The principles or some parties, who have made the most specious appearances for the Reformation, considered.—Particular grounds of testimony against that body of ministers and people known by the name of the Secession, wherein their partiality and unfaithfulness in their profession of the covenanted testimony or the Church of Scotland is discovered in various instances,—their loose and immoral doctrine about civil society and government—their corruption in worship, sinful terms of communion, &c., &c.
THE presbytery having in the preceding pages exhibited their testimony against both church and state, as now established in these isles of the sea, and therein discovered the reasons, why they are obliged to disapprove of both, proceed, next, to take notice of some of the parties that have made the most specious appearances for reformation in this land since the Revolution, of which that party commonly known by the name of Secession, are not the least remarkable. It is vast pity, and it is with grief and lamentation, that the presbytery find themselves, in point of duty, obliged to lift up a testimony against the forementioned party; considering that they have made a professed appearance under a judicial banner displayed for truth, and a covenanted work of reformation, and have, in reality, showed much zeal in opposing a variety of errors in doctrine, corruption in discipline and government, most prevalent in the National Church of Scotland; have contributed to vindicate some of the most important truths and doctrines of the Christian faith, that have been openly impugned in this day of blasphemy, and may have been instrumental in turning many to righteousness, and reviving the exercise of practical godliness among not a few. But as Paul withstood Peter to the face, and testified against his dissimulation, though both of them apostles of our common LORD and SAVIOUR; so it still remains duty to testify against the most godly and such as may have been very useful to the church in many respects, in so far as they have not showed themselves earnest contenders for the faith once delivered to the saints, but have dealt treacherously with GOD in the concerns of his glory. It is therefore with just regret they proceed to observe, that they are obliged to testify against this party designated, first, by the title of The Associate Presbytery (and then that of The Associate Synod)—and that particularly, for their error in doctrine, treachery in covenant, partiality and tyranny in discipline and government. It may at first seem strange, to see a charge of error advanced against those who made the countenancing of error in the judicatories of the established church one principal ground of their secession therefrom. But by taking a narrower view of the principles and doctrines which they have roundly and plainly asserted, and endeavored to justify in their printed pamphlets anent civil government, the reception and belief of which they zealously inculcate upon their followers, it will appear, that their scheme is so far from tending to promote the declarative glory of GOD, and the real good of human and religious society, or the church of GOD, which are the very ends of the divine ordinance of magistracy, that it is not only unscriptural, but anti-scriptural, contrary to the common sentiments of mankind, and introductive of anarchy and confusion in every nation, should it be thoroughly adopted, and therefore ought to be testified against. The sum of their principles anent civil magistracy, may be collected from these few passages, to be found in a print entitled, Answers by the Associate Presbytery to reasons of dissent, &.c.—Page 70. “This divine law, not only endows men in their present state with a natural inclination to civil society and government, but it presents unto them an indispensable necessity of erecting the same into some form, as a moral duty, the obligation and benefit whereof no wickedness in them can lose or forfeit—Page 74. Whatever magistrates any civil state acknowledged, were to be subjected to throughout the same—Page 50. Such a measure of these qualifications (viz: scriptural) and duties cannot be required for the being of the lawful magistrate’s office, either as essential to it, or a condition of it sine qua non, or, without which one is not really a magistrate, however far sustained as such by civil society; for then no person could be a magistrate, unless he were so faultlessly. The due measure and performance of scriptural qualifications and duties belong not to the being and validity of the magistrate’s office, but to the wellbeing and usefulness thereof—P. 87. The precepts, already explained, are a rule of duty toward any who are, and while they are acknowledged as magistrates by the civil society. Nothing needs be added for the clearing of this, but the overthrow of a distinction that has been made of those that are acknowledged as magistrates by the civil society, into such as are so by the perceptive will of GOD, and such as are so by his providential will only: which distinction is altogether groundless and absurd. All providential magistrates are also preceptive and that equally in the above respect (viz: as to origin of their office) the office and authority of them all, in itself considered, does equally arise from, and agree unto the preceptive will of GOD.—P. 88. The precepts already explained (Prov. 24:21; Eccl. 10:4; Luke 20:25; Rom. 13:1-8; Tit. 3:1; 1 Pet. 2:13-18), are a rule of duty equally toward any who are, and while they are acknowledged as magistrates by the civil society; they are, and continue to be a rule of duty in this matter, particularly to all the LORD’S people, in all periods, places, and cases.” These few passages, containing the substance of Seceders’ principles on the head of civil government, may be reduced to the following particulars: 1. They maintain the people to be the ultimate fountain of magistracy, and that as they have a right to choose whomsoever they please to exercise of civil government over them; so their inclinations whether good or bad, constitute a lawful magistrate, without regard had to the divine law. 2. That the law of GOD in the scriptures of truth, has no concern with the institution of civil government, but only adds its precept in forcing obedience upon the conscience of every individual, under the pain of eternal damnation, to whomsoever the body politic shall invest with the civil dignity; and that, without any regard to the qualifications of person or office. 3. Whomsoever the primores regni, or representatives of a nation, do set up, are lawful magistrates, and that not only according to the providential, but according to the preceptive will of GOD also, in regard that GOD, the supreme governor, has prescribed no qualifications in his word, as essential to the being of a lawful magistrate, nor told what sort of men they must be, that are invested with that office over his professing people, though it is confessed there are many that are necessary to the well-being and usefulness of that office: and therefore, 4. That no act, or even habitual series of the greatest wickedness and mal-administration can forfeit the person’s right to the people’s subjection, for conscience sake, considered as individuals, while the majority of a nation continue to recognize and own his authority. The absurdity of this scheme of principles may obviously appear at first view to every unbiased mind that is blessed with any competent measure of common sense and discretion, and tolerable knowledge of divine revelation. That magistracy is a divine ordinance, flowing originally from JEHOVAH, the supreme and universal Sovereign of HEAVEN and earth as the ultimate fountain thereof, cannot be denied. Neither is it to be doubted, but that the LORD has lodged a power and right in the people of choosing and setting up those persons that shall exercise civil government over them, and to whom they will submit themselves. But then, while GOD has lodged this power in the people, of conveying the right of civil authority to their magistrates, he has at the same time given them positive and unalterable laws, according to which they are to proceed, in setting up their magistrates; and, by the sovereign authority of the Great Lawgiver, are they expressly bound to act in agreeableness to these without any variation, and that, under the pain of rebellion against him, who is KING of kings, and LORD of lords. The presbytery, therefore, testify against this scheme of Seceding principles, calculated in order to inculcate a stupid subjection and obedience to every possessor of regal dignity, at the expense of trampling upon all the laws of GOD, respecting the institution, constitution, and administration of the divine ordinance of magistracy. Particularly, this opinion is,
1. Contrary to the very nature of magistracy, as described in the scriptures of truth, where we are taught, that all authority to be acknowledged of men, must be of GOD, and ordained of GOD. The divine ordination of magistracy is the alone formal reason of subjection thereto and that which makes it a damnable sin to resist. So the apostle teacheth, Rom. 13:1 &c.: “There is no power but of GOD; the powers that be, are ordained of GOD.” Not only is it the current sentiment of orthodox divines upon the place, but the text and context make it undeniably evident, that by power here, is understood, not a natural, but a moral power, consisting not only in an ability, but in a right to command. Which power is said to be ordained of GOD, as importing not merely the proceeding of the thing from GOD providentially, but such a being from GOD, as carries in it his instituting or appointing thereof, by the warrant of his word, law, or precept. So that that power which is to be owned as of GOD, includes these two particulars, without which, no authority can be acknowledged as GOD’S ordinance, viz: institution and constitution, so as to possess him, who is GOD’S minister, with a moral power. ln the divine institution of magistracy is contained, not only the appointment of it, but the defining the office in its qualifications and form, in a moral sense, prescribing what shall be the end, and what the measure of its authority, and how the supreme power shall rule and be obeyed. Again, the constitution of the power, or the determination of the form, or investiture of the particular person with the government is of GOD: hence our SAVIOUR, John 10:35, in his application of these words in the Psalms, “I said, ye are gods,” to magistrates, shows how they were gods, “because unto them the word of GOD came;” that is, by his word and warrant he authorized them; his constitution is passed upon them, who are advanced by men, according to his law in his word. When therefore a nation acts according to divine rule, in the molding of government, and advancing of persons to the exercise of it; there the government and governors may be said to be ordained of GOD. But that government that is, not consonant to the divine institution, and those governors, that are not advanced to the place of supreme rule, a Christian land, by the people, regulating themselves by the divine law, cannot be said to be the powers ordained of GOD. It is not merely the conveying the imperial dignity by men unto any particular person, that constitutes the power to be of GOD; but because, and in so far as this is done by virtue of a warrant from GOD, and in agreeableness to his law that the action has the authority of GOD upon it.
Hence, if in this matter, there is a substantial difference from, or contrariety to the divine rule, then, there is nothing but a contradiction to GOD’S ordinance: this must needs be granted, unless it is maintained that GOD has wholly left, the determination of this ordinance to men, absolutely and unlimitedly, giving them an unbounded liberty to act therein, according to their own pleasure, which is most absurd. From the whole, it follows, that more is requisite than the inclinations of any people, to constitute a lawful magistrate, such as can be acknowledged GOD’S ordinance. That power which in its institution and constitution is of GOD, by his law, can alone challenge subjection, not only for wrath, but for conscience sake.
2. The presbytery testify against this scheme of principles, as being anti-scriptural and what, in its tendency, is destructive to the authority of the sacred oracles. Seceders maintain, that the people, without regard to scriptural qualifications, have an essential right to choose whom they please to the exercise of civil government, and that whomsoever they choose are lawful magistrates; and thus make the great ordinance of magistracy dependent on the uncertain and corrupt will of man. But that this anarchical system is not of divine authority, but owes its origin to their own invention, appears from the following texts of holy writ, besides others, Exod. 18:21: “Moreover, thou shalt provide out of all the people, able men, such as fear GOD, men of truth, hating covetousness; and place such over them to be rulers.” This counsel of Jethro, was GOD’S counsel and command to Moses, in the choice of magistrates, supreme and subordinate; and discover, that people are not left to their own will in this matter. It is GOD’S direction, that the person advanced to rule, must be a man in whom is the spirit; Numb. 27:18 which Deut. 34:9, interprets to be the spirit of wisdom, (i.e.,) the spirit of government, fitting and capacitating a man to discharge the duties of the magistratical office, to the glory of GOD and the good of his people; without this, he ought not to be chosen. Deut. 1:13: “Take ye wise men and understanding, and known among your tribes, and I will make them rulers over you.” Here is a precept, directing the people in their choice; they must not be children nor fools; if so, they are plagues and punishments, instead of scriptural magistrates, who are always a blessing. And they must be men of known integrity and affection to the real welfare of Israel, not such as are known to be haters of, and disaffected to the Israel of GOD. Again, the express law of the king, is, that he must be one of the LORD’S chosing; Deut. 17:14,15; “When thou art come unto the land which the LORD thy GOD giveth thee, and shalt possess it, and shalt dwell therein, and shalt say, I will set a king over me, like as all the nations about me: thou shalt in anywise set him king over thee, whom the LORD thy GOD shall choose: one from among thy brethren shalt thou set king over thee, thou mayest not set a stranger over thee, who is not thy brother.” Here, though christians have a right to set a king over them, yet, it is evident, they are not left at liberty to choose whom they please, but are, in the most express and positive terms, limited and circumscribed in their choice to him, whom the LORD their GOD shall choose: anal this divine choice must certainly be understood (in a large sense) of a person of such a character, temper of mind, and qualifications, as GOD pointed out to them in his law, particularly in the text, before cited (for whatever GOD’S word approves of and chooses, that GOD himself chooses). And in the text before, as the person is further described, both negatively and positively, he must be a brother; which relation is not to be confined to that of kindred or nation, but especially respects religion. He must not be a stranger and enemy to the true religion, but a brother, in respect of a cordial embracing, and sincere profession (so far as men can judge) of the same cause of religion, and so one, of whom it may be expected that he will employ his power and interest to advance the kingdom of JESUS CHRIST. This precept respects the office, and points at the very deed of constitution, and, in the most positive mariner, restricts not only the people of the Jews, but every nation blessed with the light of divine revelation, in their setting up of civil rulers, pointing forth on whom they may, and on whom they may not confer this honorable office. The same truth is confirmed by 2 Sam. 23:2,3,4: “The spirit of the LORD spake by me—the GOD of Israel said,—he that ruleth over men must be just, ruling in the fear of GOD.”—So Job 34:17,18: “Shall even he that hateth right govern?—Is it fit to say to a king, Thou art wicked? and to princes, Ye are ungodly?” In which words, while Elihu is charging Job with blasphemy, in accusing GOD of injustice, declaring that if he made GOD a hater of right and impeached him of injustice, he did, in effect, blasphemously deny his government, universal dominion and sovereignty in the world. It is not only supposed, but strongly asserted and affirmed, that he that hateth right should not govern. Again, 1 Cor. 6:1,4,5: “If then ye have judgments of things pertaining to this life, set them to judge—Is it so, that there is not a wise man among you? no, not one that is able to judge between his brethren?” All these texts, which are plain, positive, moral precepts, whereby GOD hath set boundaries about his own ordinance; that it be not corrupted by men, as they demonstrate what magistrates ought to be, and prove that they cannot be of GOD’S ordaining who have not these qualifications: so they evince, that scriptural qualifications are nothing less necessary and essential to the being of a lawful scriptural magistrate, than the consent of the people; and consequently, do sufficiently overturn this anti-scriptural scheme. Seceders indeed grant, that GOD hath declared his will, concerning the choice of magistrates in the above, and such like precepts; but, from their granting these scriptural qualifications to be only advantageous to those that have them, and necessary to the well-being and usefulness of lawful magistrates, and at the same time denying them to be necessary to the being thereof; it necessarily follows, as the consequence of their sentiments, that they allow civil society a negative over the supreme Lawgiver in this matter; and in so doing, exalt the will and inclination of the creature above the will of the CREATOR, which is the very definition of sin. Say they in the forequoted pamphlet, page 80th, “It is manifest, that the due measure and performance of scriptural qualifications and duties, belong not to the being and validity of the magistrate’s office, but to the well-being and usefulness thereof.” How easy is it here to turn their own artillery against themselves, and split their argument with a wedge of its own timber? For if; is granted, scriptural qualifications are essential to the usefulness of the magistrate’s office, they must also be necessary to the being thereof, otherwise it is in itself quite useless. And if in itself useless, with respect to the great ends thereof, without the due measure of scriptural qualifications, it cannot then be the ordinance of GOD, in regard it must not be supposed, that a GOD of infinite wisdom and goodness, who does nothing in vain, has instituted an ordinance for the good of his people, in subserviency to his glory, which yet, in itself (as to its being and essence), is useless, and of no profit nor advantage to them. And as for their comparison of the magistrate’s office to other common and ordinary places and relations among men, the parallel will not hold, no not for illustration, far less for a proof of their doctrine. Nor is there any comparison, unless they can prove, that GOD in his word has as plainly and positively required men to be so and so qualified, before it is lawful for them to enter into, or for other to put them in such places and relations, as he has done, with regard to magistracy. This is indeed the scope and end of their whole scheme, to derogate from, degrade and lessen the dignity of this great ordinance of magistracy, allowing it no more than what is common to men in general, in other inferior states and ordinary business of life, alleging, “That these qualifications (which they grant GOD has prescribed in his word) are only advantageous to them that have them;” and that at the hazard of evidently opposing and contradicting the intention of the Spirit of GOD, in the above texts of scripture, which imply a specialty, and particular appropriation to kings and rulers in their office.
