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Database

1892.

James Dodson

MINUTES

OF THE

GENERAL MEETING

OF THE

REFORMED PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH

HOUSE OF JAMES ANDERSON, NORTH UNION,

BUTLER CO., PA., June 13, 1892.

The General Meeting of the Reformed Presbyterian Church met, according to adjournment, and was opened with prayer. Members present: James Anderson, David A. Renfrew, George Love and Henry M. Hartzell, of North Union, Pa.; George Alexander, of Allegheny City, Pa., and Robert Alexander, of Philadelphia, Pa. James F. Fulton, minister, was present.

The Minutes of the former meeting were read. Two omissions were noted, viz: That the Minutes of said meeting were adopted, and that the former Chairman and Clerk were continued. The Minutes were then adopted.

George Love was chosen Chairman and D.A. Renfrew was continued Clerk.

The days of Fasting and Thanksgiving had been observed.

The report of George Alexander and H.M. Hartzell on Miss Jane Young’s donation was approved.

The Committee on the Signs of the Times reported. It was taken up by paragraphs, and while it was considering the meeting took recess for dinner. Recess having expired, the meeting came to order and resumed the consideration of the report, which was adopted, and is as follows:

CAUSES OF FASTING.

Atheism, both speculative and practical, has, during the past year, increased to an alarming extent. This is manifest from the declarations made both from the pulpit and the press, "That we have attained to more correct views of the character of God than our Reforming Fathers, that He is not the holy and righteous God that will by no means clear the guilty, but that he is very indulgent to the sins and weaknesses of His creatures." It necessarily follows from this that there is no necessity of the atonement.

God’s omniscience and foreordination are denied by teaching that He does not govern "all things according to His own eternal purpose which He purposed in Himself." Men become enraged when told that the calamities that befall them are His righteous judgments, even when His hand is as visible in them as it was in the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. "Shall there be evil in the city and the Lord hath not done it?" Amos, 3:6.

His foreknowledge and preordination have as many witnesses as He has prophets, and He Himself proves His own existence by His foretelling what shall come to pass, "Remember the former things of old: For I am God, and there is none like me," "Tell ye, and bring them near; yea, let them take counsel together; who hath declared this from the ancient time? Who hath told it from that time? Have not I the Lord? and there is none else beside me; a just God, a Saviour; there is none else beside me." Isa., 45:21.

The doctrines of grace are denied by many of those who, for generations, have acknowledged the Westminster Confession of Faith to be the symbol of their profession, and these persons, under the name of revision, are endeavoring utterly to pervert that venerable exhibition of Divine truth. We know not how to characterize the attempt to make that grand attainment of the Second Reformation teach what it does not, and what was abhorred by the great and good men who framed it. The hypocrisy and double dealing manifested in this is only equaled by the declaration of one, "That he believes the Confession of Faith, but not its traditional interpretation."

That this is "speaking lies in hypocrisy," is manifested by the fact that there never has been but one interpretation of that Confession, and that friend and foe have acknowledged that its teaching is Calvinistic. The whole discussion of its so-called revision, manifests "deep dissimulation and gross hypocrisy" on the one hand, and on the other that the great mass of professors are, through sinful ignorance, "children tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they (their hireling teachers) lie in wait to deceive," Eph., 4:14. "My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge," Hosea, 4:6.

The Protestant Churches are fast symbolizing with the Church of Rome. Witness their carrying the dead into the house of public worship, preaching funeral and Easter sermons, and gradually conforming their mode of praising God to the forms of that Church by introducing choirs, organs, theatrical modes of singing in public worship, avowedly to attract carnal men to the house of God.

Men are lovers of themselves. This, as well as their covetousness, is seen in their trusts and in the various means they employ to obtain the property of their fellow men without an equivalent. No class of men, at the present time, is more covetous than the ministry. Nor can this charge be denied because they are demanding this money, not for their own use, but for that of the Church. Ecclesiastical history shows that just in proportion to the advances of the Romish Church in apostacy, the more importunate were the demands of her clergy for property to enrich her. While outwardly this worldly wealth was sought for the glory of the Church, the controlling motive was, that in the worldly grandeur of the Church, the honor and dignity of the clergy might be greatly augmented. As there is a national pride and a national covetousness, so there is a Church pride and a Church avarice.

