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Database

1886.

James Dodson

MINUTES
OF THE
REFORMED PRESBYTERY.

NORTH UNION, BUTLER CO., PA.,

June 2, 1886, 9 o’clock A.M.

Presbytery met, according to adjournment, at the call of the Moderator, Rev. D. Steele, and by him was constituted with prayer.

Members present, Messrs. D. Steele and J.F. Fulton, ministers, with Messrs. J.J. Miller and George Alexander, Allegheny City; Robert Alexander, Philadelphia; James Anderson and D.A. Renfrew, North Union, elders. Absent, Hugh Rainey, elder.[1] Rev. J.F. Fulton was chosen Moderator and D.A. Renfrew Clerk.

Two omissions in the Minutes of last year being discovered, were supplied. Days of Fasting and Thanksgiving had been observed by all our members.

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

The following committees were appointed: On the disorders among us at last meeting, Messrs. Renfrew, R. Alexander and G. Alexander; on our position during the late war, Messrs. R. Alexander, J.J. Miller and J. Anderson; on defamatory statements about our ministers, Messrs. G. Alexander and J. Anderson; on the Signs of the Times, Messrs. Steele, R. Alexander, Anderson and Miller. Adjourned till 1 ½ P.M.

Same place, 1 ½ o'clock P.M.

Court met and opened with prayer. Members all present.

The Committee on the disorders of Last Year reported as follows:

Whereas, unreliable reports have gone abroad relative to disorders among us in June last, we deem it proper, without aggravating details, to make the following brief statements: That Rev. Charles Clyde and Mr. James Campbell, elder, did combine with Rev. J.J. Peoples, while he was under censure for cause, and avowedly contumacious, in an attempt to make a material change in our position: doctrinal and practical a position to which this Presbytery since its origin has adhered, amid much opposition and reproach from without: That to effect their unlawful purpose from within, the said Clyde and Campbell did obtain the co-operation of an elder from a distance, that when Presbytery should next meet they might have a majority of one; while two elders (perhaps three) of their prospective majority had no appointment as delegates from any of our sessions;[2] that the said Clyde and Campbell, being a majority of our Commission in attendance, did usurp the powers of this Court which appointed them. Rev. J.F. Fulton, their chairman, co-operated with reluctance, only because he believed that his refusal to act would be construed as arising from enmity to Mr. Peoples.

When Presbytery did next meet, instead of an orderly report through their chairman, Mr. Campbell introduced and read the Commission’s Minutes entire!condemning the Presbytery and justifying Mr. Peoples!! this, too, on very limited and illegal evidence. This anomalous document, containing an open insult to the Court, the Moderator of course ruled out of order. Clyde appealed. Campbell did not second this appeal, but offered a motion of his own, and without awaiting the disposal, either of Clyde’s appeal or of his own motion, proceeded to ply the Moderator with captious questions, to disconcert him, to lead him. into altercation, or to coerce him to change his ruling. To stop this disorder the Moderator said: "I cannot, in the chair, enter into discussion with a member of Court; but I am prepared to discuss this whole complex question, under solemn protest, before any impartial audience to their full satisfaction." This announcement nonplused the disorderly brethren, who, after a temporary pause, asked "more time for consideration." This was readily conceded, and the Court adjourned till next morning at nine o’clock. On the following day, and after recess, the result of more time "for consideration" appeared in a motion made, seconded and carried by the alleged majority, but real minority, to "remove the Moderator from his chair!"—without previous process in any form—an act of high-handed tyranny and an outrage on all order, perhaps unexampled in the history of Presbyterianism.

A crisis in disorder having now been reached, the Moderator, "giving place unto wrath," withdrew, following the example of Moses in the wilderness, who "pitched the tabernacle afar off without the camp" of a tumultuous assembly; and that of Paul, at Ephesus, who "separated the disciples" from a lawless multitude, that he might prosecute his peaceful mission in the school of Tyrannus.

After the disorders above recited, Presbytery again came to order, and proceeded with business in harmony and peace to the close, as indicated in our brief"Outline" soon after published.

We are well assured that the turbulent minority persevered in their disorder by the following announcement. Clyde, under the direction of Campbell, said to Mr. Peoples: "You are now restored to the exercise of the office of the ministry." Thus, by their own showing, the alleged restoration of Mr. Peoples was effectedwithout a presbytery; and consequently the essential constituents of a legal presbytery do not exist among them. That party having excommunicated themselves, no further action in their case by this Court is at present deemed necessary. "They went out from us . . . that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us." "We wot that through ignorance" their sympathies were misplaced to the troubling of themselves and others. But since excommunication is not penal, but disciplinary, we would still endeavor "in meekness to instruct those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth."

D.A. RENFREW, Chairman.

This report was approved.

The Committee on our position during the late war reported the following:

That no person may hereafter be deceived or misled as to the attitude of this Presbytery toward the National Government in the time of the late civil war, we do now, a third time, more explicitly, if possible, than in 1865 and 1868, assert and declare:

1. That any person in our fellowship who volunteered, declared his readiness to volunteer, or "paid money to hire substitutes," for military service in either army of the belligerents in the late war, violated our Testimony; which expressly prohibits such associations. Edition of 1876, HERE.