Again, this principle either, as above said, denies magistracy to be GOD’S ordinance instituted in his word; or then says, that he hath instituted ordinances in his revealed will, without prescribing any qualifications as essential to their being, but entirely left the constitution of them to the will of man. But how absurd is this, and derogatory to the glory of GOD, in all his perfections, who is a GOD of order, once to imagine, that he hath set any of his ordinances, either as to matter or manner, upon the precarious footing the pure will of wicked and ungodly men? The smallest acquaintance with divine revelation will readily convince, that, the hath not. It may as well, and with the same parity of reason, be refused, that there are any qualifications requisite, as essential to the being and validity of the office of the ministry, but only necessary to its well-being and usefulness; and therefore, is as lawful (in its exercise) in the want of these qualifications, as the ordinance of magistracy is accounted to be. But how contrary is this to scripture, Tit. 1:7,8; 1 Tim. 3:2,3,4,5,6,7, &c. Now, comparing these with the above cited texts, respecting the qualifications of magistrates, it appears, that the qualifications of the magistrate are required in the same express and as strong terms (if not also somewhat more clearly)as the qualifications of the minister; and seeing a holy GOD hath made no difference, as to the essentiality of the qualifications pertaining to these distinct ordinances, it is too much presumption for any creature to attempt doing it. Both magistrate and minister are, in their different and distinct spheres, clothed with an equal authority from the law of GOD,—have subjection and obedience equally, under the same pains, required to them respectively, (as Deut. 17:9 to 13;2; Chron. 19:5 to 11; Heb. 13:17, &c.)—and the qualifications of both, as above, stated and determined with equal peremptoriness, making them no less essential to the being and validity of the one than the other. And this being the case, it is not easy to understand how Seceders will reconcile their principles anent civil government, with their principle and practice, in separating from an established church or ministry, whose constitution they acknowledge to be good; and who being presbyterially ordained, are also still countenanced by the body of the people. Sure, had they dealt fairly, honestly and impartially in the matters of GOD, they would have acted in this case agreeably to their declared principle, page 79th of their pamphlet, viz: “The passages holding forth these qualifications and duties of magistrates, do not by the remotest hint imply, that, if in any wise they be deficient in, or make defection from the same, their authority and commands, even in matters a lawful, must not be subjected unto and obeyed,” &c. Certainly, according to this, all the deficiencies, defections, and mal-administrations in the church, could never have been a warrantable ground (which yet they make the only ground) of their separation from her. “But on the contrary,” they should still have continued in communion with her, and subjection to her in matters lawful, in a way of testifying “against the same, and essaying their reformation, by all means that were habile for them.” Seceders must either grant, that such was their duty, and so of themselves condemn their separation as unwarrantable; or else deny, that the qualifications of the magistrate and minister are required in the same express terms in scripture; that both are clothed with an equal (though distinct) authority; and that subjection and obedience are under the same pains enjoined to both, and consequently say, that it is less dangerous to cast off, contemn and disregard the authority of a church, than that of the state; while yet (according to their scheme) civil authority is entirely resolved into, and depends purely upon the changeable will of civil society. But, it is presumed, they will allow, that ecclesiastical authority is derived, and flows from, and depends entirely upon the LORD JESUS CHRIST alone, the glorious Judge, Lawgiver, and King of his church; so that (according to them) this being of a far more noble extract and original, it must be of the more dangerous consequence, to contemn and cast off it, than the other.
Again, as this doctrine gives unto men a negative over the Holy One of Israel, it opens a wide door for introducing and enforcing the cause of deism, already too prevalent: for, if all who are set up by civil society, however wicked, and void of the qualifications GOD has required, while they are acknowledged and submitted to by their constituents, must be equally regarded as GOD’S ordinance, with those who have those qualifications; then it will follow, that the corrupt will of wicked men legitimates the magistrate’s office and authority, not only without, but in contradiction to the preceptive will of GOD; and what is this (absit blasphemia), but to exalt man above GOD, in giving unto the universal Sovereign and Supreme Lawgiver, only a consultative power in the constitution of magistracy, while it ascribes unto man an absolute and definitive power, whereby they have power to receive or reject the law of GOD (at least respecting magistracy) at pleasure, and their deed of constitution be equally valid, when opposite, as when agreeable unto, and founded upon his righteous law. And sure, by the same reason, that man may take a liberty to dispense with the authority of GOD, in one point of his commanding will; he may also in another, until at last every part of it is rejected. It is but a contempt of the same authority, and he that offends in one point, is guilty of all. Such are the absurdity that this their scheme leads to, though it is hoped the authors do not intend so. It may here only be necessary further to observe, that among the other desperate shifts Seceders are driven to in defense of their favorite notion, they say, that scriptural qualifications cannot be essential to GOD’S ordinance of magistracy, or necessarily required as a condition of it sine qua non; for their it would be the same thing with magistracy: nor can these qualifications be the condition (sine qua non, or), without which one could not be a magistrate; for then it would be necessary, that every one were possessed of them faultlessly, before he could be owned as a lawful magistrate: either of which they allege would be grossly absurd. But this plausible and fair-set argument of theirs, if it prove any thing, will prove more than it is supposed they themselves will grant, and consequently proves nothing at all. For the same gross absurdity may, with equal reason, be inferred from a maintaining, that a due measure and performance of scripture qualifications and duties are essential to any other of GOD’S ordinances, and so that these are the ordinance itself. For instance, they might as well reason (as some have justly observed already), that scriptural qualifications are riot essential to lawful gospel minister, for then it would be the same thing with the ministry, itself: nor can it be a condition, without which one is not really a minister, unless he were so faultlessly. And thus they have at once stripped, not only all of the race of Adam, that ever exercised that office, but themselves also, of any real mission, as ministers, unless they have assumed the pope’s infallibility, and are advanced to the Moravian perfection. So, although the scripture declares it essential to the true church, that she hold the head, yet by their childish reasoning, this would infer a conclusion big with absurdities, even that this qualification of a true church is the church itself. And, in like manner, it can no longer be admitted, that faith in CHRIST, and holiness, are essential to the being of a true Christian; for that would be to make faith the same thing with a Christian, and would infer, that as in heaven only holiness is in perfection, so there alone Christians are to be found. Upon the whole, as the LORD has given an indispensable law, respecting the constitution of kings, showing what conditions and qualifications are required of them; it undeniably follows, as an established truth, that christianized nations must invest none with that office, but in a way agreeable to that law, and those alone according to scripture, are magistrates of GOD’S institution, who are in some measure possessed of these qualifications. It is therefore an anti-scriptural tenet, that nothing is requisite to constitute a lawful magistrate, but the inclinations and choice of the civil society.
3. The presbytery testify, against this system of principles because it has a direct tendency to destroy the just and necessary distinction that ought to be maintained between the perceptive and providential will of GOD, and necessarily jumbles and confounds these together, in such a manner, as a man is left at an utter uncertainty to know when he is accepted and approven of GOD in his conduct, and when not. That this is the scope of their principles, is confessed, p. 87, of their book of principles: “Nothing needs be added [say they] for the clearing of this, but the overthrow of a distinction that has been made of those who are acknowledged as magistrates by civil society, into such as are so by the preceptive will of GOD, and such are so by his providential will only; which distinction is altogether groundless and absurd. It will not be refused, that all such preceptive magistrates are also providential. But, moreover, all such providential magistrates are also preceptive. The office and authority of them all, in itself considered, does equally arise from, and agrees to the preceptive will of GOD.” A doctrine most shocking in itself! How strange! that Christians, from any consideration, will obstinately maintain a favorite opinion, which is confessedly built upon, and cannot be established but at the expense of blending and confounding the preceptive and providential will of GOD, while the distinction thereof is clearly and inviolably established in the word of GOD! Although divine providence, which is an unsearchable depth, does many times, and in many cases, serve as a commentary to open up the hidden mysteries of scripture revelation; yet, where the law of GOD in the scriptures of truth is silent, there providence regulates not, is neither institutive, nor declarative of GOD’S will to be done by us; and where the said divine law doth ordain or deliver a rule to us in any case, there providence gives no relaxation, allowance or countermand to the contrary. (See Gee on magistracy, in his excellent discourse on providence.) That an overthrow of this necessary distinction, for the sake of the above dangerous scheme, cannot be admitted or, in a consistency with a due regard to the authority of revealed religion, and that therefore the right and lawfulness of magistracy is not founded upon the providential will of GOD, though they are countenanced and supported by the majority of a nation, will partly appear front the following considerations:—
1. If there is no distinction to be made between the preceptive and providential will of GOD, then is providence equally in all respects the rule of duty, as much as the precept is, and so man should be left at an utter uncertainty, what is duty, in regard of the opposition that is many times between providential dispensations and the precept. Nay, then it is impossible that man can be guilty of sin, in transgressing the divine will because GOD infallibly brings to pass, by his holy and over-ruling providence, whatever he has decreed by his eternal purpose. Rom. 9:17. And thus the Jews, in murdering the Son of GOD, should be acquitted from the charge of guilt, and could not be said to transgress the divine will.
2. If no distinction is to be made between the preceptive and providential will of GOD, but providence is declarative of the precept, then is providence a complete rule without the written word. And this at once supersedes the necessity of divine revelation, and derogates from the sufficiency and perfection of the scriptures of truth. The written word is affirmed to be perfect. Psal. 19:7. Sinners are reproved for doing that which the word gave no command for, Jer. 7:31 and 19:5; and challenged for following these promising appearances. Isa. 30:1,2,3,11. It is therefore daring presumption to set up providence for a rule in opposition to the written law of GOD. Hence it must be concluded, either that the preceptive will of GOD in the scriptures is imperfect, or the laws therein repealable by providence; or then that providence cannot be the rule of human actions.
3. If the distinction between the preceptive and providential will of GOD is to be overthrown, then providence must be expressive of GOD’S approbative ordination, equally as his revealed will is. For, without this (viz: the divine approbation) there can be no lawful title to what is possessed. But this is what providence of itself cannot do; it cannot without the precept discover either GOD’S allowance or disallowance. If then this distinction is denied, and the providential will of GOD asserted to be declarative of his preceptive, and so of his approbative will; it remains to be manifested, where and how it hath been appointed of GOD for such an end, an end that is by the spirit of GOD denied unto it. Eccl. 9:1,2.
4. If this distinction is to be overthrown, then either the providential will of GOD, without any regard to the precept, in every case, and in every sort of tenure, gives a just and lawful right and title; or GOD hath declared in his word that it shall be so in the manner of civil government only, viz: that whosoever gains the ascendancy in the inclinations of the people, by whatever sinful methods this in obtained, it matters not, and so is by the hands of providence raised up above all his rivals to the regal dignity, he is the lawful magistrate, GOD’S ordinance according to his precept. The first cannot be said; it were impious to suppose it; for that would justify all robberies and violences, and legitimate every fraud; not the latter, for where is it to be found in all the book of divine revelation, that GOD hath made such a law touching magistracy? But how big with absurdities, to say, that a holy GOD has given to man a plain and positive law to be his governing rule in every particular that concerns him, this of magistracy only excepted. In this great ordinance he hath wholly left him to be guided, or rather misled and bewildered by his own corrupt inclinations: but the contrary of this has been in part discovered, and may further.
5. If, in order to establish their anti-government scheme, the foresaid distinction is to be destroyed, and all such as are providential powers, and acknowledged by man, are also preceptive, and therefore to be submitted to for conscience sake, then are the kingdoms of men necessarily obliged to own and submit unto the dominion of the devil. The devil not only claims to himself the possession of the power of all the kingdoms of this world, but it is certain that of the most of them he still retains an actual predominancy, hence styled the GOD of this world. Now, it cannot be refused, but that the power ho exercises is providential (or a power of permission); and it is most certain, that it is with the consent and good will of all the children of men, while in a natural state. But are men therefore obliged to acknowledge his authority, or submit to that providential power he maintains over them? If every providential power is also preceptive, the answer must be given in the affirmative. The like may be said of the Pope of Rome, the devil’s captain general, to display his hellish banner against the Kings of kings, Lord of lords, with respect to those nations where he is acknowledged in his diabolical pretensions. It can be to no purpose for Seceders to allege that the Pope claims a power unlawful in itself, and therefore cannot be owned, in regard the person whom they make a pretended acknowledgment of, as their lawful sovereign, is by the act of his constitution invested with a similar power, a power both civil and ecclesiastical, and declared to be head of the church, as well as the state. Nothing, therefore, remains for them, but either to acknowledge this clear distinction between the providential and preceptive will of GOD, or then profess the lawfulness of both the above mentioned powers.
6. If the foresaid distinction is too big with absurdities to be received, and if the authority of all providential magistrates does equally arise from, and agree unto the precept, then it would be no sin to resist the powers ordained of GOD, provided that providence proves auspicious and favorable to the rebel, and advances him to the throne, with the good will of his fellow rebellious subjects, by expelling the lawful sovereign; at least such resistance could not be determined to be sinful, until once the event declared, whether providence would countenance the treasonable attempt or not. Thus what the apostle declares a damnable sin, Rom. 13:2, must be justified and made the foundation of subsequent duty, if patronized by a multitude. This they evidently maintain, as appears from their declaration of principles, page 82, where, pretending to obviate some difficulties anent their principles, arising from the people of GOD’S disowning anti-scriptural magistrates: “The whole nature of any simple revolt (say they) lies in breaking off immediately from the civil body, by withdrawing from, or withdrawing part their territories; and then it necessarily follows at the same time, that these revolters break off from the head of the civil body, without ever denying his authority over the members who still cleave unto the same.” This, in connection with their grand foundation principle, and the scope of their discourse at the above citation, discovers that they grant, that if the whole civil society should reject the authority they had set up (however agreeable it should have been to the preceptive will of GOD, and should again set up another, though never so opposite thereto), their doing so would be lawful; but it is not lawful for a few to disown any authority (however wicked and anti-scriptural), unless they can at the same time withdraw from or withdraw part of his territories. Nothing can be more absurd than to say, that a people are bound by the laws of GOD to give subjection for conscience sake, and yet at the same time are at liberty to cast off and reject the same authority at pleasure. If the magistrate be lawful, it is utterly unlawful to reject him; an attempt to divest him of his office, power and authority, though carried on by the primores regni, is rebellion against GOD. It is most ridiculous to allege, that a people considered as a body politic, are not under the same obligation to their rightful sovereign, as when they are considered as individuals, but may lawfully reject him, and set up another, if they please; so that he who one day is GOD’S minister, next day hath no title to that office, but if he claim it, must be treated as a traitor, whereby all security that can possibly be given to the most lawful magistrate, is at once destroyed. Thus, if the Chevalier had succeeded in his late attempt, had gained the favor of the primores regni, and thereby mounted the British throne; Seceders must then, of necessity, either have quit their present principles, or then have subjected to his yoke for conscience sake, under the pain of eternal damnation. His being a professed papist, and enslaved vassal of Rome, could not have warranted them to leave their place of subjection to him while owned by the civil society, and so they must have treated the present powers as usurpers and enemies to government, though they now flatter them with the pretensions of an ill-grounded loyalty. Again, how absurd and self-contradictory to grant, that a minor part may not only revolt, but also withdraw part of a prince’s territories; and yet that the same party may not, when residing in the nation, refuse to acknowledge the lawfulness of an anti-scriptural power. This is to say, that people are no longer obliged to submit to authority, than they are in capacity to withdraw from, or withdraw part of their prince’s territories from him, and so to justify their rebellion, by that which can only be a terrible aggravation of their sin. These, with a number of other absurdities, natively flow from a denial of the distinction between the providential and preceptive will of GOD, making the title of the lawful magistrate depend solely upon the will of the people. Nothing is more evident than this, that if the inclinations of the people, exclusive of all other qualifications, constitute a lawful magistrate, then (though he rules ever so agreeable to GOD’S preceptive will), so soon as this body (though in a most unjust and tyrannical manner) casts him off, he that moment for ever loses all title and claim to the office, and can no longer be regarded as a lawful magistrate. A principle that in its nature and tendency is introductive of all anarchy and confusion, and with the greatest propriety deserves the encomium of the anti-government scheme.