The boasting of the superior knowledge and piety of the present time is one of the evil signs of the times. While we admit that, during this century, great advances have been made in the arts and sciences, it is to be lamented that many sacrifice to their own net and drag, ascribing their wonderful inventions and discoveries to their own wisdom, not knowing, or forgetting, that all intellectual endowments are the gifts of the Spirit of God, and that these gifts, both as to time and place, are given to carry out His own purposes of mercy or judgment. As He endowed Bezaleel and Aholiab with wisdom in all manner of workmanship to frame and adorn the tabernacle, so He endowed Cyrus, that ravenous bird, with those qualifications that were necessary to qualify him to be His instrument to execute His judgments on Babylon. Such boasting proceeds on the ground that intellectual and spiritual endowments are inseparable. What nation in ancient times was more learned than the Egyptians? and what nation was more deeply immersed in the grossest forms of idolatry? Greece and Rome, when in their highest state of intellectual culture, were at their lowest ebb of moral degradation; their own writers being witnesses.

This boasting of the pre-eminence of this generation in all that is worthy of praise, is accompanied with a haughty disdain of the labors and attainments of the Heaven-endowed reformers of the Second Reformation. These worthies are represented as bigoted and narrow minded, and their great writings as unworthy of the study of this enlightened age. We believe this decrying of the abilities and attainments of Christ’s witnesses, to be the blasphemy spoken of, 2 Tim., 3:2. It comes from the same spirit that inspired the dragon "to blaspheme God, His name, His tabernacle and them that dwell in heaven," Rev., 12:6. Those that speak evil of the gifts and grace of God, as truly blaspheme Him, as those that take His name in vain.

That disobedience to parents is a crying sin of the times, is generally admitted; but few, however, regard it as a certain harbinger of Divine judgments. It is a sin against the light of nature, as well as that of Revelation. The heathen condemned it, and highly honored those who distinguished themselves by dutiful behavior to their parents.

The "Sunday School" has, by taking the religious instruction of children out of the hands of parents, taught children to look with contempt upon their natural instructors, and to conclude that as their father and mother are incompetent to teach, so they are unfit to govern them. We believe that the Spirit of God in 2 Tim., 3:2, chiefly intends ecclesiastical children. We are commanded to go forth by the footsteps of the flock, and to be followers of those who, through faith and patience, inherit the promises, Song, 1:8; Heb., 6:12. Want of gratitude to ecclesiastical parents necessarily follows disobedience to the commanding influence of their example. To whom are we under greater obligations of love and gratitude than to the men who delivered us from popish and prelatic tyranny? Men, in various ways, honor those who have delivered them from civil tyranny. But without the labors of our reforming fathers, there would have been no place for the great deeds of the world’s admired heroes who have lived since their day, and the world would be groaning under the ghastly tyranny of the man of sin.

The perpetual obligation of the National Covenant of Scotland, and of the Solemn League and Covenant of England, Scotland and Ireland, is denied by the descendants of those who entered into those covenants. The curse of the covenant, like a fire not blown, is consuming many who are walking in their own lusts, adding the drunken to the thirsty, Deut., 29:19.

It is matter of lamentation to all the lovers of a Covenanted Reformation, that the nature of the renovation of these covenants at Auchensaugh is not understood. It is from gross ignorance of this that they have been called "British Covenants," and that it has been said "we have no more to do with them than with a covenant of Germany." By that grand and heroic deed, they were divested of any supposed relation to the British Government, as it was then constituted, and made applicable to Christ’s witnesses wherever they may be called to sojourn.

To claim to be witnesses and to be the true Covenanted Church, while stubbornly rejecting that renovation, manifests the same blindness that the Jews did in claiming to be the children of Abraham, when they no longer did the works of Abraham.

Those who are unfaithful in their covenant with God, cannot be trusted in their dealings with their fellow men. That there is a flood of dishonesty sweeping over the land is too evident to be denied.

Intemperance is a crying sin of the times. We do not use this term in the narrow sense of modern reformers, but intend by it every act or habit that is not kept within the bounds of God’s law. Temperance signifies self control. The original Greek term is translated self government, self control, moderation, temperance, continence.

It is evident from the facts published by the daily press that the Seventh Commandment is violated to an alarming extent. Divorces are matters of daily occurrence, and often bring to light scandals that show how deeply society is corrupted.

That men are "fierce" is seen in the innumerable murders that are committed in every corner of the land, and especially in the frequent resort to dynamite to destroy the lives and property of those who are obnoxious to certain parties. We believe we have only seen the beginning of this inhuman practice, and that it is to be a terrible means of executing God’s wrath upon the nations that have forgotten him. That good men are despised is seen in the hatred and contempt expressed for those who stand up for the footsteps of the flock. The "cold shoulder" is given in Church courts to those who desire to "walk in the old paths." Public sympathy is unmistakably with apostates, of whatever grade, though their hypocrisy is too gross to escape the detection of a child. The number of professing Christians at the present time who, after having given their solemn adherence to the terms of communion in a Church, are endeavoring to eliminate from them all that is good, shows how deeply society is corrupted and how justly the apostle applies to its members the term traitors.

