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1840.

James Dodson

MINUTES
OF PROCEEDINGS OF THE
REFORMED PRESBYTERY.

AT BRUSH CREEK, ADAMS COUNTY, OHIO, 1840.

BRUSH CREEK, Sept. 8, 1840.

THE Reformed Presbytery met according to adjournment, and was constituted with prayer. Members present, Rev. David Steele, moderator, Rev. Robert Lusk, Messrs. Thomas Ralston, of Brush creek congregation, and Matthew Mitchell, of Xenia and Massie’s creek congregation, ruling elders.

Rev. D. Steele was continued moderator, and Mr. Mitchell appointed clerk. On motion, Mr. Lusk was requested to read the substance of a petition forwarded to the Synod of 1838; also the substance of a paper on the signs of the times, which he, as chairman of that committee appointed by the Synod of 1836, had prepared and forwarded to the Synod of 1838. The papers were read and laid on the table.

Mr. Francis Gailey presented credentials appointing, him a representative of those connected in the Safety League, which were sustained by the court.

On motion, Resolved. That a committee be appointed to report on the Deed of Constitution, enlarging on the general principles embodied in that document. Rev. D. Steele and Mr. Mitchell were appointed that committee. Rev. R. Lusk was added by vote.

On motion, the resolutions laid on the table of General Synod, 1840, by Rev. D. Steele, were referred to the above committee, to report thereon.

The Court, on motion, adjourned to meet at this place on to-morrow at 2 o’clock, P.M. Closed by prayer.

Same place Sept. 9, 2 o’clock, P.M.

Presbytery met agreeably to adjournment, and was constituted by prayer. Members all present. The report of the committee was called for. Not in readiness. Papers being called for, the following were laid on the table, read and numbered:

No. 1, A letter from William Wylie, of Baltimore, signifying his inability to appear in this court as a representative.

No. 2, A petition from the elders in the Safety League, and accompanying documents, asking an ordination.

On motion, papers No. 1 and 2, with accompanying documents, were referred to a committee, consisting of Steele, Lusk, and Mitchell.

On motion, adjourned to meet here to-morrow morning at 9 o’clock.

Closed with prayer.

Same place, Sept. 10, 9 o’clock, A.M.

Court met and was constituted by prayer. Members all present. The moderator was called upon to report his proceedings in correspondence, since the meeting in June last. He reported accordingly, and his proceedings were approved by the court.

The committee to whom were referred papers No. 1 and 2, &c., being called upon, reported. The report was, on motion, accepted and on motion adopted, and is as follows:

On the papers referred, Nos. 1 and 2, with the accompanying documents, your committee report:—The condition of the petitioners claims your sympathies. They took an honorable stand to maintain the integrity of our covenanted reformation and stay the progress of growing defection, when to them the state of things appeared to call for a faithful testimony, as is obvious from their "Safety League and Declinature." Your committee are alive to the interests of the people, and solicitous to meet their wants; yet judgment should not give place to feeling, so as in any measure to infringe upon presbyterial order. Too much care cannot be exercised, lest the ark should receive a wrong touch. We approbate the object of the petitioners, yet it is believed that they do not furnish a sufficient basis to proceed in regular presbyterial order, without a compromitment, in some degree, of your own faith. It is therefore recommended that farther action in the case be postponed until you shall have had a farther interchange of views with the petitioners. Seeing that patience is an elementary ingredient in faithfulness, it is believed that no injury can be sustained by any concerned.

Respectfully Submitted,

D. STEELE, Ch’n.

Moved and carried, that the powers vested in the moderator, in relation to correspondence, be continued till next meeting of Presbytery.

A verbal petition was heard for supplies from Xenia and Massie’s creek congregation—granted. The court adjourned, to meet here on Monday next, at 3 o’clock, P.M. Closed by prayer.

Same place, Sept. 14, 3 o’clock, P.M.