7. This anarchical system of principles, which destroys the above just and necessary distinction, is directly in opposition to the laudable and almost universal practice of all nations, in ordaining and enacting certain fundamental laws, constitutions and provisos, whereby the throne is fenced, the way to it limited, and the property thereof predisposed. The Scripture sufficiently discovers those restrictions and rules, which GOD himself has prescribed and laid down, for directing and determining of his people’s procedure about the erection of magistrates. And profane history abounds in discovering certain fundamental laws and conditions to take place, almost in every nation, without conforming to which, none can be admitted to that dignity over them. But to what purpose are any such laws and constitutions, if this vague principle is once admitted, which cancels and disannuls all such provisos and acts? Why should Moses have been so solicitous about his successor in the government of Israel, Numb. 28:15-17, if GOD had ordained the inclinations of the people alone should determine? Or to what purpose did Israel, after the death of Joshua, ask of GOD, who should be their leader, if their own inclinations alone were sufficient to determine it? If GOD has declared, that the corrupt will of the people is the alone basis of civil power, then, not only are all state constitutions and fundamental laws useless, because, on every vacancy of the throne, they not only must all give place to the superior obligation, the incontrollable law, of the uncertain inclinations of the body politic, but they are in their nature unlawful; their proper use in every nation being to prevent all invasion upon the government by unqualified persons, and to illegitimate it, if at any time done. So, that if the consent of civil society is the only essential condition of government which GOD has authorized, not only are all scriptural conditions and qualifications useless and unlawful, but also all human securities, either from intruders or for lawful governors, are unlawful, in regard the very design of them all is to oppose this grand foundation principle, the jure-divinity of which Seceders have found out, and do confidently maintain. And thus, by the seceding scheme, is condemned, not only the practice of almost all other nations, determining by law, some indispensable qualifications that their rulers must have; but particularly the practice of these once reformed lands, when reformation had the sanction, not only of ecclesiastic, but also civil, authority, is hereby condemned Scripture and covenant qualifications were then made essential to the being of a lawful magistrate, by the fundamental laws and constitutions of the nations; so that however the inclinations of the people might run (as it soon appeared they were turned in opposition to these), yet, by these laws, and in a consistency with that constitution, none could be admitted to the place or places of civil authority, but such as professed, and outwardly practiced, according to reformation principles. See act 15th, sess. 2d, parl. 1649. And how happy we bad been, if we had constantly acted in conformity to these agreeable laws, experience, both former and latter, will bear witness, how much, better had it been for us to have walked in GOD’S statutes, and executed his judgments, than by our abhorrence of them, and apostasy from them, to provoke him to give us statutes that are not good, and judgments whereby we cannot live (Ezek. 20:25), or have any comfortable enjoyment and possession of the blessings and privileges of his everlasting gospel, as it is with us at this day. And yet, this is what Seceders would have us caressing, embracing and (with them) blessing GOD for, under the notion of a present good; and so bless GOD for permitting his enemies (in anger against an ungrateful and guilty people) to overturn his work and interest, and establish themselves upon the ruins thereof; to bless him for making our own iniquities to correct us, and our backslidings to reprove us, until we know what an evil and bitter thing it is to depart from the LORD GOD of our fathers; to bless him (for what is matter of lamentation) that the adversaries of Zion are the chief, and her enemies prosper, Lam. 1:5: and all this abstractly, under the notion of good, which comes very near the borders of blasphemy.
But, moreover, the civil settlement at the revolution is also condemned by this principle of theirs; not because of its opposition to a covenanted reformation but in regard it includes some essential qualifications required in the supreme civil ruler. The nations are, by that deed of constitution, bound up in their election of a magistrate; and all Papists, such as marry with Papists, or do not publicly profess the Protestant religion, are declared incapable of the throne. So that we see the present law makes some other qualifications, besides the consent of the body politic, essential to the constitution of a lawful sovereign in Britain. From all which it is plain, that this principle of Seceders is neither a reformation nor a revolution principle; let then the impartial world judge whence it came.
Seceders, in consequence of their contradictory and self-inconsistent system of principles, declare they cannot swear allegiance to a lawful government. They maintain the preprint to be lawful, yet (in Dec[laration] of their principles, page 55th) they say, “The question is not whether it be lawful for us to swear the present allegiance to the civil government, which the presbytery acknowledge they cannot do, seeing there are no oaths to the government in being, but what exclude the oath of our covenants, and homologate the united constitution.” But seeing they acknowledge that every constitution of government, that comprehends the will and consent of civil society, were it as wicked and diabolical as can be imagined, is lawful—yea, as lawful as any that is most consonant to the preceptive will of GOD, having all the essentials of his ordinance; and seeing, because of the will and consent of the people, they own the present to be lawful, it is most surprising why they cannot swear allegiance to it; their reasons cannot, in a consistency with their principle, be sustained as valid. That the present oaths of allegiance and the oath of the covenants are inconsistent, is readily granted; but seeing the oaths of allegiance bind to nothing more than what they confess they are bound to for conscience sake, namely, to own the lawfulness of the government, and to maintain it according to the constitution thereof (which is a duty owed by subjects to every lawful sovereign); and seeing that whatever is in the oaths of allegiance contrary to the covenants, does not flow from them, abstractly considered, but from the constitution to which they bind (which constitution is sanctified by the people’s acknowledgment of it). If, therefore, the covenants forbid a duty, to which they are bound for conscience sake, their authority in that ought not to be regarded.
But certainly Seceders, who have found it duty to alter and model the covenants, according to the circumstances of the times they live in, might have found it easy work to reconcile the oath of the covenants with allegiance to a lawful government. The other part of their reason is no less ridiculous and self-contradictory, viz: “They cannot swear allegiance to the present government, because it homologates the united constitution.” But is not this constitution according to the will, and by consent of, the body politic? and is it not ordained by the providential will of GOD? therefore, according to them, has all the essentials of a lawful constitution, which claims their protection, under the pain of damnation. How great the paradox! they cannot swear allegiance, because they would bind them to acknowledge and defend a lawful constitution. Is not active obedience, is not professed subjection for conscience sake, an homologation of the constitution? Certainly they are, and that not in word only, but in deed and in truth. And what is the allegiance, but a promise to persevere in what they do daily, and what they hold as their indispensable duty to do? To grant the one, then, and refuse the other, is, in effect, to homologate or acknowledge the constitution, and not to acknowledge it, at the same time, which is a glaring absurdity.
But here, they would have people attend to their chimerical distinction between the king’s civil and ecclesiastical authority. They have made a successless attempt (in order to establish their anti-government scheme) for the overthrow of a distinction, which Heaven has irreversibly fixed, between the preceptive and providential will of GOD; and, for the same purpose, they will impose this distinction on the generation—a mere shift and artifice, which has no foundation nor subsistence any where else, but in their imagination, and serves for no purpose but to cheat their own and others’ consciences, and betray the cause of GOD. It is plain, that as a power, both civil and ecclesiastical, belongs to the essence and constitution of an English diocesan bishop, so the same is declared to belong now to the essence and constitution of all English king, who is the head and chief prelate among them all; and it is their manner to call themselves his bishops (not CHRIST’S), as having their power, both ecclesiastical and civil, immediately from him, as the fountain of all power within his dominions. So that there is no room for this distinction of Seceders here, unless they are such expert logicians, as to distinguish a thing from that which is essential to it, and so from itself; but this is a destruction, not a distinction. Seceders indeed presume and depend very much upon their abilities of this kind; for they can distinguish between the magistrate’s office and its essential qualifications, which GOD has inseparably joined together in his word. They can distinctly pray for the head, author, authorizer and prime supporter, of abjured prelacy and prelates, that GOD would bless him in his government, and yet not pray for the prelates themselves. They can pray very fervently and distinctly for the British and Irish parliaments, and yet not at all pray for the bishops, necessary and essential members there. And what is all this but to pray for a nonentity, a mere creature of their own mind? They have neither king nor parliament in their abstracted and imaginary sense, but do clearly distinguish themselves out of both. We might refer them to that famous and faithful ambassador, and renowned martyr for the cause and testimony of JESUS, Mr. Donald Cargill, in his last speech and testimony, and let him determine the controversy (in this particular) between us. They will not be so bold as to say, that this honorable witness died with a lie in his right hand. His words are these: “As to the cause of my suffering, the main is, not acknowledging the present authority as it is now established. This is the magistracy I have rejected, that was invested with CHRIST’S power; and seeing that power taken from CHRIST, which is his glory, and made the essential of the crown, I thought it was as if had seen one wearing my husband’s clothes, after he had killed him. And seeing it, is made the essential of the crown, there is no distinction we can make, that can free the conscience of the acknowledger from being a partaker of this sacrilegious robbing of GOD. And it is but to cheat our conscience, to acknowledge the civil power, for it is not the civil power only, that is made the essential of the crown. And seeing they are so express, we must be plain; for otherwise, it is to deny our testimony, and consent to his robbery.” From these words it is evident, first, that Mr. Cargill was no Seceder, or of their mind, in this particular; and second, that, at the time, there were some who did cheat and impose upon their own consciences, by distinguishing (where there was no room for distinction) between the king’s civil and ecclesiastical authority—which distinction was condemned and testified against by all who were truly faithful to CHRIST and their own consciences, and tender of his honor and glory, by their unanimous rejection of that antichristian and unlawful power; and that when they had much more reason and temptation to fly to such a subterfuge for their safety, than Seceders now have. And, third, from these word it is also clear, that Mr. Cargill and that poor, distressed and persecuted people that adhered to him, rejected and disclaimed the then authority, not so much because of their tyranny and maladministrations, as on account of the unlawfulness and wickedness of the constitution itself which was the prime original and spring of all the wickedness in the administration), namely, because the king arrogantly and sacrilegiously assumed to himself that power, which was the sole and glorious prerogative of JESUS CHRIST. And as to the difference that Seceders make between that and the present time (since the revolution), it is certain, that whatever greater degree of absolute supremacy was then assumed by Charles II, it does not vary the kind of that claimed, or rather conferred on and exercised, by the supreme powers, since the revolution (for majus et minus non variant speciem), nor acquit them of the guilt of robbing the Son of GOD, JESUS CHRIST, of his incommunicable prerogative and supremacy in and over his church, as the only king and head thereof. Nor will the difference of times, while the constitution remains the same, while GOD remains the same, and truth and duty remain the same, nor yet any distinction that can be made, free the conscience of the acknowledger, more now than then, from being a partaker (art and part) with the civil power, in this sacrilegious robbery. Psal. 50:18: “When thou sawest a thief, then thou consentedst with him,” &c.
But passing this: seeing the above mentioned reasons, which Seceders allege why they cannot swear allegiance to the present government, which they assert is lawful and scriptural, cannot be sustained, some others must be sought for them: and they may be either, because they judge allegiance itself unlawful; or rather, because then they would be bound by oath to continue faithful to this government in all changes that can happen. Whereas now, they are free, and equally ready, in a full consistency with their principles, to profess their subjection to another, were it even a popish pretender. For according, to them, an infidel or papist may have a just and lawful authority over us, notwithstanding all, both the reformation and revolution laws, to the contrary. If, therefore, the legislature would, in the oaths of allegiance, insert this limitation, viz: so long as the body politic is pleased to acknowledge the supreme magistrate, they would find it easier to come over their other pretended and inconsistent difficulties. For the truth is, they cannot, in a consistency with their antigovernment scheme, and with safe consciences, swear to any government, but with such limitation, in regard they cannot be sure, but he that is now owned by civil society may be rejected, and another set up, who must be acknowledged. So they would be brought into an inextricable dilemma; either they must own them both to be GOD’S ordinance, which is absurd; or then be perjured, by rejecting him to whom they had sworn; or then incur damnation, by refusing obedience to him, who is set up by the body politic. Such is the labyrinth of confusion and contradiction this anarchical system leads into; a system that cancels all constitutions by GOD and men anent civil government.