Stubbornness in pursuing evil courses and in defending them, though God in His providence has shown their dangerous tendency, is a sign of the times that must not be overlooked. The introduction of a human psalmody, organs, choirs and other inventions, is destroying the spiritual life of every community into which they have been admitted. The witnesses of this are neglect of family worship, of the reading the Scriptures, non-attendance on public worship, frequent changes of pastors by congregations, Sabbath desecration by so-called members of the Church, etc. When, according to its own report, nearly one third of the ministers of a body are without charges, it should see there is something wrong and enquire into the cause of such a condition, whether it is in the ministry, or people, or both, and endeavor to apply the remedy.

That professors are lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God, is seen on every hand. The Church itself is fast becoming a place to gratify the carnal mind, and there are those who advocate having places of amusement connected with houses of public worship. What can more clearly show that professing Christians have lost sight of their lost and undone condition by nature, and of the nature and design of the religion of Jesus Christ. To propose to connect a house, erected for the worship of God, with a place of amusement, is revolting to men’s natural sense of the fitness of things, when not blinded by the pleasures of this world. Living in pleasure, they are dead while they live.

That men have a form of godliness, but deny the power thereof, is undeniably proved by the almost entire disuse of discipline in the Church. Discipline is the grand means of preserving her purity in doctrine and practice. Church members can now live in utter disregard of the law of the Church and not be called to account. A Church without discipline is a synagogue of Satan, a Babel of confusion.

An attempt to apply Christ’s law would drive multitudes from the Church, and demonstrate the utter emptiness of the boast of the wonderful progress of Christianity at the present time.

The Church has in great measure surrendered her power into the hands of unauthorized agencies. She licenses and ordains ministers and leaves their employment to the caprice of congregations.[1] Licentiates and unsettled ministers should have their work assigned them by their Presbyteries, and not be suffered to wander about as tramps seeking employment, and it is the duty of the Presbytery under whose jurisdiction they are, to see that they discharge their duties in a proper manner, and to depose from the ministerial office all incompetent persons.

The pride of sending out many ministers is, we believe, doing much injury to the Church, as well as to many of those sent out by her.

Disobedience to parents, murder in every degree of cruelty, uncleanness in all its debasing and soul ruining forms, thefts, robbery, burglary, lying, slander, perjury and covetousness are bringing the wrath of a holy and righteous God upon the land.

We lament our own want of humiliation for our own sins and the sins of the land in which we dwell; that we do not endeavor to affect our own souls with a sense of the dishonor done to God by these sins, and that we do not weep in secret for the miseries that are coming on sinners for their forgetting God; that we too much regard our yearly fast as a mere formality, and that we do not sufficiently consider how deeply we are concerned with the sins of our fellow men.

CAUSES OF THANKSGIVING.

We have great cause for thankfulness that our lives have been spared another year. This is greatly increased by the fact that the last year has been one of unusual mortality. Not only strangers, but many of our relatives and acquaintances have been summoned to render their account. We should rejoice with trembling and be stirred up to diligence in running the way of God’s commandments.

The earth has yielded her increase and the wants of man and beast have been abundantly supplied. Summer and winter, seed time and harvest have been given in fulfillment of the promise.

The signs of the times clearly indicate the fulfillment of God’s promise of the enlargement of the Church, and that the day of vengeance on her implacable enemies is drawing near.

Although it is a time of great darkness, yet faith sees it to be the darkness that precedes the rising of the Sun of Righteousness, and that the judgments that are abroad in the earth are earnests of those that will end in the subjection of the whole earth to the scepter of the Mediator.

The Committee on the Signs of the Times was continued, and H.M. Hartzell was added to it.

The last Thursday of November, 1892, was appointed a day of Thanksgiving, and the last of February, 1893, a day of Fasting.

The meeting was adjourned with prayer, to meet in the bounds of North Union congregation on the second Monday of June, 1893.

GEORGE LOVE, Chairman.

DAVID A. RENFREW, Clerk.

Footnote:

[1] We do not, by any means, deny the right of a congregation to choose its own pastor, nor its right to get rid of an incompetent or unworthy one; but we consider the constant changes of pastors one of the crying evils of the times.—ED.