Presbytery met pursuant to .adjournment, and was constituted by prayer. Absent, Thomas Ralston. William M’Kinley appeared as his authorized alternate. The committee to whom was referred the Deed of Constitution reported. On motion, the report was accepted, and after being considered paragraph by paragraph, and amended, was adopted. It is as follows:

The committee appointed to report on the Deed of Constitution, enlarging on the general principles embodied in that paper, report—In performance of the duty enjoined, your committee deem it expedient and proper to furnish a statement of facts, in evidence of the general declarations contained in that deed;—and

I. DOCTRINE.

1. The preface to "Reformation principles exhibited," gave occasion for "two manner of people" in the church. This has given rise to many of the corruptions and evil surmisings which have prevailed in the church ever since the publication of that document. The term "Testimony" is not identical in its import with its former ecclesiastical use. The "historical and argumentative parts" are declared to be "no articles of faith:"—hence the twofold view taken of "occasional hearing and serving on juries."

2. The edition of 1824 furnishes proof of the growth of innovation on the church’s faith, wherein are omitted the doctrinal and judicial declarations of the former edition, together with the immoralities of the United States’ constitution.

3. The latitudinarian views, still in progress, became not only visible, but obtained judicial sanction in 1828, when the "Colonization resolutions" were adopted. Thus, violence was offered to the covenanted uniformity, and a sentence of virtual condemnation passed against those faithful contenders in the church of Scotland who opposed the spirit and principles of malignants—such as those in the interests of Graham of Claverhouse, Duke Hamilton, the Revolutioners, and afterwards the United Irishmen.

4. By continued operation of the same spirit and principles, the "two manner of people" became formally distinct and separate in 1833.

5. Not improving the experience of the past year, expressions at the meeting of General Synod in 1834 evinced opposition of sentiment and feeling among the members. Two antagonist, irresponsible associations, although based on the same principles which had been opposed by the church in former times, enlisted the feelings of several members, and elicited strong and contradictory expressions. And although the question on occasional hearing was formally before the Synod, it refused to recognise its own former faith!

6. The "transfer of patronage from the Colonization Society to the cause of Abolition," by the Synod in 1836, opened a door for the operation of the latitudinarian principle which had so often and so long corrupted and distracted the church, and eventuated in inducing to, and actual membership in the latter society, by many of the ministers, elders, and private members. The designedly equivocal language in which the 7th resolution was couched, was construed as a warrant to carry out in practice principles which, at that date, members were afraid to avow in open Synod. Consistency and design urged on to a strenuous advocacy of the practice:—Hence "two manner of people."

7. Numerous argumentative papers were laid before General Synod, in 1833, remonstrating and testifying against the aforesaid practice, and calling for the exercise of discipline upon those who had thus corrupted the doctrines and violated tho order of the church. The aggrieved were answered by contempt poured upon papers; reproach heaped upon character; insult and violence of hands offered to persons in open court: with a judicial declaration—"this question the church has never determined"!!!—the faith and practice of their forefathers, and their own plighted faith and judicial declarations to the contrary notwithstanding. Hence "two manner of people," both in faith and practice.

8. When in the year 1840 the matter at issue came before Synod in a variety of forms, a predetermination against judicial action was abundantly manifest. This is evinced from the following facts:—First, the Southern and Ohio Presbyteries, by judicial declaration, had stood for a length of time in an attitude of direct opposition before the world. From this consideration, would not every conscientious member come up to Synod with a determination to have the question thus at issue settled according to the acknowledged faith and former practice of the church? Second, the call made to ascertain the standing of the members in that meeting of Synod, which would have brought out the legitimacy of representation, and the members implicated in relation to the question at issue—thus applying the all important requisite to have a free court. Third, Walnut Ridge petition asked for a "scriptural argument, embodying the faith and practice of the Reformed Presbyterian Church, in reference to the voluntary and irresponsible associations of the day, such as the Temperance, Colonization, Abolition, &c. societies, consisting of persons of all religious professions and of no profession." Fourth, James M’Kinney’s Appeal, which had come up from the Session of Coldenham to the supreme judicatory, through the intermediate courts.—None of these courts was competent legally to issue the case, until purged of implicated members. Fifth, the W[estern] S[ubordinate] Synod, in its report to General Synod, declared that "on the subject of voluntary associations a variety of opinion obtained." Sixth, preamble and resolutions laid before Synod by a member; the first of which called for the condemnation of the practice, as being "unwarranted by the word of God, the subordinate standards of the Reformed Presbyterian church, and the practice of our covenanted fathers."