8. This antigovernment Seceding principle, destructive of said distinction between the providential and preceptive will of GOD, is both contrary to, and confuted by many approven scriptural examples; in which the Spirit of GOD testifies, that the actual possession of the throne, under the favor of providence, and by the consent of a majority of a nation, may be in one, while the moral power and right of government is in another. The word of GOD acknowledges David the rightful sovereign over all Israel, for the space of forty years (1 Kings, 2:11; 1 Chron. 19:26,27); seven of these he is said to have reigned in Hebron, and thirty-three in Jerusalem. During the first seven years of his reign at Hebron there is a positive confinement of his actual rule to the tribe of Judah only; 2 Sam. 5:5. And at the same time, Ishbosheth is said to be made king over all Israel, and to have reigned two years. In agreeableness to seceding principles, there is no reconciling these different texts. According to their scheme, David can with no propriety be said to have reigned forty years over all Israel, seeing seven of the years were elapsed before he was actually acknowledged by all Israel, before providence put him in the actual possession of all that extensive power. There is another known example, applicable to the present purpose, in the instance of David, during the rebellion of his unnatural son Absalom. According to the sacred story, 2 Sam. chap. 15,16,17,18,19, it appears, that he was wholly ejected, both out of the hearts and territories of Israel, and not only the throne, but the will and consent of the people given up to Absalom. But was David therefore divested of his right and title? Though it is most contrary to scripture to suppose it; yet, according to Seceders, seeing Absalom was king, by possession of the throne, and had not only the power providentially put into his hand, but had it also by the consent of the people; it necessarily follows that Absalom, being a providential magistrate, his office and authority did equally arise from, and agree to the preceptive will of GOD, and subjection and obedience, for conscience sake, was equally due to him, as to David, by the Israelitish tribes. And so it was a damnable sin in David to fight against him, as it could be no less than a resisting the ordinance of GOD. The same may be said with respect to that other revolt, by the instigation, and under the conduct of Sheba; 2 Sam. chap. 20. But although, according to Seceders, he must also have been their lawful magistrate, the Spirit of GOD discovers the reverse, still acknowledging the right of government in all these changes to be in David. Another example is in the case of Solomon, who was ordained or designed by GOD expressly for the kingdom of Israel. Adonijah had obtained the ascendancy, both in respect of actual possession, and the inclinations and consent of the majority of the nation; the consent was general; 1 Kings, 1:5,7,9,11,18,25, and 2:15. He had all to plead himself, which Seceders make essential to the constitution of a lawful king. He had got to the throne by providence, and had full admission and possession, by the inclinations of the people. If then there is no distinction to be made of those who are acknowledged by civil society, into such as are so by the preceptive will of GOD, and such as are so by his providential will only;—then Solomon had no right nor title to the crown; and the enterprise of David and Nathan, &c., of setting him on the throne, was utterly unlawful. Both they and Solomon ought to have acquiesced in the duty of subjection to Adonijah, as being the ordinance of GOD. But this would have been opposite to the express direction of the Lord, appointing the kingdom to Solomon, “It was his from the LORD,” as Adonijah himself confessed. To the same purpose might be adduced, the instance of Joash, the son of Ahaziah, who was king de jure, even when Athaliah had not only the countenance of providence, but the consent of the people, in the possession of the kingdom; 2 Chron. 22:10,12. Again, the practice of nations, in owning those for their lawful sovereigns, who, by providence, were put from the actual exercise of their rule and authority, contributes to confute this absurd notion. Thus, the people of Israel, who had risen up for Absalom, do even, when David was out of the land, own him for their king. So, during the Babylonish captivity, there are several persons noted as princes of Judah, whom the people owned, as having the right of government over them. With a variety of other instances, all discovering, in opposition to their anarchical system, that it is not by the dispensations of providence, that the right and title of the lawful magistrate is to be determined.—Moreover, as the Associate Presbytery have so barefacedly belied the scriptures of truth, as to assert that there cannot be so much as an instance found in all the history of the Old Testament, of any civil members refusing, either by word or deed, an acknowledgment of, or subjection unto the authority of any magistrate actually in office, by the will of the civil body: besides what have been already adduced, take these few following examples of many. After that Saul, by his disobedience to the commandment of the LORD, had forfeited his title to the kingdom, he was no more honored as king, by Samuel, the prophet; but, on the contrary, he openly testified to his face, that the LORD had rejected him from being king; 1 Sam. 15:26-35. Though he mourned over him as one rejected, yet he no more acknowledged him as clothed with the authority as a lawful king; nay, the LORD having rejected him, reproves his prophet for mourning for him, 1 Sam. 16:1. From which, and the command he received to anoint David in his stead, and that even while the civil society did acknowledge, and was subject unto Saul, it appears, that the throne of Israel was then regarded, both by the LORD and his prophet, as vacant, until David was anointed; from which time, in the eye of the divine law, he was the rightful king, and ought in consequence of the public intimation made by the prophet of Saul’s rejection, to have been acknowledged as the LORD’S Anointed by the whole kingdom of Israel. In agreeableness whereto, the scripture informs, that not only David in expectation of the LORD’S promise, resisted Saul as an unjust usurper but many among the tribes of Israel, whom the Spirit of GOD honorably mentions, rejected the government of Saul, and joined themselves to him that was really anointed of the LORD; 1 Chron. 12:1-23. Now, if the LORD did command, under pain of damnation, to give loyal obedience to all in the place of supreme authority, however wicked, while acknowledged by the body politic, he would not reject such, nor command to set up others in their room, nor approve of those who disowned and resisted them. But all this is done in this instance, which of itself, is sufficient to overthrow their scheme. Another instance is in 2 Chron. 11:13,16, where the authority of Jeroboam is rejected and east off, even when acknowledged and submitted to by the nation of Israel, by the priests and Levites, and after them, by all such as did set their hearts to seek the LORD GOD of Israel, through all the ten tribes; and this, because of his abominable wickedness. Whereby it appears a commendable duty to refuse the lawfulness of the authority of wicked occupants, though acknowledged by the majority of a nation. A similar example there is in the reign of Baasha, who could not by all his vigilance prevent many from casting off his government; 2 Chron. 15:9. Again, there is an express example of Elisha’s disowning the king of Israel, even when the civil society owned him; 2 Kings, 13:14,15. He did not regulate his conduct by providence, and the will of the people, but, in opposition to both, refused him that honor that is due to all that are really kings. To these may be added that notable example of Libnah, a city of the priests, who could not but have knowledge by the law of their GOD what was their duty; 2 Chron. 21:10. Here is an instance of a people’s casting off allegiance, to a king, properly because of his apostasy and intolerable wickedness, whereby they bore testimony against him, and discovered what was the duty of the whole nation, on account of his apostasy from the LORD. Their so doing was a most positive, actual and express condemnation, both of Jehoram for his wickedness, and of the people for concurring, joining with him, and strengthening his hands in it (even as Noah by his faith and obedience is said to have condemned the antediluvian world; Heb. 11:7.) And this their conduct and testimony the Spirit of GOD justifies, and records to their honor. These few of many that might be adduced, declare the impudence, as well as fallacy and imposture of Seceders in this matter, and also justify the principles which they maliciously nickname the anti-government scheme; and that for no other reason, but because it establishes the ordinance of magistracy among a people favored by GOD with divine revelation, upon his preceptive will, in opposition to their anarchical notions of setting it wholly upon the tottering basis of the corrupt will of man. And, to conclude this particular, how ridiculously absurd is it in them to insinuate, that, in the examples above, or others to be found in sacred history, those persons did, notwithstanding their own practice in rejecting the authority of wicked rulers, still view it as the duty of the lest of the nation, to acknowledge them? This is pure jargon and nonsense, contrary both to reason and religion. By what law could the opposite practices of those that disowned, and those that still continued to own the authority of unlawful rulers, be justified? It could not by the divine law, which never condemns that as sin in one, which it approves as duty in others in the same circumstances. Seeing therefore these, in the instances above, are justified, the practice of those who continued to acknowledge the lawfulness of these wicked rulers, must be regarded as condemned, both by the divine law, and also by the practices of the above persons, which do all jointly concur in witnessing, that they viewed it the duty of all the rest of the nation, to have done as they did. And from the whole, it appears a commendable duty for the LORD’S people to disown the right and lawfulness of rulers set up in contradiction to the divine law.
9. The iniquity of attempting to destroy the necessary distinction between the providential and preceptive will of GOD in the matter of magistracy, appears from GOD’S express disallowance of some whom providence had actually exalted to the supreme command over a people; Ezek. 21:17: “I will overturn,” &c. Although this may have an ultimate respect to Christ, yet it has also a reference to the rightful governors of Judah, when dispossessed of their right by the providential will of GOD. And here the LORD threatens the execution of his judgments upon the unjust possessor. See also Amos 6:18: Hab. 2:5,6; Nah. 3:4,5; and Matth. 26:52. By all which it appears, that the supreme lawgiver states a real difference between those who are only exalted by the providential will of GOD, and not authorized by his preceptive will; and therefore it is impossible that the office and authority of them both can equally arise from, and agree to the precept. Again, in Hos. 8:4, “They have set up kings, but not by me; they have made princes, and I knew it not,” is this distinction showed, as with the brightness of a sunbeam, so that he that runs may read it. The LORD by his prophet here charges this people with horrid apostasy, in changing both the ordinances of the magistracy and ministry, particularly, although the LORD commanded, if they would set up kings, they should set up none but whom he chose; Deut. 17:15. Yet they had no regard to his law. This charge seems to have respect to the civil constitution among the ten tribes after their revolt from the house of David; not simply charging their revolt on them, but that after their secession, they did not consult GOD, nor act according to his precept, in their setting up of kings. As nothing can happen in the world, but by the course of providence; and as all things are known unto GOD, in respect of his omniscience, the text cannot respect either of these. The true import of the charge then is, they have set up kings, but not according to the law and preceptive will of GOD; and therefore he neither did nor would approve either them or their kings. Hence the prophet charges this as one cause of their national destruction. Here then it is undeniably evident that GOD himself establishes that distinction pleaded for; and it is therefore most wicked to assert, as Seceders do, that it is altogether groundless and absurd. Again, this text discovers, that all kings that are set up and acknowledged by civil society; are not agreeable to the preceptive will of GOD, or, as such, approven by him, as they have falsely asserted: For here the LORD declares, that Israel had set up kings that were not agreeable to his precept: and the charge respects their authority, the very deed of constitution. To say then, that all providential magistrates are also preceptive, is directly to give the GOD of truth the lie. Moreover, this plainly intimates, that all such providential magistrates as are not set up in agreeableness to the precept, are disallowed and condemned by GOD, and therefore GOD commands to put away the carcasses of such kings, as, because of the blind consent of civil society, were little better than adored by the people, Ezek. 43:9, “that he might dwell in the midst of them forever;” and therefore he declares it the sin, and so the cause of the people’s ruin, as in the above text: and also in Hos. 5:11, “Ephraim is oppressed;” because he willingly walked alter the commandment, deliberately and implicitly followed every wicked ruler set up by civil society. It is but a perverting and abusing the above text, to plead that it is only a condemnation of Israel, for not consulting the LORD in making choice of their kings, but no condemnation of them for setting them up, and acknowledging them, in contradiction, to the LORD’S choice, as plainly laid before them in his preceptive will. And it is very contradictory, to acknowledge it a sin, not to consult GOD, and yet to assert that it is a matter of indifference as to the validity of their office, whether his counsel be followed or not, which it must be, if, as their principle bears, the being of the magistrate’s office and authority is equally good and valid, when contrary, as when agreeable to the commanding will of GOD. But if, as is granted, it be a sin not to consult GOD in the choice of magistrates, it must needs be a great aggravation thereof, after consulting him, to reject and contemn his counsel, and openly contradict his positive command, by constituting kings in opposition to his declared will, which is evidently the sin charged upon Israel, and the reason why he disclaims all such; and therefore, according to that known and approven rule, that wherever any sin is forbidden and condemned in scripture, there the contrary duty is commanded and commended; it follows, that the setting up of rulers, in opposition to the express command of GOD being here condemned, the contrary duty is commended, namely, a disowning of all such rulers; for, if it be a sin to set up rulers, and not by GOD, it must also be a sin to acknowledge them when so set up, in regard it is a continuing in, and approving of the sin of that wicked erection; although such an acknowledgment may indeed be agreeable to their principle which gives to the creature a prerogative above the Creator. From the whole it may already appear, what reason the presbytery have for testifying against Seceders, for maintaining such a corrupt doctrine; a doctrine, which they very justly acknowledge (p. 87) cannot be established, but by the overthrow of this distinction between the providential and preceptive will of GOD; a distinction, that as they shall never be able to overturn by all their impotent and impious attacks: so it will to all ages stand as a strong bulwark, inviolably defending the truth here contended for by the presbytery.
4. The presbytery testify against this anti-government principle of the Secession, as being contradictory to, and inconsistent with the reformation principles, and covenanted obligations, whereby these nations, in agreeableness to the law of GOD, bound themselves to maintain all the ordinances of GOD in their purity, according to their original institution in the scripture of truth. The Seceding scheme (as has been noticed formerly) is, that whomsoever the bulk of the nation, or body politic, set up, and providence proves auspicious and favorable to, is the lawful magistrate, to be owned and submitted to for conscience sake. The inconsistency of which tenet with reformation principles, may appear from viewing and comparing therewith the coronation oath, James VI, parl. 1, cap. 8, where it is ordained as a condition sine qua non, that all kings, princes, and magistrates, shall at their installment solemnly swear to maintain the true religion of JESUS CHRIST, and appose all false religions. So also James VI, parl. 1, cap. 9th, which ordains, that no person may be a judge or a member of any court that professes not the true religion. Also Charles I, parl. 2, sess. 2d, act 14, it is ordained, that before the king be admitted to the exercise of his royal power, he shall give satisfaction to the kingdom anent the security of religion; and so the same parliament, act 15th, 1649, express themselves (referring to the coronation oath above mentioned): “The estates of parliament, judging it necessary, that the prince, and people be of one perfect religion, appoint, that all kings ant, princes, who shall reign or bear rule within this realm, shall at the receipt of their princely authority, solemnly swear to observe in their own persons, and to preserve the religion, as it is presently established and professed. And they ordain, that before the king’s majesty who now is, or ally of his successors, shall be admitted to the exercise of his royal power, he shall, by and attour the foresaid oath declare by his solemn oath, under his hand and seal, his allowance of the National Covenant, and of the Solemn League and Covenant, and obligation to prosecute the end thereof in his station and calling; and that he shall consent, and agree to acts of parliament, enjoining the Solemn League and Covenant, and fully establishing Presbyterian government, the Directory for worship, Confession of Faith, and Catechisms approved by the General Assembly of this kirk, and parliament of this kingdom—and that he shall observe these in his own practice and family, and shall never make opposition to any of these, or endeavor any change thereof.—Likeas, the estates of parliament discharge all the lieges and subjects of this kingdom to procure or receive from his majesty any commissions or gifts whatsoever, until his majesty shall give satisfaction, as said is, under the pain of being censured in their persons and estates, as the parliament shall judge fitting. And if any such commissions or gifts be procured or received by any of the subjects before such satisfaction, the parliament declares and ordains all such and all that shall follow thereupon, to be void and null.” And the same session, act 26th, it is in short ordained, that none shall bear any place of public trust in the nation, but such as have the qualifications GOD requires in his word. Thus, in the prefatory part of the act, they say, “The estates of parliament taking into consideration, that the LORD our GOD requires that such as bear charge among his people, should be able men, fearing GOD, hating covetousness, and dealing truly: and that many of the evils of sin and punishment, under which the land groans, have come to pass, because hitherto they have not been sufficiently provided and cared for,” &c. (And afterward in the statutory part), “Do therefore ordain, that all such as shall be employed in any place of power and trust in this kingdom, shall not only be able men, but men of known affection unto, and of approved fidelity and integrity in the cause of GOD, and of a blameless Christian conversation,” &c. To the same purpose, act 11th, parl. 2d, sess. 3d, entitled act for purging the army. See also the coronation oath of Scotland, as subscribed by Charles II, at Scoon, 1650. All which, and many other fundamental laws of the like nature, made in time of reformation, show the principles of our reformers to have been quite different from those of Seceders anent civil government: and that to constitute lawful magistrates, they must of necessity have scriptural and covenant qualifications, besides the consent of the people. With what face then can they pretend to have adopted a testimony for reformation principles, and to be of the same principles with our late reformers? The vanity of this pretense will further appear, by comparing their principles with the Solemn League and Covenant, with their principles with the every article of which they are inconsistent. They profess the moral obligation of the covenants, and yet at the same time maintain the lawfulness of every providential government whether popish or prelatic, if set up by the body politic. But how opposite this to the first article, obliging constantly to endeavor the preservation of the reformed religion? Can it be consistent therewith, to commit the government of the nations to a sworn enemy to the reformation? or, with that sincerity which becomes the professors of CHRIST, to plead the lawfulness of an authority raised upon the overthrow of the reformed religion? No less opposite is it to the second article, which obliges, and that without respect of persons, to endeavor the extirpation of Popery, Prelacy,—to maintain and plead for the lawfulness of that which establishes or supports Prelacy or Popery in the nations. This appears rather like a sincere endeavor in them to promote whatever is contrary to sound doctrine, and the power of true godliness; and that, because an apostate people approves thereof; contrary to Exod. 23:2: “Thou shalt not follow a multitude to do evil.” Again, the third article binds to preserve the rights of parliaments, and the liberties of the kingdoms, and the king’s authority in the preservation and defense of the true religion. But how inconsistent is it therewith, to own and defend an authority that in its constitution and habitual series of administration, is destructive of all these precious and valuable interests? It is full of contradiction, and a mocking both of GOD and the world to pretend to own and defend the destroyers of the true religion, in the defense of religion, as Seceders do in their mock acknowledgment of such as are sworn to maintain Prelacy, in opposition to the reformed religion. The contradictoriness of this principle of theirs to the fourth article, needs no illustration. Again, the owning of an authority, which is reared up and stands upon the footing of the destruction of the covenanted union, and uniformity of the nations in religion can never be consistent with the fifth article, which binds, to an endeavoring, that these kingdoms may remain conjoined in that firm covenanted union to all posterity. In like manner, as the sixth article obliges to a defending of all that enter into that [Solemn] League and Covenant, and never to suffer ourselves to be divided, and make defection to the contrary part; it must be a manifest contradiction thereto, not only to defend such as are enemies to that covenant, but even in their opposition thereto. And it is a making defection to the contrary part, and from that cause and covenant with a witness, to plead the lawfulness of the national constitution, which is established upon the ruins of a covenanted work of reformation, as Seceders do; whose principle and practice, in opposition to what is professed in the conclusion of the covenant, as well as what was the very design of entering into it, is, instead of going before others, in the example of a real reformation, a corrupting of the nations more and more, and going before them in the example of a real apostasy and defection from the reformation, so solemnly sworn to be maintained in this covenant; and a teaching of them to appoint themselves a captain, to return to their antichristian bondage.