2. That the only case of this kind hitherto brought to the notice of this Court, was that of an elder in Miami Session, 1865. As soon as apprised of the neglect or undue delay by said session to use the divinely appointed means of recovering their erring brother, this Court did promptly issue an order directing said session to the exercise of discipline in the case; and also to take the same order in any similar case which might arise within their jurisdiction.[3]

3. That those of our members who contributed of their worldly goods to secure exemption from impending draft, acted lawfully as required in the sixth commandment: Neh. 5:4; Luke 2:4,5.

4. That all taxes imposed by civil or military power are of the same moral nature, although distinguished by different names, as toll, excise, custom, tribute, etc.,and may be lawfully paid; provided, that the tax be not levied expressly for an immoral or wicked end (—as the Cess and Locality in Scotland), nor demanded and paid as a test of loyalty to immoral power.

These are some of the principles sealed by the blood of our martyred ancestors, and transmitted to us by their legitimate successors in a bound-up Testimony and sealed Law—a document which for 125 years has withstood and survived the assaults of many open enemies, and the more dangerous intrigues and plots of professed but treacherous friends.[4]

R. ALEXANDER, Chairman.

This report, after examination by paragraphs, was unanimously adopted.

The Committee on The Character of our Ministers, presented their report as follows:

Miami Session Book having been cited as "documentary evidence," that Mr. Peoples had been instrumental in adding to our membership; we merely refer in rebuttal to documentary evidence more reliable; such as John 4:38, "I sent you to reap that whereon ye bestowed no labor; other men labored, and ye are entered into their labors." 2 Cor. 10:16—"Not to boast in another man’s line of things made ready to our hand."

No remuneration for instructing student Clyde in theology was, at any time, promised by this Presbytery to Mr. Steele or sought by him; his time and labor were therefore gratuitously bestowed upon him—published "receipts" to the contrary notwithstanding.

To cast off aspersions publicly cast upon Rev. J.F. Fulton, we declare, that to part of us he has been known more than forty years as sustaining an unblemished character; and to all of us for many years as a faithful minister. As to his pastorate at Brush creek, Adams county, Ohio, there are those living who then belonged to his congregation, and who testify that the defamatory statements published about him are devoid of truth.

Your committee have in their hands a number of testimonials from disinterested parties from which only the following extracts are selected:

To all whom it may concern:

We, the undersigned, who formerly comprised the Board of School Trustees for the town of Portland, Ind., most cheerfully recommend the bearer, Mr. Jas. F. Fulton, as being a thorough and competent teacher; an honorable and upright Christian gentleman; highly esteemed by all who know him. He superintended our schools for two years under our administration to the entire satisfaction of all concerned.

COURTNEY HAYS,

NELSON R. McKEE,

E.M. CROWELL.

We can recommend him * * * as a worthy and upright man in all respects, and a citizen that no community need be ashamed of.

G.R. McDANIEL,

Ft. Recovery, Ohio.

Clerk Board of Education.

Testimonials bear date 1878. All which is respectfully submitted by your Committee.

G. ALEXANDER,

Chairman.

This report was unanimously approved.

Mr. Miller obtained leave of absence from the remaining sessions of the Court, because of sickness at his home.

As the dispensation of sealing ordinances was desired by the congregation in this place, Presbytery adjourned to meet on Monday, the 7th inst., at 3 o’clock P.M. Closed with prayer.

Same place, June 7, 3 o’clock P.M.

Presbytery met and opened with prayer.

All the members present except Miller, absent on leave.

The Committee on the Signs of the Times reported. The report is as follows:

The names of Church officers in the Old Testament are by Christ given to the officers of his appointment in the New; such as "prophets, wise men, scribes," etc.Their functions and duties are therefore substantially the same under both economies, in so far as they bear on moral objects.

CAUSES OF FASTING.

Ignorance of God and erroneous conceptions of his majesty and revealed character are the immediate sources of abounding iniquity among all ranks.

The press teems with such an ocean of what is called literature, both religious and secular, that few find time to "search the Scriptures in obedience to Christ’s command." He himself said, "You do therefore greatly err, not knowing the Scriptures."

Breach of covenant with God, and also between man and man, seems like a moral epidemic, pervading all departments of society. Recognized gospel ministers are constantly changing their ecclesiastical relations, not by convictions of truth, but by less honorable considerations. Men often violate their contracts, apparently without any compunctions of conscience. Mutual distrust from want of trust in God, may be often seen in the embezzlement of the funds committed to men’s trust in Church and State; and also seen in the recent strikes in this and other lands.

The ordinances of Divine appointment have become gradually, and to most people insensibly, so overloaded and obscured by human inventions, as in great measure to make void the Gospel itself. A deep conviction is expressed by many that they need "aid in worship." To supply this conscious want, "they invent to themselves instruments of music like David; but they are not grieved for the afflictions of Joseph."