These considerations we deem more than sufficient to evince a previous determination, on the part of leaders in defection, to evade discussion and consequent restraint—and Synodical promise has become proverbial for some 30 years, as being disregarded.

II. WORSHIP.

1. Devotional Exercises have been introduced by and into the supreme indicatory without scriptural warrant or approved example, or any authority pretended from the subordinate standards of the church.

2. Continuous singing in judicatories and congregations, in violation of the plighted faith of the church, as contained in the directory for worship.

III. GOVERNMENT.

1. An Overture is laid before the church, covering the whole ground of her government, as though she had had no form previously, nor left any points for future discussion at the time of its adoption. From the fact of a general overture, the character of the time and the condition of the church; she is thereby thrown loose as to government:—and the "Deacon Question" is evidence in the case.

2. The delegation form of G[eneral] Synod was adopted without necessity, and of course, without correct principle. It was calculated, from incorrectness of principle, to operate to the disadvantage of the church; furnishing opportunity to corrupt Presbyteries and designing men, to keep back from G. Synod such men asthey knew to be opposed to the prevailing corruptions. Of this tendency, our own experience furnishes sufficient evidence.

3. Sub-Synods have existed, composed of two Presbyteries only; thereby setting one Presbytery against another in case of appeal.

4. Government has been repeatedly prostituted, by a redundancy of members in General Synod; thereby rendering VOID the proceedings of the court, according to constitutional law, or presbyterial representation.

5. The delegation system has been done away, and the Sub-Synods dissolved, in violation of presbyterial order: and it will be a rational and very important inquiry, to ascertain on what principle of presbyterial order the Synod is to meet as adjourned.

IV. DISCIPLINE.

1.Discipline has been exercised for carnal ends, as often at the time, and afterwards was manifest from malice.—Instance the cases of Graham, [James] Douglas, [Robert] Lusk, [Francis] Gailey, &c. &c. The case of James M’Kinney is flagrant; and the proceedings of Synod in reference to Miss King cannot be defended on the principles of presbyterianism. To enumerate the particulars, which might be insisted on, under the head of discipline, your committee deem unnecessary.

Respectfully submitted,

D. STEELE, Ch’n.

Moved and earned, that the ministers in this presbytery, in their public exhibitions and otherwise according to their station, instruct the people under their care in the nature and duty of public, social covenanting. Moved, that as the church is not in possession of her specific covenant deeds, that this court recommend the republication of the Auchensaugh Deed. Carried.

Whereas a publication, entitled "Guide to private social worship," being an innovation on presbyterial order, is calculated to supplant an authoritative document; therefore,

Resolved, That our people be, and they hereby are, warned against the danger of imposition.

On motion, Resolved, That when this presbytery adjourns its present sessions, it do so to meet at Xenia, on the first Wednesday of June 1841, and at the call of the Moderator in the intermediate time, at what time and place the interests of the church may require.

Mr. Mitchell asked and obtained leave of absence for the remaining sessions.

Court adjourned to meet at the house of Mr. Steele to-morrow evening at 6 o’clock. Closed with prayer.

House of Rev. D. Steele, Sept. 15th, 6 o’clock P.M.

Presbytery met in pursuance of adjournment and was constituted with prayer. Members present Steele, Lusk and Ralston.

Report called for. Reported in part. Moved that the report be recommitted. Carried.

On motion, the court adjourned, to meet at this place to-morrow 4 o’clock, P.M. Closed with prayer.