Upon the whole, as the presbytery ought to testify against this new scheme of principles, respecting the ordinance of magistracy; they therefore, upon all the grounds formerly laid down, did and hereby do declare, testify, against, and condemn the same, as what is, indeed, a new and dangerous principle, truly anti-government, introductory of anarchy and confusion, of apostasy and defection from the covenanted work of reformation, the principles by which it was carried on and maintained, and acts and laws, by which it was fenced and established; and what is flatly opposite to, and condemned by the word of divine revelation, in many express and positive precepts, and approven examples, agreeable thereto, as well as by our solemn national covenants, founded upon, and agreeable to, the said word of divine revelation. And finally, let this be further observed, that as it was a beautiful branch of our glorious reformation, that the civil government of this nation was modeled agreeable to the word of GOD; and that the right of regal government was constituted, bounded and fixed by an unalterable law, consonant to the word of GOD, and sworn to be inviolably preserved both by king and people: so the Associate Brethren, by their doctrine on this head, which is inconsistent with our uncontroverted establishment, and fundamental laws, excluding from the throne all papists and prelatists, have counteracted a most important point of the covenanted reformation, and opened a wide door to Jacobitism. For, if every one is bound to acknowledge implicitly any government, in fact, that prevails: then, if a party in these nations should rise up, and set a popish pretender on the throne, according to their doctrine, all should be obliged to subject to him; and it would be sinful to impugn the lawfulness of his authority although that, by being popish, he is destitute of the essential qualifications required of a king, not only by the word of God, but by the national constitution and laws, in order to make him a lawful sovereign to these nations.
2. The presbytery testify, against the Associate Presbytery, now called Synod, for their wronging, perverting and misapplying the blessed scriptures of truth in many texts, in order to support their erroneous tenet: namely, that the word of GOD requires no qualifications as essential to the being of a lawful Christian magistrate: but that whosoever are set up, and while they continue to be acknowledged by civil society, are lawful magistrates, though destitute of scripture qualifications, and acting in a manifest opposition to the revealed will and law of GOD.
The texts of scripture used by them, do prove this general proposition, viz: That it is the duty of the people of GOD to obey and submit to lawful fulcra [props, or supports] in their lawful commands: and that it is utterly unlawful and sinful to oppose such lawful authority. But none of these texts quoted them, prove, that it is the duty of the people of GOD, blessed with the knowledge of his revealed will, to submit to, and obey, for conscience sake, an authority that is sinful, and opposite to the revealed will of GOD, both in its constitution and general course of administration. Nor do they prove, that a prelatical, Erastian or popish government, is a lawful government, either expressly, or by right of necessary consequence, over a people, who either do, collectively considered as a church and nation, or are bound to profess all the parts of the true religion, and to maintain all the divine ordinances in their purity: nor do they prove, that any can be lawful rulers over these Christian and covenanted nations, who want the essential qualifications required by the word of GOD, the covenants, and fundamental laws of the kingdoms: or that it is sinful in the people of GOD, to say so much, in testifying against the joint and national apostasy from GOD and the purity of religion.—Particularly,
The first text they adduce is, Prov. 24:21: “My son, fear thou the LORD and the king, and meddle not with them that are given to change.” It is granted, that this scripture enjoins all those duties that, in a consistency with the fear of the LORD, a people owe to their rightful kings. But nothing can be more absurd, than to extend the command to all that bear the name of kings, who are acknowledged by a nation as kings, and while they do so own them, though their constitution should be most antichristian, and they justly chargeable with unparalleled evils not only in their private character, but in their public conduct: be they idolaters, adulterers, blasphemers, sabbath-breakers, murderers, invaders, and avowed usurpers of the throne, crown and scepter, and incommunicable prerogatives of CHRIST, the glorious KING of Zion, setting themselves in the temple of GOD, and exalting themselves above all that is called GOD, by dispensing with his laws, and, in place thereof, substituting their own wicked laws, whereby they establish iniquity, and enjoin, under severe penalties, the profanation of the name, day and ordinances of the LORD. This command must certainly be understood in a consistency with the duty and character of one that is resolved to be an inhabitant of the LORD’S holy hill, Psal, 15:4, “In whose eyes a vile person is contemned.” It must be consistent with the tear of the LORD, which can stand very well with a fearing and honoring all who are really kings; but a flat contradiction thereto, to fear every vile person, because it is the will of civil society to set him up in the character or king. Till therefore Seceders prove, either that kings are under no obligation to obey the law of GOD themselves, and so not liable to its sanction and penalty, in case of disobedience; or then, that the favor and approbation of civil society can justify a dispensing with the law of GOD, they will never be able to prove from this or any other text, that such as are guilty of any crime declared capital in the word of truth have a right and title to that fear, honor and obedience, that is due to lawful kings, even though they are acknowledged by civil society. And so this text makes nothing for, but against their darling tenet; and their explication thereof is evidently a wresting of scripture, making it speak in their favor, contrary to the scope and meaning of the Holy Spirit therein. And their invidious insinuation, that all who differ from their opinion, do likewise depart from the fear of the LORD, is but a further evidence of their abuse of scripture while it is at the same time utterly false. See Mr. Knox’s History, p. 422, 1st Book of Discipline, caps. 10,11.
A second text abused, for supporting their forementioned principle, is Eccles. 10:4: “If the spirit of the ruler rise up against thee, leave not thy place, for yielding pacifieth great offenses.” As formerly, so here they assert, that this text refers to any rulers presently acknowledged by the civil society, and that the rising of the ruler’s spirit must be understood as groundless, and so sinful, and necessarily comprehends any wrath or wrong that a subject may meet with unjustly at the ruler’s hand, upon personal or religious accounts. That yet, notwithstanding, the subject (in the use of lawful endeavors for his own vindication) must continue in subjection and obedience to the ruler, in lawful commands, while the civil state continues to acknowledge him; and this, as the only habile mean of convincing the ruler of his error, and preventing further evils.
But, as the reason which they there allege, does not necessarily conclude and prove this rising of spirit in the ruler to be sinful; so the whole of their application and gloss built upon it, is invalidated; and, moreover, is a condemnation of the principles and practice of our reformers, and sufferers for the cause and truths of CHRIST, in the late times, when they left their place of subjection, and took up arms in defense of their religion, liberties and lives.
Their explication is also self inconsistent; for, if this rising of spirit necessarily comprehends any wrath or wrong, on personal or religious accounts, then there must be a yielding, or keeping the place of subjection, not only in lawful commands, but in all matters, whether lawful or not; otherwise, this yielding cannot be supposed to answer the end designed. For though a subject should yield in all other particulars, yet, unless he also yield in that particular, on which the rising of the ruler’s spirit is grounded, his yielding cannot pacify the ruler’s wrath. So all the subjection, they contend, the sufferers gave, particularly in the beginning of the late persecution, to the then rulers, did not, nor could, pacify their wrath, because they would not give up with their conscience and all religion, which was the very foundation of the rising of his spirit against them; though, according to their explication of the text, this was what they should have done, and so have pacified the ruler’s wrath. It is but a mere shift to tell the world, that it is only in lawful matters they are to yield; the yielding must surely correspond to the rising of the spirit spoken of. But with such deceitful shifts are they forced to covet, over a doctrine, which, if presented in its native dress, would not meet with such ready reception. But in opposition to their strained interpretation of the text, the ruler must be understood a lawful ruler, who is the minister of GOD for good—one who has not only moral abilities for government, but also a right to govern. And as a subject may be keeping his place of subjection to a righteous ruler, and yet be guilty, in his private or public character, of what gives just offense, and occasions the ruler’s spirit justly, and so not sinfully, to rise against him—thus, one may be guilty of many criminal mismanagements in the discharge of his public trust, guilty of profaning the name of GOD or his day, or of a riot, excessive drinking, &c., without having any thought of casting off the authority of his ruler—so, When a person has hereby provoked the spirit of his ruler, this divine precept teaches the party offending not to aggravate his offense, by attempting (though able) to make good his part, or rebel against his sovereign, but to yield, acknowledge his guilt and trespass, and submit to such punishments as the lawful ruler shall justly inflict, according to the degree and quality of the offense; whereby only, the ruler will be satisfied. Agreeable to this, is that parallel text, Eccles. 8:2,3: “I counsel thee to keep the king’s commandment, and that in regard of the oath of GOD: Be not hasty to go out of his sight; stand not in an evil thing.” On the whole, it must be a great abuse of Scripture, to wrest a divine precept, which directs subjects to submit to such punishments as their lawful ruler shall justly lay them under for their offenses, to the support of this anti-scriptural notion, viz: that every wicked person, whom the majority of a nation advances to the supreme rule, is the minister of GOD, to whom obedience is due, under pain of eternal damnation, as is done with this text.
A third scripture, perverted to support the above principle, is Luke 20:25: “Render therefore to Cæsar the things which be Cæsar’s, and unto GOD the things which be GOD’S.” From this, Seceders imagine strongly to fortify their cause. But, from a just view of the text, it will appear, that the answer given by CHRIST contains no acknowledgment of Cæsar’s title to tribute, or of his authority as lawful. It is beyond doubt, that the question was captious, and that the design of the Scribes and Pharisees, in proposing it to CHRIST, was to have him ensnared in his words. This they thought themselves sure or, whether he should answer positively or negatively. For if positively, and so recognize and acknowledge Cæsar’s title, then they would have occasion to accuse him to the people, as an enemy to the laws, liberty and honor, of the Jewish nation. This is evident from ver. 26: “And they could not take hold of his words before the people.” And then, if he should deny that it was lawful, they would have an opportunity or pretense of delating and delivering him to the Roman governor, as an enemy to Cæsar. They seem, however, to have been confident, that he who taught the way of GOD in truth, without regard to any, would never inculcate it as a duty for them to give tribute to Cæsar, subjection to whom, as their lawful governor, for conscience sake, was contrary to the divine law given to the Jews, respecting their magistrates; and if so, they would not miss of sufficient accusation against him. But here infinite wisdom shone forth, in giving such an answer as declared their wisdom to be but folly, and at once disappointed all their malicious hopes; an answer which left Cæsar’s claim unresolved, as to any positive determination whether it belonged to him or not. The question is in direct terms. Our LORD does not directly answer to the question, in the terms proposed by the wicked spies, he neither expressly says it is lawful or unlawful to pay it, but gave his answer in such terms as they could not from it form an accusation against him, either to the people or to the governor, he, in general, teaches to give Cæsar all things that, by the law of GOD, were due to him; at the same time enjoining them that, under pretense of giving to men their demands, they rob not God of what was his due, namely, a conscientious regard to all the laws he had given them, and universal obedience to all his commands, without regard to persons of any station. And it is certain, that Cæsar was a proud, aspiring, idolatrous and bloody usurper (like the king of Babylon,, Hab. 2: 5, for which causes the Lord denounces fearful wroth and judgments against him, Hab. 2:7-14), having no other right to the most part of his dominions, than the Lord’s providential disposal which sometimes makes “the tabernacles of robbers prosper; into whose hand GOD bringeth abundantly;” Job 12:6. “And for their sins gives Jacob to the spoil, and Israel to the robbers;” Isa. 42:24. “And giveth power to the beast, to continue forty and two months, and to have power over all nations;” Rev. 13:5,7. So that, by looking into the divine law, which determines everyone’s due, according to their just character, and of which they could not be ignorant, they might see that he had a just title to all that was due to an usurper, idolater and murderer. That the Jewish coin did bear Cæsar’s image, could be no evidence of his being their lawful sovereign, seeing it is most common for the greatest usurpers and tyrants to stamp their image upon the coin of the nations they tyrannize over. And though it be granted that the Jews had, by this time, consented to Cæsar’s usurpation, yet that could not legitimate his title, nor warrant their subjection to him for conscience sake, seeing they could not consent to his authority, but in express contradiction to the many plain and positive scripture precepts, given by GOD unto then, as has been seen above. It is, therefore, violence done to the text (as also opposite to the sentiments of some eminent divines on the place), to say that it contains a command to pay tribute to Cæsar, and it would appear from Luke 23:2, that the Jews themselves did not understand it so. It may be further observed, that this is not the only instance where our LORD, in infinite wisdom, declined to give direct answers to the ensnaring questions of his malicious enemies. See John 8:8-12; Matth. 21:28-28; John 18:19-21, where are questions of similar nature, proposed with the same hellish intention, and all answered by him in like manner. In each of which, Seceders might, on as good ground as in the answer to the question anent tribute, say that CHRIST did shirt and dissemble the truth, lint the least insinuation of such a charge cannot be made from any of these answers, without the greatest blasphemy.
A fourth text used by them for maintaining their erroneous scheme, is Rom. 13:1-8. Without animadverting upon every is not part of their explication of this place of holy writ, it is sufficient to observe: 1. That the power here spoken of by the apostle not a physical, but a moral power; a power that is lawful and warranted, in regard of matter, person, title or investiture. A legitimacy in each of these must go to the making of a moral power; and an illegitimacy in any of these is an illegitimacy in the very being and constitution, and so a nullity to the power as moral, a making it of no authority. As the text speaks only of this moral power, so it excludes every unlawful power (see Mr. Gee on magistracy, on this text). 2. That the being of GOD, or the ordination by GOD here spoke of, is not a being of God providentially only, but such a being of GOD as contains in it his institution and appointment, by the warrant of his law and precept; so that the magistrates to whom the apostle enjoins obedience, are such as are set up according to the preceptive ordination and will of GOD, as is evinced not only by the author referred to above, and other divines, but what sufficiently appears from the context, where the subjection enjoined, and resistance forbidden, with their respective reasons, are what can only be spoken with respect to powers ordained by the preceptive will of GOD. Again, by considering the office and duty of the powers, and the end of their ordination, as described, ver. 3,4, which by no means agree to any but those moral powers ordained by the preceptive will of GOD, it appears a manifest abuse of this text, to apply it to every one advanced by providence to the place of supreme rule, not only without any regard, but in direct opposition to the preceptive will of GOD. It is most absurd and self-contradictory in professed testimony bearers for a covenanted reformation, to apply this text in a way of pleading the lawfulness of an Erastian, antichristian constitution, that is destitute of all those qualifications already mentioned (and always included in the scriptural definition of a lawful magistrate), as necessary to constitute a moral power, viz: in regard of matter, person, title or investiture, &c. But of the power which they so zealously plead for, the matter is unlawful, being Erastian, partly civil, partly ecclesiastical, by the united constitution. The person invested with this supreme power, is one who is declared incapable, by the fundamental laws and covenanted constitution of the nations; the manner of investiture, and terms on which the crown is held, sinful—the constitution being in an immediate opposition to the unalterable constitution of the kingdom of the Messiah, and founded on the destruction of the covenanted reformation. And it may be added, that it is unlawful, as to the exercise and application of it, which has been all along in opposition to all true religion, and a grievous oppression of the church, the kingdom of CHRIST, in the liberties thereof. And it must be so; for the tree must be made good, before the fruit can be such. By all which it appears, there is a nullity in the power as moral, being so very opposite to the revealed will of GOD. And from what is said, it is obvious that this scripture gives no countenance to their corrupt scheme, but furnishes with strong arguments against it.