The only and all-sufficient help in the department of praise, God has graciously furnished in the Book of Psalms exclusively, and in the promise of the Holy Spirit. Very few any longer "receive, observe, keep .pure and entire all such religious worship and ordinances, as God hath appointed in his word."

The names, titles, attributes, ordinances, word and works of God are everywhere awfully profaned; and the Third commandment is also violated in books composed for instructing in sacred music, and daily in common conversation.

The Sabbath continues to be profaned by National authority, notwithstanding repeated remonstrances by the Christian people of the land, and the rebukes of the Almighty in his providence.

Neither age nor office is honored as required in the Fifth commandment. This neglect of duty is evident in the family, the Church and the State; and even some brought up in the Covenanted Church might, in this particular, learn from the example of heathens.

Besides the ordinary breaches of the Sixth commandment, in our degenerate age this sin is awfully aggravated by wholesale murder, as train wrecking, incendiarism, and explosions of dynamite in dense populations, especially where officers of the Government are present; thus defiling the land with blood, and provoking the Lord to anger.

Adultery, fornication, and other forms of licentiousness, are still prevalent in the land; and this immorality is greatly augmented by unscriptural divorce, and the toleration of polygamy in Utah.

Breach of trust by officers in banks, and others having public funds in trust, either for sacred[5] or secular purposes, are aggravated sins more common than in former times.

By reason of our depravity false and slanderous statements are laid before the public in matters both civil and ecclesiastical. These sins are aggravated even by bribery and perjury. Moreover, the breach of solemn treaties with the Indian tribes is a National sin not yet repented of.

The manifest unrest of society at large demonstrates general discontent with the orderings of Divine providence, and virtually charges the Most High with injustice; as though "the way of the Lord is not equal." The judgments of God, and the wickedness of man, are obstructing the wheels of commerce, together with all the industries of the land.

For these and other causes, we are called to mourn before the Lord.

CAUSES OF THANKSGIVING.

Notwithstanding many deserved judgments, God is still remembering us in mercy. King Jesus still "rules in the midst of his enemies," and as the Prince of Peace has been inclining many in high places to think of arbitration as a preventive of war. Conventions have been held in different nations, counseling arbitration as a preventive of war; and also urging the better observance of the Lord’s day.

The Scriptures continue to be translated into many languages, and copies of them are multiplied and circulated among all classes of society.

Although in recent years we, as a Presbytery, have been brought through severe trials, yet our Testimony, long continued order and usages have been preserved; and we have been permitted to meet peacefully and harmoniously in this place. Our adherents are more numerous and our distinctive principles more extensively known than when this Presbytery was first organized.

We still enjoy all the ordinances of Divine appointment, and they are dispensed among us occasionally, as often as our scattered condition will admit, to the edification and comfort of our people.

The labors of the husbandman are promising an abundant supply for the use of man and beast.

D. STEELE, Chairman.

The report was adopted.

The Court appointed the last Thursday of next November as a day of Thanksgiving, and the last Thursday of February, 1887, as a day of Fasting.

Messrs. Fulton and Anderson were appointed a Committee on the Signs of the Times, to report at our next meeting.

The congregation of North Union presented a petition for the moderation of a call, which was granted, and D. Steele appointed to carry out this object at the convenience of the parties.

Presbytery then adjourned to meet on the first Wednesday in June, 1887, in Philadelphia, Pa. Closed with prayer.

JAS. F. FULTON,

D.A. RENFREW,

Moderator.

Clerk.

N.B.—It is reasonably and confidently expected that all who favor the cause which the Reformed Presbytery seeks to defend and promote, will contribute their mites, in postage stamps or otherwise, to defray the necessary expense of printing and mailing the Minutes, &c. Send your contributions to H.M. Hartzell, Brownsdale, Butler Co., Pa. 

Footnotes:
[1] Mr. Rainey has, by letter, expressed his earnest desire to be present, and signified his sincere regret that the condition of his family prevents his attendance.—EDITOR. 

[2] This Presbytery, while its members appeared to act faithfully, did often admit to seats those who had no sessional delegation; but when plotting against truth and order became manifest, the application of the law of the house was imperative.—ED. 

[3] Miami Session evidently feared to assume the responsibility, and preferred, as usual, to roll it over on the Presbytery.—ED. 

[4] These principles are so clearly revealed, and their application so plainly exemplified in the footsteps of Christ’s covenanted martyrs and witnesses, that even some in connection with the R.P. Church O[ld] S[chool] made efforts at the close of the late war to have their brethren on returning from the army subjected to discipline for breach of covenant. These efforts proved ineffectual, because their leading ministers judged such persons "worthy of commendation rather than censure;" and there are yet some among them who think there still exists warrantable "Grounds of Political Dissent." 

[5] On hearing that the Reformed Presbytery had received a donation, one of our members immediately remarked, "I fear that money will be the cause of trouble amongst ourselves hereafter."