Same place, Sept 16th, 4 o’clock P.M.

Court met according to adjournment, and constituted with prayer.

Members present as above. The report on the resolutions was again called for. The report was read and on motion accepted, and on motion, examined paragraph by paragraph—amended, and on motion, adopted. It is as follows:

On the resolutions referred, your committee report—It appears this paper was tallied before the General Synod on the 24th of last June. It farther appears that from the circumstances in which that court was then placed, three resolutions were necessary. Corruption long in progress, and guilt accumulating, required a doctrinal declaration of the sinfulness of the practice which had for years obtained: an inquiry to ascertain the extent of guilt attaching, and a confessing and forsaking of sin, together with an engagement to the contrary duties.

The subject of voluntary associations had been already before Synod, in almost all possible shapes, as appears by our preceding report. Causes of fasting had been tabled in 1838. It became necessary, in order to terminate shuffling and growing corruption, to bring the subject in form and connexion directly under the cognizance of Synod. But management was still continued. The discussion of the resolutions was postponed; and design is still farther manifest on the face of the so called Minutes.—["Reformed Presbyterian," pp. 176,179.] However false the representation as to order, which is comparatively of small moment, the deception practised on the reader is all-important, and deserving of farther notice. The reader is given to understand that the resolutions referred to voluntary associationsalone; whereas this is true of the first only. And of the import of the second and third he has no notice. To detect imposition, make manifest design, and warn all concerned of the various and subtle measures resorted to:—a solemn protestation is entered against this method adopted in order to gain time, destroy truth and "wear out" the witnesses.

The second resolution covers the whole time from the publication of the Testimony, and embraces "sins of omission and commission, with which we are chargeable in our ecclesiastical relations." The "causes of fasting," tabled before Synod in 1838, shared in the policy of the day; hence the people remain strangers to the condition of the church, and ignorant of the causes of God’s controversy with them. With a view to furnish information, your committee offer the following specifications, as they were embodied in that document:

1. The church was, in this country, cast among numerous, undefined communities, with equivocal practical boundaries. Her Testimony was limited in the use of the term "testimony," and also her faith in reference to the same term.

2. Discrepancies and differences obtain between the old and new Testimonies. Important doctrines and facts have been omitted, and none of the former transferred from the declaratory to the historical part. This gave rise to painful forebodings and caused much dissatisfaction. Does the past history of the church evidence that the doubts and the fears of those who trembled for the ark some 50 years ago, were ill founded!

3. Promises and assurances by the Synod have been long before the people, concerning the Argumentative part of the Testimony, Book of Discipline, Directory for worship, Form of a covenant and of church government; and none of these documents yet forthcoming. How many of these are of a permanent and fixed nature, in whole or in part, and how many of a running character, in their provisions or component parts? How many of these does the church lack?

4. Acts have passed, unconstitutional in their provisions, and been unpresbyterially laid before the people, as though they were authoritative and binding on the conscience. Instance the "naturalization oath," "terms of communion," &c. The first, fourth, and sixth of these terms were materially changed, although never before the people in overture!

5. The highest court has been more than once illegally and unpresbyterially represented. See minutes of sessions in 1825, ‘31, ‘38 and ‘40, and also the court irregularly entered upon and proceeded in business in ‘23.

Inferior judicatories have followed the example thus furnished, slid also put forth power beyond the bounds of their own jurisdiction. Examples—N[orthern] P[resbytery] of E[astern] S[ubordinate] Synod, Philadelphia Presbytery, 1823, W[estern] P[resbytery] of W[estern] S[ubordinate] S[ynod] 1839, &c.

6. Courts, committees and commissions have been packed, to secure carnal ends. Instance, in 1825, ‘31, &c.—the commissions to the South and Walnut Ridge;—and the minutes, so called, abundantly testify the fact in relation to committees of General Synod.