A fifth scripture adduced is Titus 3:1: “Put them in mind to be subject to principalities and powers,” &c. As Seceders apply this text to the same purpose, and explain it in the same manner, as they have done those others above mentioned, so what is already said is sufficient to discover the deceit of their use and explication thereof. The powers and magistrates the apostle requires subjection to, are only such as are so in a moral sense; none but such are accounted powers and magistrates in the sense of the text. The apostle must mean the same powers here he describes in Rom. 13:1-8, &c., otherwise he contradicts himself, which must not be admitted; and the powers he there speaks of, are moral powers, i.e., such as have not only proper abilities for government and rule, but also a right of constitution, empowering them to use their abilities for that purpose. How can one be expected or said to be the minister of GOD for good, or a terror to evil doers, and a praise to them that do well, if he is so disposed and inclined, as to love that which is evil, and hate that which is good, and so actually is a praise to evil doers, and a terror to such as do well? To suppose any such thing, is to overthrow the universally established connection between cause and effect, the means and the end. And so much (namely, that the powers there spoken of are moral powers), Seceders are forced to grant in their explication of Rom. 13. Say they, “The text speaks only of powers in a moral sense.” And this concession at once destroys their scheme, and confirms what the presbytery plead for, namely, that none are lawful powers but such as are so according to the preceptive will of GOD in his word; which certainly, in the judgment of all who would deal reverently with the oracles of GOD, is, in this case, a rule for preferable “to the remainders of natural light, in the moral dictates of right reason,” from which Seceders fetch the institution of this divine ordinance of magistracy, and on which they settle it, as on (what they call) “the natural and eternal law of GOD;” preferring that to the plain, perfect and complete, revelation of GOD’S will in his word.
The last text used by them, is, 1 Pet. 2:13 to 17, the import of which, they say, is, that all who have a constitution by consent of the civil society, are to be subjected to for the LORD’S sake, as having an institution from him: and that, however seldom they were inclined or employed in the discharge of the duties proper to their office. It may suffice to observe, that while the apostle is here speaking, as in the above texts, of moral powers, as above described, it is evident, that by every ordinance of man, can only be meant the different kinds and forms of civil government, and governors set up by men, to each of which the apostle exerts to a submission, providing, that in the setting up of these, they acted agreeably to the general laws and rules appointed by GOD in his word, both respecting the constitution of government, and the qualifications of governors. Then, as they bear the stamp of divine authority, they were to be submitted to for the LORD’S sake. But what manifest abuse of scripture is it, to allege with them that the inspired apostle exerts to submit to every monster of iniquity, if only set up by the civil society, though perhaps guilty of a number of crimes that by the law of GOD, and laws of men founded thereon, are punishable by a severe death? Sure, such can never have a title to that obedience which is due to the ordinance of GOD, who have not so much as a title to live upon the earth. Moreover, let it be considered, that in the above cited texts, the spirit of GOD enjoins either that obedience and subjection that is due to lawful magistrates, or that subjection only which is for a time, by an extraordinary and special command, such as Jer. 19:7, given to conquerors and usurpers, having no right but what is providential. If the first, then they cannot intend any but those moral powers who are said to be of GOD, in respect or his approbative and preceptive will. If the last, then these texts are not the rule of obedience to lawful rulers, who are set up qualified, and govern according to the law of GOD. But that these texts can only be understood of the first, is evident from this, that in them not only is the office, duty and end of the civil magistrate as particularly described, as the obedience and subjection commanded; but the one is made the foundation ground, and reason of, and inseparably connected with the other. And therefore it was, that the renowned witnesses for CHRIST and his interest, contended so much for reformation in the civil magistracy and magistrate, in an agreeableness to the original institution of that ordinance, and endured so great opposition on that account.
To conclude this: as it is evident that these texts give no countenance to the corrupt scheme of Seceders, but always suppose the power, to which subjection and obedience for conscience sake is enjoined to be lawful, in regard of matter, person, title, &c. So the presbytery cannot but testify, against them for perverting and wresting the scriptures of truth, to a favoring of their anarchical and anti-scriptural tenet, and for their so stiffly and tenaciously pleading for avowed apostasy and defection (which is the whole scope and amount of their declared scheme of politics), viz: that it is lawful for posterity to turn back to where their forefathers were, giving up with many precious truths, and further attainments in reformation, valuable and necessary, acquired at the expense of much zeal, faithfulness and treasure, and handed down to us, sealed by the spirit of GOD upon the souls of his people, as his work and cause; and on public scaffolds and high places of the field, with the dearest blood of multitudes of CHRIST’S faithful witnesses, who loved not their lives unto the death. And this, in express contradiction to the land’s solemn covenant engagements to the LORD, for maintaining and holding fast whereunto we had attained. For notwithstanding all the regard and deference Seceders profess to the covenants and reformation principles, they are, all the while, directly pleading in defense of the same cause, advancing the same arguments to support it, and likewise giving the same corrupt and perverted explication of the above texts of scripture, that the merciless and bloody murderers and persecutors did, in the late tyrannous times, in their stated opposition to the cause and interest of glorious CHRIST, together with the indulged who took part with them, in opposing the kingdom and subjects of Zion’s exalted King. And as pity it is Seceders have pleaded the cause of malignants, and, rubbing the rust from their antiquated arguments, have presented them with a new lustre; so the presbytery, in opposition thereto, are satisfied to plead the same cause, with the same arguments and understand these scriptures in the same sense as was done by the witnesses for reformation, whom the Lord honored to seal his truths with their blood, as is sufficiently confirmed from the Cloud of Witnesses; where their concurring testimonies are harmoniously stated, upon their disowning the authority of the then antichristian and Erastian government, even when acknowledged by the bulk and body of the nation, both civil and ecclesiastical. Whence also it is evident, that the persecution was not the cause of their casting off that authority; but that authority’s assuming and usurping the royal prerogatives of CHRIST, the church’s Head, was the cause of their disowning it; and then their refusing to acknowledge foresaid authority, was the cause of all their persecution.
3. The presbytery testify against foresaid Associates, on account of their corruption in worship; particularly, in the duty of prayer, both as practiced by their ministers, and by them enjoined upon their people.
Wherein, in an inconsistency with a faithful testimony against the declared enemies of the church’s head and king, they affect to express a superlative loyalty unto the prelatic possessors of power, not much differing from the forms imposed upon, and observed by the Erastian church. The presbytery acknowledge it duty to pray for all men, in the various stations of life, as sinners lost, of the ruined family of Adam, standing absolutely in need of a SAVIOUR, that they may be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth; as is enjoined, 1 Tim. 2:1,2. Which yet must not be understood in an unlimited sense, but with submission to the will of GOD, if they belong to the election of grace. Nay, they acknowledge it indispensable duty, as to pray, that the church may obtain such kings and queens, as shall be to her nursing fathers and mothers, according to the LORD’S gracious promise; so, when such are granted to them, it is their duty to make prayers and supplications, in a particular manner, for them. But it is no less than an abuse of scripture, and flat contradiction to many promises and threatenings, to extend foresaid command to every person without distinction whom providence advances to the supreme rule over the people of GOD, in a way of acknowledging their authority as lawful, and of praying for success and prosperity to them (as Seceders do), to pray for success unto, and the continuance of wicked rulers, that are enemies to the LORD, and usurpers of his crown, and such whom the LORD in anger against a people for their sins, may send as a special punishment upon them, and from whom he has promised deliverance unto his people, as a peculiar blessing, is no less than the slighting of the, promises, and deriding of threatenings, and in reality, is a taking part with GOD’S enemies, against him and his cause. As it is impossible, sincerely to pray for the coming of CHRIST’S kingdom, and advancement thereof, without also, as a necessary mean conducive thereto, to pray for the downfall and destruction of all his enemies, as such, whatever be their place and station (which is not at all inconsistent with praying for their salvation, as lost sinners); seeing JESUS CHRIST no less effectually destroys his enemies, when he makes them to bow in a way of willing subjection to the scepter of his law and grace, than when he breaks them in pieces with his iron rod of wrath; so, how self-contradictory is it in Seceders, to pray for the coming of CHRIST’S mediatory kingdom; and, at the same time to pray for the success and preservation of one, in his kingly character, who themselves acknowledge, has, in that character, made grievous encroachments upon the royal prerogatives of the LORD JESUS CHRIST, is an usurper of his crown, and therefore, in that view, must be considered as an enemy to his kingdom?
That the above is no false charge against Seceders, is witnessed by a variety of their causes of fasting, concluding with such prayers, which they have emitted, as well as by their daily practice: and particularly, Antiburgher Seceders, have given a late recent proof of this; in what they call, A solemn warning by the Associate Synod, &c. Which unfaithful warning concludes with a self-contradictory form of prayer, enjoined upon all under the inspection of said Synod. Among other things, they “exhort all—the people under their inspection, to pour out earnest and incessant supplications before the LORD, in a dependence upon the merit and intercession of our great High-priest, that he may bring about a revival of our covenanted reformation:—removing all the mountains which stand in the way; that he may abundantly bless our sovereign king George, and the apparent heir of the crown,—blasting an the plots or efforts of whatever enemies, open or secret,—against the Protestant succession to the throne of these kingdoms in the family of Hanover; that he may be gracious to the high courts of parliament, in this and the neighboring island,—leading them to proper measures for the honor of CHRIST; that he may hasten the enlargement of the Mediator’s kingdom,” &c.
On all which, let it suffice to observe, 1. That as in no part of this prayer they make any exceptions against, so they must be understood therein, approving of the constitution of the king, the establishment and limitation of the throne of these kingdoms in the Hanoverian family, as presently by law established: and also, approving of the British and Irish parliaments, in their constitution as by law established, though both of them grossly Erastian, and necessarily connected with maintaining English popish ceremonies, the whole English hierarchy, and civil places and power of churchmen; in opposition to the word of God, reforming laws, and covenanted constitutions of the nations. Hence, 2. This pattern of prayer must be understood as containing earnest supplications to the Lord, that he may continue and preserve an Erastian constitution, that he may perpetuate the limited succession to the throne in the family of Hanover; and that, in opposition to all attempts whatever, toward any change, however much it might contribute to the glory of GOD, good of the church, and revival of a covenanted reformation; and also, seems to include a desire that GOD may preserve and maintain a parliament in the nations, one of the houses whereof, viz: the House of Peers, is composed partly of spiritual lords, as essential members thereof,—an antichristian designation, a title and office, not to be found in the book of divine revelation. So, 3. This prayer seems to suppose a consistency between the preservation of all these, and the revival of a covenanted reformation in these lands; and also that they, particularly a parliament, thus antichristian in its constitution, are proper instruments for promoting the honor and declarative glory of CHRIST; although the prelates, constituent members therein, are a generation of men that were never yet known to have a vote for CHRIST’S kingdom and interest. And therefore, 4. This prayer consists of flat contradiction. (1.) In regard the revival of a covenanted reformation, and the flourishing of CHRIST’S mediatory kingdom, nationally, must be attended with the overthrow of all constitutions, civil and ecclesiastical, that hinder and oppose the same; Hag. 2:6,7, and with the down bringing of all the enemies thereof, from the height of their excellency. (2.) It is a contradiction for them to pray, that the LORD would remove all the mountains that stand in the way of the revival of our reformation; and yet, at the same time, pray for the preservation and continuance of the constitution, under which (as they themselves acknowledge, Defense of their Princ., page 51): “There in a mighty bar thrust into the way of our covenanted reformation, both in church and state; yes, a gravestone is laid, and established upon the same.” (3.) It is a sinful and glaring contradiction for Seceders to rank an approbation of the English hierarchy among our public national sins and steps of defection (as they do, page 53 of their pamphlet); and yet themselves persist and continue in the same sin and guilt, homologating and approving the antichristian constitution of the British and Irish parliaments, by praying (like their forefathers, in their fulsome address to James the Papist) for divine illumination and conduct to the Prelates in their civil places and power, as necessary members there, as they do in this prayer of theirs. Can such be supposed to be either truly sensible of sin, or humbled for it, who, notwithstanding all their confessions, still continue in the love and practice of it? But with such mock acknowledgments (of which a variety of other instances might be given) have they hitherto imposed on the generation. And so, 5. It is a prayer, that in several parts thereof, has no scripture warrant, no foundation in the promises of GOD. Particularly, on what scriptural warrant, what promise, can Seceders build their prayers for, or expectation of the Lord’s answering them, by blessing all Erastian government to themselves or others which being in its constitution, contrary to the word of GOD,—is such, that under it (as they grant, ibid. page 46), a people cannot truly prosper in their civil concerns, nor be enriched with the blessings of the gospel? From what scriptural promise are they warranted to pray, that GOD may perpetuate the succession to the throne in any one family, and especially, when that succession is circumscribed and limited, in a way opposite to the laws of GOD, and mediatory kingdom of CHRIST? and therefore, a prayer that cannot be made in faith, and so cannot be acceptable to GOD in its complex form. No person can have faith in the merit and intercession of CHRIST, for obtaining anything in prayer, but what CHRIST has priorly merited, and does actually intercede for. But it would savor too much of blasphemy, to apply some of the particulars already noticed in this form of prayer, to the merit and intercession of our great High-priest. Sure it cannot be thought, that he makes intercession for the prosperity and success of his enemies, in their stated opposition to his kingdom and interest in this world; neither can it be consistent with fidelity to CHRIST, as a King, for his professed subjects to pray for it. What fearful trifling with GOD in the duty of prayer, is it to pray that the LORD may bring down popery and prelacy; and next breath to pray that the Lord may continue, prosper, and preserve the Erastian head, and great bulwark of prelacy!
