law and covenant of grace. These clearly expounded and faithfully applied by a Gospel ministry, seconded by a Scriptural magistracy, with the blessing of God, will exalt the Mediator to be the head of the nations, and bring all ranks to dutiful subjection to his authority.

CAUSES OF THANKSGIVING.

We have cause of thankfulness to God that while moral disorders lamentably prevail among our guilty race, all the children of Zion are invited to be joyful in their King, "who rules in the midst of His enemies, making the wrath of man to praise Him and restraining the remnant of His wrath."

We thank God for having made known to us that federal compact between the Father and the Son, with the concurrence of the Holy Ghost, whereby sinners of mankind may be delivered front the legal, penal, and moral consequences of our fall in Adam.

We bless our Heavenly Father for selecting and appointing His only begotten Son to be our Redeemer, our Goel, or near kinsman, that "we might be made the righteousness of God in Him," and might become members of His body, of His flesh, and of His bones—"Complete in Him who is the head of all principality and power."

We praise our God for founding Zion, organizing a visible church on earth, incorporated under a covenant charter, furnished with all officers and ordinances requisite as means for the salvation of His people; and that we, though "a wasted remnant," are still in the possession and enjoyment of these inestimable privileges.

We desire to be thankful, moreover, that God still raises some witnesses to lift up their voices against the inventions of men, who through "good intent" deface His ordinances and desecrate His sanctuary.

National peace and material prosperity, furnishing abundant supplies for the sustenance of man and beast, call for grateful acknowledgment to our merciful Father and covenant God.

And, finally, we can never be sufficiently thankful to God for permitting and honoring us as a Presbytery, unitedly and publicly, with our hands lifted toward heaven, to pledge anew adherence to our Covenants, National and Solemn League at North Union, Butler Co., Pa., 1881; together with our equal adherence to the first faithful renovation of said Covenants "at Auchensaugh, near Douglas, Scotland, 1712:" knowing that "it is a snare to the man who devoureth that which is holy, and after vows to make inquiry."

The last Thursday of November next was appointed as a day of Thanksgiving, and the last Thursday of February, 1888, as a day of Fasting, by all under our care.

D. Steele reported that he had carried out at North Union the instructions of Presbytery received by him at last meeting. The report was approved.

Court then took a recess till 2:30 P.M.

Recess having expired, Presbytery again came to order, when the following additional action was taken in the case of those who went out from us June 11, 1885, after having secretly plotted and openly attempted to destroy our organization—"to shiver the Presbytery."

Their error. Divested of much extraneous matter, as "paying money to hire substitutes, to free townships or precincts from draft, commutation, not money wanted but men, paid too soon, there might be no draft:" verbiage which logicians call dust to blind the eyes, and which the Holy Spirit describes as a "striving about words to no profit; but to the subverting of the hearers;" the error of that party may be stated in these words: Any of our members who, in time of the late war, purchased exemption from draft, violated our testimony. This error may be most satisfactorily confuted in the words of our predecessors, as follows: "As witnesses for Christ we must either sin or suffer. Satan himself cannot compel anyone to sin. Between moral evils (sins) we have no choice. Between natural evils (sufferings) we may freely choose. Between a moral and a natural evil we must choose the natural to avoid the moral."

But such as are of weaker capacity may need additional explanation. Well, here are examples: The tortures inflicted by prelates in Scotland could not compel young Hugh McKail to sin, nor their Jesuitical sophistries induce young James Renwick to sin. So of our other martyrs. To them as to the Psalmist their Saviour’s love was better than life, and therefore "they loved not their lives unto the death." In like manner that erring party could neither force nor seduce their faithful brethren into sin, by denying to them their liberty to secure exemption from the peril of impending draft into the sin of military association and service. This has been the doctrinal and practical position of sound covenanters always. It was the position of the Reformed Presbytery on this head at its first erection. It is our position now, from which, through the grace of the Most High, we shall not be moved away by whatsoever combination, persuasion or terror; much less by the erroneous, childish and pitiable reasoning of misguided men.

Their disorder. This has been so manifold as to preclude details here. It may suffice for the present to state that in 1884, acting as our Commission, they went direct to the house of a minister who had been suspended after repeated admonition and known to be still contumacious. This they did in direct opposition to the frequent warnings of Holy Spirit to the contrary. See, among other texts, Rom. 16:17; 2 Thess. 3:16, and they would have restored him but for the opposition of their Chairman. When our Commission reported in open Presbytery the Moderator ruled their proceedings out of order in the case of the suspended minister, to meddle in which they had no instructions from the Court. Then they attempted to remove the Moderator from the chair, and claimed themselves to be the Presbytery. We deplore and solemnly protest against the dishonor done by them to Zion’s King in profaning His ordinance of Church Government by presumptuously attempting to exercise the functions of such judicatory while destitute of the constituent membership essential to the being of a presbytery. In this course of impious disorder they persisted until arrested in their career by Providential interposition. In like manner, their untruthful and abusive pamphlet, after "foaming out their own shame," soon became its, own best antidote. That its editor "had for two years gone among our people as a talebearer, sowing discord among brethren," could scarcely be credited as true until confirmed by himself and more fully exemplified in his last issue. In behalf of those infatuated men, our prayer is that their eyes may be opened to see their way oat of that labyrinth of error and disorder into which they rashly and blindly entered, "being carried away even as they were led."

Our fund. No part of this fund known as the "Mooney Fund," went to the support of the Original Covenanter [magazine], while managed by its first editor [David Steele]; nor has any ruling elder adhering to this Presbytery ever received a dollar from that fund; therefore, the published insinuation that either this Court or any member of it has been liable to the four-fold charge of "cupidity, avarice, temerity and plotting," may now evidently be traced back and certainly located at the source where this groundless calumny originated. "Receive us; we wronged no man, we have corrupted no man, we have defrauded no man." That fund while under our control was not allowed to become what is called a "corruption fund." And now,

WHEREAS, our former Treasurer, Mr. James Campbell, was superseded June, 1885, and directed to transfer the fund in his hands known as the "Mooney Fund" to his successor in office, Mr. George Alexander, consisting of $2,000 as principal, and the interest accruing thereon since his last account rendered and audited June, 1884; as also, in like manner, to transfer any other funds which may have been put into his hands in trust for this Presbytery.

AND WHEREAS, He has hitherto failed to comply with our demand, which we still affirm to be both legal and moral, therefore we do hereby renew and urge our former demand, and hope for an early compliance.

Presbytery directs parties asking the dispensation of ordinances to apply to the Commission.

Presbytery adjourned to meet at North Union, Butler Co., Pa., on the second Wednesday of June, 1888. Closed with prayer.

D. STEELE, Moderator.

D.A. RENFREW, Clerk.

Presbytery returns cordial thanks to all those friends who contributed so liberally toward the publication of last year’s minutes.

CLERK.

Footnote:
[1] Several of our elders were absent, hindered by the infirmity of age or the claims of domestic duty. A minister who assisted in the erection of the Reformed Presbytery, forty-seven years ago, and who has had "perfect understanding of all things from the very first," was our present Moderator. CLERK.