7. Discipline has been frequently exercised, more as an instrument of personal revenge than as an ordinance of God. Judgments have been given, without the evidence of the case before the court; yea, the testimony deliberately kept back, although repeatedly called for; yea, parties prohibited from speaking in self-defence. Instance in 1823, ‘38. Aggravated cases of scandal have passed unnoticed, and violence and outrage, perpetrated in open court, have been assiduously palliated and unblushingly defended!!!

8. Persons, painfully defective in the necessary qualifications, have been brought into office. Mental capacity, literary and theological acquisitions, soundness in the faith, &c., have not been duly regarded.

9. Officers and members have been received to the communion of the church, excepting at the time of admission, to testimentary provisions: the rulers saying,—"it is true, such is in print, but we pay no attention to it;" or, "such will be left out in the next edition of the Testimony," &c.

10. A theological Seminary has been instituted, and from time to time organized, and the attendance of students enjoined, where, all things considered, they must be exposed to contamination, and very defective in what might be expected from such an institution.

11. The Synod has been deaf to the cries of the people; by petition, remonstrance, &c., and the records of her proceedings have been partial, mutilated, and, in many instances, kept back from the public eye.

The people, by profession, sacramental and covenant engagements, have their rights to preserve and duties to perform. Have they been in the trespass, for which God has a controversy;—by not guarding, defending and exercising their rights—conniving at, associating with, or abetting others in crime? They are deep in the trespass—are verily guilty. And,

1. They received a new-modeled, testimentary profession of their faith from the hands of those whose capacity, integrity, zeal and affection to the cause, were not sufficiently known.

2. They received their terms of communion, an abstract of their profession and engagements, from the same hands, in a mutilated form—altered in the 1st, 4th and last articles:—and that, too, at the expense of presbyterial order, their own testimentary declarations, the rules of logic, and their former faith! Were they presented in overture for the people's consideration? Do they lead the church on to perfection, by the more specific presentation of general doctrines? If so, why curtail the 1st and 4th, and add to the 6th? Is the addition to the 8th in accordance with logical precision? Did it occupy a place so prominent, peremptory and exclusive, in their former terms of communion? Is the 3d article, on the head of church government, not sufficient on this point?

Whether the right was improperly assumed, or thoughtlessly acquiesced in, of new-modeling the church’s profession, in polemic and testimentary form, it was, at all events, a solemn, arduous and awfully responsible undertaking. A contribution had been laid on the talent and integrity of Scotland and England, in general council, to furnish a public christian profession of faith for the British Isles, and that, too, of unauthoritative, general doctrine only. A tax had also been laid on the piety, experience and integrity of the Ref. Church in Scotland, in general, ecclesiastical assembly met, to examine the same public formularies; that in regarding their own duty, and the rights of the people, according to presbyterial order, these general doctrines might be made and become a system of sound doctrines and authoritative on the church of Christ.

This system of sound words was reduced in its principles, into a covenant form, in order to give a practical bearing and visible tendency to abstract and general doctrine. The National covenant, or Confession of Faith, didactic in kind, yet really of polemic aspect and frame—furnished an abstract of the faith and the practice of the citizens—the grounds of citizenship, and the reason and guarantee of their rights, civil and ecclesiastical. To the observance of the faith and the practice held forth and contemplated in this document, the citizen bound his soul by solemn and formal oath, that a threefold cord might not be easily broken.

Our reforming forefathers, taking into consideration the deplorable state of the church and kingdom of Ireland, the depressed estate of the church and kingdom of England, and the dangerous estate of the church and kingdom of Scotland, her present and public testimonies,—entered into the Solemn League and Covenant. Thus a mutual guarantee was given for the preservation of the Reformed religion in Scotland, and the reformation of religion in England and Ireland:—a joint opposition to their common enemies—and this sanctioned by formal and solemn oath.

The church of Scotland still made progress in the perfecting of her testimony, by particular acts as cases occurred, in the application of her general doctrines, and embodied all in her covenant, at the last renewal of the same in her reforming ecclesiastical organization.