4. Again, the presbytery testify against the Associate party for their treachery in covenant. This is a sin that is in scripture, and even by the common voice of mankind, declared very heinous; but which, by what is already discovered anent said party, appears too, too justly chargeable upon them. It is notorious, and what themselves boast much of, that they professedly maintain the moral and perpetual obligation of the covenants, both the National Covenant of Scotland, and the Solemn League and Covenant of Scotland, England and Ireland, entered into for reformation and defense of religion, and for bringing the churches of GOD in the three kingdoms to the nearest conjunction and uniformity in religion, according to the word of GOD. They also do in the most public manner profess, that they are the only true faithful witnesses for a covenanted reformation. But the consistency of such a profession with maintaining principles that are diametrically opposite to these covenants, and the cause of truth, sworn to in them (as has been made evident they do) is altogether unintelligible. Is it possible strenuously to maintain the lawfulness of a prelatical government abjured in the covenants, and yet at the same time sincerely and honestly, according to the profession made by the church, Psal. 44:17,18, to contend for the moral obligation of the covenants, and the work of reformation sworn to in them? But further, the necessity of lifting up a testimony against Seceders, for their treachery and unfaithfulness in the matter of the covenants, will appear by considering that they, after making a very solemn profession of renewing the National Covenant of Scotland, and the Solemn League and Covenant of the three lands, in, place of practicing accordingly, have, in reality, made a new and very different bond or covenant, both in form and substance, which they have not only sworn themselves, but also imposed upon many honest people: and this as a renewing, nay, as the only right way of renewing said covenants according to the circumstances of the times. That this bond entered into by Seceders (however good it may be, considered in an abstract sense) is not a renovation of the national covenants, as they assert it to be, but a treacherous and deceitful burying of these covenants, its to their sum and substance, is abundantly evident from their industrious keeping out, and omitting the most part of them out of their new and artificial bond. Particularly, although they pretend to a renovation both of the National and Solemn League and Covenant, yet they have almost entirely left out, and passed over the National Covenant of Scotland; and satisfying themselves with simply testifying against popery, have omitted all the particular errors and branches thereof expressly contained in the National Covenant. As to the Solemn League, of which they pretend their bond is also a renovation, there is very little of it to be found therein, as appears from a comparison of the one with the other. Thus they have let out that remarkable and necessary clause in the first Article, viz: “Against our common enemies:” and in place of endeavoring to bring the churches of GOD in the three kingdoms to the nearest conjunction and uniformity in religion, Confession of Faith, Form of Church Government, Directory for Worship and Catechizing, as in said article, there is an unintelligible clause or jumble of words brought in, viz: to promote and advance our covenanted conjunction and uniformity in religion, just as of that conjunction and uniformity had a present existence (in its native and original state and form) in the three lands; when, on the contrary, presbytery is established in Scotland, yet not on the footing of the word of GOD and the covenants, and Episcopacy is established in England and Ireland, in contradiction to the word of GOD and the covenants. 2. They have kept out that necessary clause in the 2d article, viz: “Without respect of persons, endeavor the extirpation,” &c., and instead thereof say, “Testify against popery and prelacy;” where appears not only a difference in expression, but a substantial difference. 3. They have altogether omitted and kept out the 3d and 4th articles. 4. They have kept out that material and necessary clause in the 5th article, viz: “That justice may be done on the willful opposers thereof,” in manner expressed in the preceding article. 5. They have left out all the 6th article, excepting these words: “We shall not give ourselves up to a detestable neutrality and indifference in the cause of God.” And 6. They have wholly omitted that material paragraph of the conclusion of the Solemn League. It is therefore evident, that the model of the covenants agreed to by Seceders, is different in substance, as well as form, from our ancient covenants; so that, under pretense of renovation, they have made a new bond.
But, again, that their pretended renovation is a real burying of the covenanted reformation appears, from their overlooking, casting by, and keeping out the National Covenant, as it was renewed in the year 1638, and the Solemn League and Covenant, as it was renewed in the year 1648, and going back to the years 1580 and 1581, as the pattern they propose to follow in carrying on of their covenanted testimony. And what can be the reason of this? Can it be, because Prelacy,—and the civil places and power of churchmen, were, by the explication and application of the covenant, anno 1638, expressly and explicitly condemned, while they were formerly only implicitly, and by way of consequence? So they have at least, by this step back, both tacitly condemned our reformers, of giving themselves needless trouble in their explanation of the covenant, as condemning and abjuring Episcopacy; and also, do overlook, despise, and disgracefully bury the many, advanced steps of reformation attained to in these covenanted lands between 1638 and 1649 (particularly the church of Scotland’s testimony against prelacy) in which time reformation arrived to a greater height of purity than ever was attained in any foregoing period of this church and nation, However, whatever their reasons were for so doing, that they have so done is clear, from their act Edinburgh, February 3d, 1743, where they conclude with a nota bene, lest it should not otherwise have been observed that they do so, and thereby declare their sin as Sodom, as if the publishing of it would make an atonement for it. “N.B. Only the National Covenant, as it was entered into, annis 1580, 1581 (without the bond wherein it was renewed anno 1638) and the Solemn League and Covenant (without the solemn acknowledgment of sins, and engagement to duties, anno 1648), are hereby prefixed unto the following act, agreeably unto the design of said act:” and for this they pretend the example of our reformers, anno 1638, who renewed the National Covenant by a new bond, in place of that new bond wherewith it was renewed and sworn, 1590, which they omitted;—wherein their deceit and unfaithfulness is very obvious from the following observations: 1. Hereby they have cast a most injurious calumny and reproach upon our honored reformers, and in their pretending to imitate their practice, in renovation of the covenants, are guilty of a most dreadful and deceitful imposition on the generation; for though our reformers did renew the covenants with a new bond, and perhaps very seldom swear them without some additions, yet they never went back from any part of reformation, espoused and sworn to in the renovations that were before them, under a pretense, that such points of reformation formerly attained, were unsuitable, or not adapted to their circumstances, as Seceders have done. On the contrary, our reformers, in all the different renovations of the covenants, not only included all that was formerly attained to, binding themselves in strict adherence to all the articles priorly in the oath and covenant of GOD (at the same time solemnly acknowledging all former breaches thereof; and obliging themselves, in the strength of grace to the performance of the contrary, and consequential duties); but also, still went forward in explaining and more explicitly applying the covenants against the sins of the day, and more expressly binding themselves to the opposite duties, as is clear from the bond wherewith our reformers renewed the covenants 1638, and the solemn acknowledgment of sins, and engagements to duties, 1648; both which the Seceders have barefacedly cast by and exploded in their alleged renovation of the covenants; whereby, as it is manifest that our reformers always went forward to further degrees of reformation, so it is no less manifest, that foresaid party acting contrary to them, have gone backward. But 2d. They have not only rejected the renovations of the covenants by our ancestors 1638 and 1640; but even when they pretended to follow the renovation of the covenant, 1580 and 1581, they have kept out and perverted almost the whole of the national covenants, as was already observed; particularly in their new bond, they have cast away the civil part of the covenants altogether. For what reason they do so, is indeed hard to say. True, they allege it would be a blending of civil and religious matters together; and that it is not proper (or competent for them, as a church judicatory) to meddle in these matters, that are of a civil nature. But seeing infinite wisdom has not judged it a (sinful) blending of civil and religious concerns together, to deliver the duties, both civil and religious, in one and the same moral law unto mankind; it is difficult to conceive, how the people of GOD their binding themselves in a covenant of duties to the conscientious performance of all the duties GOD required of them in his word, whether civil or religious, according to their respective or immediate objects, can be reputed a blending of them together; or that this has the remotest tendency to destroy that distinction which GOD in his revealed will has stated between what is immediately civil in its nature, and what is properly religious. This, therefore, is a mere groundless pretense and evasion; and if it has any three at all, as a reason, it strikes against the reformers who compiled these covenants. They are the proper objects at whom through the sides of others it thrusts; for they, at the framing of sundry of their covenants, and afterward at the renovation of their covenant, did it both without the ecclesiastical authority, and also without, and contrary unto, yea, at the hazard of suffering the greatest severities from the civil authority on that account. And yet the ecclesiastical judicatories of the church of Scotland afterward found it competent for them, as such, to approve of these covenants, both as to the matter and form of them, without branding and exploding them as a blending of matters civil and religious together, as Seceders have done. Again, as the covenants require no other than a lawful magistrate; and seeing Seceders acknowledge the present as lawful, and that it is their duty to be subject to, and support them as such, it is impossible to conceive any reason, why they have not honored the present rulers with a place in their new and artificial bond: unless perhaps this, that they were aware that would have been so glaring contradiction to these covenants they were pretending to renew, as would doubtless have startled and driven away from them a good many honest people, whom they have allured and led aside by their good words and fair-set speeches; and yet it is pretty obvious they have included the present rulers in their bond, and taken them in an oblique and clandestine way, by swearing to the relative duties contained in the fifth commandment, seeing they acknowledge them as their civil parents. Again, as their bond is supposed to reduplicate upon the national covenants, and so to bind to every article in them, by native consequence, they swear to a prelatical government: for seeing they have made no exception in their bond, it must be applied to no other, but the government, which presently exists; and this, in flat contradiction to the covenants, by which such a government is abjured. So that their new bond is no less opposite to the national covenants, and is much more deceitful, than if they had plainly and explicitly sworn allegiance to the present government therein; only the generality of their implicit followers do not so readily observe it. Upon the whole, how strange is it, that they should have the assurance to father their deceitful apostasy, and wretched burying of the covenants upon our reformers, so injuriously to their character, and at the hazard of imposing a heinous and base cheat upon the world, while, notwithstanding all their vain pretensions, it is undeniably evident to those who will impartially, and without prejudice, examine the method and order whereby our ancestors renewed our covenants, that in this they have been so far from following their example, that they have directly contradicted the same, and, in reality, buried much of the covenants and work of reformation sworn to in them. For though a people may very lawfully, by a new bond, enlarge and add to their former obligations that they brought themselves under; yet they can never, without involving themselves in the guilt of perjury, relax or cancel former obligations by any future bond. Accordingly, our worthy ancestors, by all the new bonds they annexed to former obligations, were so far from attempting to loose themselves from any covenanted duty that either they or their fathers were priorly bound unto, that they thereby still brought themselves under straighter bonds to perform all their former and new obligations of duty to GOD. But, as has been discovered, Seceders, by their artificial bond, have cast out the very substance and spirit of the covenants, by their rumping and hewing them at pleasure, to reduce them to the sinful circumstances of the time: and this, in opposition to their own public profession, that these covenants are moral in their nature and obligatory upon these nations to the latest posterity. How surprising it is then, that after such a profession, they dare cast out of their bond the greatest parts of the covenants! This is not only to break these obligations, but it is to make a public declaration, that different times and circumstances do free men from their obligation to keep their most solemn vows to the Most High. To this, as very applicable, may be subjoined the words of Mr. Case, in a sermon relative to the covenants: “Others have taken it (viz: the covenant) with their own evasions, limitations and reservations: such a Jesuitical spirit has got in among us, by which means it comes to pass, that by the time that men have pared off and left out, and put what interpretation they frame to themselves, there is little left worth the name of a covenant.” And, indeed, so many are the self-inconsistencies and gross contradictions attending this new bond, that it would have been much more for the honor both of the covenants, and of Seceder’s themselves, rather never to have attempted such a work, than to have done it in a way of tearing to pieces our solemn national vows. Wherefore the presbytery cannot but, in testifying against them for their unfaithfulness, obtest all the lovers of truth, to beware of joining in this course of treachery, and apostasy from GOD and his covenanted cause
5. The presbytery testify against foresaid party, for their unfaithfulness and partiality in point of testimony-bearing to a covenanted work of reformation; while yet they not only profess to be witnesses, but the only true and faithful contenders for the said work and cause. The justness of this charge manifestly appears from the scope of their Act and Testimony, which seems to be principally leveled against the corruptions of the present church judicatories, and not equally against the corruptions of both church and state, in agreeableness to the faithful testimonies of the LORD’S people in former times, and in a consistency with the reformation that was jointly carried on in both church and state, and solemnly sworn and engaged to in the covenants. They appear never to have fully, adopted the testimony of the Church of Scotland in her purest times, when the profession of the true religion was by law made a necessary qualification of every one that should be admitted to places of civil trust and power in the nation. Nor are the faithful testimonies of the valiant sufferers and contenders, even unto death, for the precious truth of GOD in the late persecuting period, as stated against both church and state, fully state, and judicially approven by them; much less have they fully adopted the testimony, as stated against the revolution constitution, both civil and ecclesiastical, which they did not in their testimony condemn as sinful; but on the contrary, acknowledged the civil constitution lawful, notwithstanding of their complaining of some defects and omissions therein. Of which error in the foundation, it may be said, in respect of all the mal-administrations since, it was fons et origo mali [fountain and source of evil]. And seeing, in and by the revolution constitution, the nation was involved in the guilt of apostasy and treachery, in subverting and overturning the good and laudable laws for true religion and right liberty, a faint declaring against some omissions cannot he accounted sufficient; especially when what is thus partly complained of, is at the same time complexly extolled, as a great and glorious deliverance to the church and nation. Their testimony further appeals to be partial and unfaithful, considering that their secession was not from the constitution of the Revolution church, but in a partial and limited way, from a prevailing corrupt party in the judicatories of the church: upon which footing it was, that some of the greatest note among them made their accession after their first secession, expressly declaring so much; whereby they have injured the true state of the testimony which the LORD honored his covenanted Church of Scotland to bear; which is stated against all lukewarm and Laodicean professors, as well as open enemies, and against all Erastian usurpation, and sectarian invasion on the cause of CHRIST. Moreover, their unfaithfulness in point of testimony, convincingly appear from their bitter contentions, and almost endless disputes among themselves, after their breach, upon the religious clause of some burgess oaths, anent the true state of their own testimony, whether lifted up against the revolution constitution of the church, and settlement of religion, or not. Had necessary and real faithfulness been studied, in stating their testimony clearly and plainly, against all the defection, and apostasy of the day from a covenanted reformation, there had been no occasion for such a dispute among them. And now, when the one party have more openly avowed their unfaithfulness, in receding from almost everything that had the least appearance of faithfulness to the cause and covenant of GOD, in their former testimony, and professedly adopted the revolution settlement, as theirs, acknowledging the constitutions, both civil and ecclesiastical, as lawful, an open contradiction to any testimony for reformation work: the other party, to wit, Antiburghers, have now indeed professedly cast off the revolution constitution of the church (at the same time continuing to make their partial Act and Testimony the basis of their distinguished profession); but yet, in an inconsistency therewith, and in contradiction to the covenanted testimony of the church of Scotland, continue to adopt the constitution of the State, as being, however defective yet agreeable to the precept, and so lawful. Hence, they are still most partial in their testimony, of which they have given a fresh and notable proof, in forementioned warning published by them: wherein though there are a variety of evils condescended upon, as just grounds of the LORD’S controversy with the nations, yet there is not that faithfulness used therein, in a particular charging home of the several sins mentioned, upon every one in their different ranks, as, in agreeableness to the word of GOD, is requisite to work a conviction in every one, that they may turn from their sins, and as might correspond to the title given that performance. Thus, passing other instances that might also have been observed, they justly remark, page 31st, “The glorious sovereignty of our LORD JESUS CHRIST, as the alone King and Head of his church, is sadly encroached upon and opposed by the royal supremacy, in causes ecclesiastical. The king is acknowledged as supreme head, or governor on earth, of the churches of England and Ireland. The civil sovereign is thus declared to be the head or fountain of church power, from whence till authority and ministrations in these churches do spring, is vested with all powers of government and discipline, and constituted the sole judge of controversies within the same.—The established Church of Scotland have also, by some particular managements, subjected and subordinated their ecclesiastical meetings to the civil power.” But while they acknowledge this to be the sin of the church, and an high provocation against the LORD; yet, as to the particular sin of the civil power, in assuming and usurping this Erastian Supremacy unto itself, they are quite silent. They have not the faithfulness to say, in their warning, to the robber of Christ, in this matter, as once the prophet of the LORD said to the king of Israel, in another case, Thou art the man. On the contrary (which cannot but have a tendency to ward off any conviction of his sin that this warning, should it come into his hands, might be expected to work), they are guilty of the basest flattery, used by court parasites, styling him, “the best of kings, of the mildest administration,” as in page 13th; and acknowledge it, as a particular effect of the Lord’s goodness, that we are privileged with such an one. But is he indeed deserving of such a character? better than which could not: be given to the most faithful ruler, devoting all his power, as in duty bound, to the support and advancement of the kingdom and interest of JESUS CHRIST, that ever reigned. Does he really merit such an encomium, who sacrilegiously usurps and wears the crown, that alone can flourish on the head of Zion’s king? And is this such a blessing to the church, that an enemy to her LORD and Head rules over her? Oh! may not the LORD say? “I hearkened and heard, but they spake not aright.”
6. The presbytery testify against said Seceding party, because of the sinfulness of their terms of ministerial and christian communion, as being partly destructive of that liberty wherewith CHRIST has made his people free. By which they have both imposed upon themselves, and shut the door of access unto the privileges of the church, upon all such, as, in a consistency with their adherence to truth and duty, cannot accept of their unwarrantable restrictions. Of this, they gave early discoveries, as appears, from the known instance of that notable backslider, Mr. Andrew Clarkson, whom they obliged, before license, to make a public and solemn renunciation of his former principles and profession, respecting the covenanted reformation. As also, their rejecting all accessions from his Laodicean brethren, wherein was contained an explicit adherence to the same, until they did drop their former testimony. This blind zeal in Seceders, against a testimony for truth in its purity, did gradually increase, until it hurried them on to a more particular and formal stating of their terms of communion, whereby were totally excluded all the free and faithful of the land from their communion, who could not approve of, nor swear the bond, whereby they pretended to renew the covenants: as in their act at Edinburgh, 1744; wherein they did resolve and determine, “That the renovation of the National Covenant of Scotland, and the Solemn League and Covenant of the three nations, in the mature, now agreed upon, and prolapsed by the presbytery, shall be the terms of ministerial communion with this presbytery, and likewise of Christian communion, in admission of people to sealing ordinances; secluding therefrom all opposers, contemners, and slighters of the said renovation of our solemn covenants.” By this act, Seceders have obliged their adherents to consent to their infamous burial of our national covenants with the LORD, and reformation therein sworn to, particularly us they were renewed, both 1638 and 1648. And that they might further evince their resolution to bear down the foresaid work, they afterward proceeded to subjoin unto their formula of questions to be put to candidates before license, and to probationers before ordination, the following questions, viz: “Are you satisfied with, and do you propose to adhere unto, and maintain the principles about the present civil government, which are declared and maintained in the Associate Presbytery’s answers to Mr. Nairn, with their defense thereunto subjoined?” Whereby, in opposition to the professed endeavors for the revival of a covenanted reformation in the lands, they expressly bind down all their entrants into the office of the ministry, to an explicit acknowledgment of their anti-government scheme of principles anent the ordinance of magistracy; and thereby to an acknowledging of the lawfulness of a government, which themselves confess has not only departed from, and neglected their duty of espousing and supporting the covenanted principles of this church, but also opposed, contradicted and overthrown the glorious reformation once established in these nations. A government, under which, as they profess, the nations cannot be enriched by the blessings of the gospel; and that, because it does not, in all the appurtenances of its constitution and administration, run in agreeableness to the word of GOD. By all which it appears that although they refuse formally to swear any oaths of allegiance to the powers in being; yet they do materially, and with great solemnity, engage themselves to be true and faithful to a government, under which, and while it stands, they are certain, if their concessions hold true, that they shall never see the nations flourish, either in their temporal or spiritual interests. It is only needful further to observe, that Seceders in the terms of their communion, by debarring from the table of the LORD, all who impugn the lawfulness of a prelatic, Erastian government (as is notourly known they do), make subjection and loyalty to such an authority, a necessary, and, to them, commendatory qualification of worthy receivers of the LORD’S supper, although none of those qualifications—required by GOD in his word. While (as has been already observed) they, with the most violent passion, refuse to admit the professing and practicing the true religion, a necessary qualification of lawful civil rulers over a people possessed of and professing the true religion, which is in effect to deny the necessity of religion altogether as to civil rulers, than which nothing can be more absurd.
Lastly, not to multiply more particulars, the presbytery testify against the scandalous abuse, and sinful prostitution of church discipline, and tyranny in government, whereby the forementioned party have remarkably signalized themselves; and which, in a most precipitant and arbitrary mariner, they have pretended to execute against such as have discovered the smallest degree of faithfulness, in endeavoring to maintain the principles of our reformation, in agreeableness to the true state of the covenanted testimony of the Church of Scotland; which has not only appeared in the case of David Leslie, and some others, on account of a paper of grievances given in to said Associates; against whom they proceeded to the sentence of excommunication, without using those formalities and means of conviction required and warranted by the church’s Head, even in the case of just offenses done by any of the professed members of his mystical body; or so much as allowing that common justice to the sentenced party, that might be expected from any judicatory, bearing the name of Presbyterian. (Though the presbytery are not hereby to be understood as approving every expression contained in foresaid paper). But particularly, they have given notable proof of their fixed resolution, to bear down all just appearances in favor of Zion’s King and cause, in the case of Mr. Nairn, once of their number, because of his espousing the principles of this presbytery, especially, respecting GOD’S ordinance of magistracy, against whom they proceeded to the highest censures of the church, upon the footing of a pretended libel; in which libel, they did not so much as pretend any immorality in practice, or yet error in principle, as the ground of their arbitrary procedure, further than his espousing, the received principles of the church in her best times, and what stood in necessary connection with such a profession: although, in adorable providence, he has since been left to fall into the practice of such immorality, as has justly rendered him the object of church censure by this presbytery. As also in the case of Messrs. Alexander Marshall, and John Cuthbertson, with some others, elders and private Christians, against whom they proceeded in a most unaccountable, anti-scriptural, and unprecedented manner, and upon no better foundation, than that noticed in the case above, pretended to depose and cast such out of the communion of their church, as never had subjected to their authority, nor formerly stood in any established connection with them.
And further, besides these instances condescended upon, they habitually aggravate their abuse of the ordinances of CHRIST’S house, pretending to debar and excommunicate from the holy sacrament of the supper, many of the friends and followers of the Lamb, only because they cannot conscientiously, and in a consistency with their fidelity to their Head and SAVIOUR, acknowledge the authority of the usurpers of his crown as lawful. From all which, and every other instance of their continued prostitution of the discipline instituted by CHRIST in his church, and of that authority, which he, as a SON over his own house, has given unto faithful gospel ministers, to the contempt and scorn of an ungodly generation; the presbytery cannot but testify against them, as guilty of exercising a tyrannical power over the heritage of the LORD; and to whom may too justly be applied, the word of the LORD, spoken by his prophet, Isa. 66:5: “Your brethren that hated you, that cast you out for my name’s sake, said, Let the LORD be glorified: but he shall appear to your joy, and they shall be ashamed.” Wherefore, and for all the foresaid grounds, the presbytery and declare, that the pretended Associate Presbytery, now called Synod, whether before or since, in their separate capacity, claiming a parity of power, neither were, nor are lawful and rightly constituted courts of the LORD JESUS CHRIST, according to his word, and to the testimony of the true Presbyterial Covenanted Church of CHRIST in Scotland: and therefore ought not, nay cannot, in a consistency with bearing a faithful testimony for the covenanted truths, and cause of our glorious Redeemer, be countenanced or submitted to in their authority by his people.
Again, the presbytery find themselves in duty obliged to testify against these brethren who some time ago have broken off from their communion, for their unwarrantable separation, and continued opposition to the truth and testimony, in the bands of this presbytery, even to the extent of presuming, in a judicial capacity, to threaten church censure against the presbytery, without alleging so much as any other reason for this strange procedure, than their refusing to approve as truth, a point of doctrine, that stands condemned by the standards of the Reformed Church of Scotland founded on the authority of divine revelation. But, as the presbytery have formerly published a vindication of the truth maintained by them, and of their conduct, respecting the subject matter of difference with their quondam brethren, they refer to said vindication, for a more particular discovery of the error of their principle, and extravagance of their conduct in this matter. And particularly, they testify against the more avowed apostasy of some of these brethren, who are not ashamed to declare their backslidings in the streets, and publish them upon the house tops; as especially appears from a sermon entitled, Bigotry Disclaimed—together with the vindication of said sermon; wherein is vented such a loose and latitudinarian scheme of principles, on the point of church communion, as had a native tendency to destroy the scriptural boundaries thereof, adopted by this church in her most advanced purity; and which is also inconsistent with the ordination vows, whereby the author was solemnly engaged. This, with other differences, best known to themselves, occasioned a rupture in that pretended presbytery, which for some years subsisted: but this breach being some considerable time ago again cemented, they constituted themselves in their former capacity, upon terms (as appears from a printed account of their agreement and constitution which they have never yet disclaimed as unjust) not very honorable nor consistent with their former principles and professed zeal for maintaining the same. Which agreement was made up, without any evidence of the above author’s retracting his lax principles, contained in the foresaid sermon. Whatever was the cause, whether from the influence of others (as was said by the publisher of their agreement), or from a consciousness of dropping part of formerly received principles, is not certain; but one of these brethren, for a time, gave up with further practical communion with the other, namely, Mr. Hugh Innes, late of the Calton, Glasgow; while yet it was observed, that both used a freedom, not formerly common to them, anent the present authority, in their public immediate addresses to the object of worship; which together with their apparent resiling [drawing back] from part of their former testimony occasioned stumbling to some of their people, and terminated in the separation of others. Foresaid latitudinarianism and falling away, is also sadly verified, in the conduct of another principal member of their pretended presbytery, who has professedly deserted all testimony bearing for the reformation principles of the Covenanted Church of Scotland.
At last, after their declared interviews for that purpose, these brethren have patched up a mank agreement, which they have published, in a paper entitled Abstract of the covenanted principles of the Church of Scotland &c., with a prefixed advertisement in seine copies, asserting the removal of their differences, which arose from a sermon on Psal. 122:3, published at Glasgow,—by a disapprobation of what is implied in some expressions hereof, viz: “That all the members of CHRIST’S mystical body may, and ought to unite in visible church communion.”
Here is, indeed, a smooth closing of the wound that should have been more thoroughly searched, that, by probing into the practical application of said sermon, the corrupt matter of communion with the Revolution church, in the gospel and sealing ordinance thereof, might have been found out; but not one word of this in all that abstract, which contains their grounds of union, and terms of communion. Nothing of the above author’s recanting his former latitudinarian practices of hearing, and thereby practically encouraging, that vagrant Episcopalian, Whitefield; his communicating, which natively implies union, with the Revolution church, in one of the seals of the covenant; nor his public praying for an Erastian government, in a way, and for a reason, that must needs be understood as an homologation of their authority. On which accounts, the presbytery testify against said union, as being inconsistent with faithfulness in the cause of CHRIST; and against said abstract, as, however containing a variety of particulars very just and good, yet bearing no positive adherence to, nor particular mention of, faithful wrestlings and testimonies of the martyrs and witnesses for Scotland’s covenanted cause. As also, they testify against the notorious disingenuity of their probationer, who, after a professed dissatisfaction on sundry occasions, with the declining steps of said brethren, particularly with the disclaimer against bigotry, has overlooked more weighty matters, and embraced a probability of enjoying the long grasped for privilege of ordination, though it should be observed, at a greater expense than that of disappointing the expectation of a few dissatisfied persons, who pointing the expectation of a few dissatisfied persons, who depended upon his honesty, after they had broken up communion with those he continues still to profess his subjection unto.
And further, the presbytery testify against the adherents of foresaid brethren, in strengthening their hands in their course of separation from the presbytery, rejecting both their judicial and ministerial authority, and the ordinances of the gospel dispensed by them. And more especially, the presbytery condemn the conduct of such of them as, professedly dissatisfied with the above said left-hand extreme, and other defections of foresaid brethren, have therefore broken off from their communion; yet, instead of returning to their duty in a way of subjecting themselves to the courts of CHRIST, and ordinances instituted by him in his church, have turned back again to their own right-hand extremes of error, which once they professedly gave up, but now persist in an obstinate impugning the validity of their ministerial authority and potestative mission, undervalue the pure ordinances of the gospel dispensed by them, and live as if there were no church of CHRIST in the land, where they might receive the seals of the covenant, either to themselves or their children; and therefore, in the righteous judgment of GOD, have been left to adopt such a dangerous and erroneous system of principles, as is a disgrace to the profession of the covenanted cause.
 Mr. Andrew Clarkson originally belonged to the community of Old Dissenters under the pastoral inspection of the Rev. Mr. John McMillan, senior; was educated and lived in communion with them, till upwards of the age of thirty years; during which time he wrote and published a book, entitled, Plain Reasons, &c., setting forth the grounds why Presbyterial Dissenters refused to hold communion with the revolution, church and state; but, having no prospect of obtaining license and ordination among them, in regard they had then no ordained minister belonging to them but old Mr. McMillan alone, it appeared that, from a passionate desire after these privileges, he left his old friends, and made his application to the Associate Presbytery, who treated him as above narrated.
 Mr. John Cameron, then a probationer and clerk to their presbytery.
 These people, referred to above, very unjustly designate themselves such who adhere to the testimony for the kingly prerogative of Christ. They did at first, before their agreement with the presbytery, and ever since their elopement, do still profess to appear for what they call An Active Testimony, conform to the rude draft of a paper commonly known by the name of the Queensferry Paper or Covenant (see Cloud of Witnesses, Appendix, page 270). After their activity had carried them the length of avouching the most inconsistent anti-predestinarian, Arminian schemes of universal redemption, and not only to a total separation from the presbytery, and rejection of their judicial authority, but even to an open denial of the potestative mission of the ministers therein, and of all others; the most part of them were, in God’s holy and righteous justice, left to receive and submit to the pretended authority and ministrations of William Dunnet, a deceiver, destitute of all mission and authority, whom they were afterward obliged to abandon. In 1771, they published a pamphlet entitled, A short Abstract of their Principles and Designs. In this they cunningly evade the acknowledgment of our Confession of Faith and Catechisms, decline to own the doctrine of the holy Trinity in unity, and do professedly adopt and avow the hypothesis of the famous modern Socinian, Dr. Taylor, of Norwich, anent the person of Christ. According to which he is no more than "a glorious being, truly created by God before the world." This pre-existent creature they call a superangelic spirit; which spirit, coming in time to be united to a human body, makes, according to them, the person of Christ. A person neither truly God nor truly man, but sort of being different from both. The absurdity and blasphemy of this hypothesis needs no elucidation. Thus they idolatrously worship another god than the Scripture reveals, and blasphemously substitute and trust in another savior than the gospel offers unto sinners. In the same pamphlet they declare and publish their resolution to take some of their number under formal trials, whom, upon being approved, they might appoint and send forth to preach the gospel and administer the ordinances of it. And all which they have accordingly done, to the great dishonor of God, reproach of religion, and the profession of it.
And now, from the above principles and practices, the reader may justly conclude how unworthily these christians (if they may be called such) profess to stand up for the royal prerogatives of CHRIST. What an arrogant and presumptuous invasion upon, and usurpation of, the powers and prerogatives of this glorious KING, for any mortal to assume “to appoint and call men,” not to the work (which yet is all that the Church of Christ, according to the will of God, and her privileges from Christ, her head, ever claimed), but to the very power and office of the holy ministry, “and to install them in it.” Besides, that their doctrine as to Christ’s person, which denies his divine nature and sonship, saps the very foundations of that and all his other offices. We would, therefore, yet beseech them, by the mercies of God, “to repent them of all their wickedness, and to pray God, if perhaps the thoughts of their heart may be forgiven them.”