The few faithful, who survived the wreck of the reforming and reformed organization, went forward, amidst trials, and in the face of strong and malevolent opposition, to perfect still more their testimony; by remonstrance, protest, declaration, &c., applying general doctrine to cases as they occurred, until in 1712, they "bound up the testimony" and "sealed the law," in due covenant form, at Auchensaugh, near Douglass.

These sheep in the wilderness, mindful of their faith and of their vows, continued to "prophesy in sackcloth," held fast their attainments, applied and exemplified doctrine; till in June, 1761, they bound up general doctrines in a polemic and testimentary form; embodying history, argument and doctrinal declaration—declaring their faith, condemning sin, and testifying against the espousers, abettors and committers thereof, by name and by deed—the sinner and the sin.

3. They have been unfaithful, both as it respects their own obligations and their own interest,—each being bound to be, in a certain sense, his brother’s keeper, whether in office or private life.

They have acquiesced in illegal admission of members into communion, where the necessary qualifications for membership were wanting; yea, the applicant excepting against constitutional and testimentary provisions of their faith.

They have received, as regularly and presbyterially introduced into the ministry, when the ordaining presbytery had no jurisdiction in the case over the person; or was acting without the bounds of its own juridiction, and the candidate was under censure for heresy;—and to the eldership, persons incompetent, ordained without election by the people, a timous reading of the edict or proclamation—and betted calumniation of individual character.

4. They have indulged in indolence, apathy, surmises and suspicious, in reference to the Theological Seminary and Minutes of Synod, so called: yet never rose, in the conjoint exercise their rights, by petitions, protests, or remonstrances, as the case might be, before the higher and subordinate courts, making known their grievances, in order to obtain satisfaction.

5. They have implicitly followed their rulers, in violation of covenant engagement, by incorporating with and abetting the voluntary and irresponsible associations of the day. They have witnessed, in apathy, the exercise of ecclesiastical tyranny, under the name of authority, and instead of being roused to inquiry, to ascertain the grounds and legality of the proceedings: they have joined with the prevailing party in pouring contempt on the persons, and defaming the character of the sufferers.

6. They have thus, in neglecting their most solemn engagements, suffered apostacy to be carried on by system:—they have witnessed in silence, the means in operation to procure the judgments of God in the distraction of themselves; and might have calculated on the destruction of the organization, though Noah, Daniel, and Job were in the church.—For such, let us mourn.

In order to reach the object contemplated in the third resolution referred, your committee recommend, that the foregoing specifications be adopted, as causes of fasting by this presbytery and all under its care, and that the 2d Thursday of March, 1841, be observed accordingly.

Respectfully submitted,

D. STEELE, Ch’n.

Whereas this court is apprised that a report has been and continues to be industriously circulated, that its members are the "patrons of slavery:" therefore, to manifest to all concerned that the charge is groundless and the slander malicious, as also to evince their integrity in the maintenance of this point of the Reformed Church’s testimony they unanimously adopt the following resolution,—That slavery, as practised in these United States, and guaranteed in the National Constitution, is a violation of the moral law, utterly repugnant to the principles of the gospel, and incompatible with the sanctified exercise of the active powers of the believer.

The following resolutions were adopted—

1. That the Synod, assuming to be the supreme judicatory of the Reformed Presbyterian Church, and all the judicatories and officers under its authority be, and they hereby are, prohibited from exercising any jurisdiction, or anywise interfering with this court, any of its members, or the congregations or people under its care.

2. That our people be, and they hereby are, warned against subjecting their congregations to the civil authorities of this land, by becoming corporate bodies.

3. That Mr. Gailey be requested to give the minutes of the present sessions of this court a place in his Magazine.[1]

Adjourned, to meet as above. Closed with prayer.

DAVID STEELE, Moderator.

ROBERT LUSK, Clerk pro tem.

Footnote:
[1] The Minutes have not appeared in that Magazine. Feb. 1st, 1841.