BUTLER COUNTY, PA., NORTHWOOD AND BELLE CENTRE, LOGAN COUNTY, OHIO.
OUTLINE OF PROCEEDINGS
SINCE JUNE 4, 1884.
BELLE CENTRE, LOGAN COUNTY. OHIO, June 11, 1885. At last meeting in Butler Co., Pa., three papers were illegally presented to the Court, two of them in respectful language. The third under the caption "Petition" was read by Mr. James Campbell, Clerk, though anonymous. In the so called petition, the writer charged the Court with "having dishonored God, and having brought a stigma on the cause." This open insult to the Presbytery was passed over for the sake of peace. The Moderator then appointed a committee to consider those papers, placing the aforesaid anonymous accuser and calumniator, under the name of a petitioner, as a member of said committee. This committee’s report was rejected by the Court, and the following resolution was adopted unanimously: "That the interests of truth and peace will be best promoted by ceasing to agitate this question; inasmuch as the whole subject is clearly defined in the first resolution of Presbytery in 1868, which fully accords with the action of this Court in 1865." Thus we have seen that last year the elements of a conspiracy began to appear. A Commission of Presbytery was appointed to attend to any business that might come orderly before them until next meeting. Rev. J.J. Peoples had come from the Seceders and joined our fellowship in the fall of 1853. About the close of the civil war, Mr. Peoples entered upon divisive courses and continued to walk disorderly until the year 1885. Although he had been twice solemnly admonished by the Presbytery not only for absenting himself in 1867 from Presbytery, but also for assigning, in 1868, contradictory reasons for absence the preceding year, neither of which was true, thus evincing want of candor. He was likewise admonished at the same time to abstain from the use of intemperate and even violent language in the pulpit thereafter. In 1866, he and the delegate from his session, arranged for a dispensation of the Lord’s Supper in his congregation on his return home from Presbytery which had met in Philadelphia. Immediately on the close of Presbytery, Mr. Peoples set out for home, with a perfect understanding that he was to go before Dr. Cunningham and Rev. D. Steele, who were to assist at the communion in Logan Co. Messrs. Cunningham and Steele arrived in time on Friday, the Fast-day, and found the people generally assembled at the usual place of public worship. Mr. Peoples was not there. Eager inquiries were made of Messrs. Cunningham and Steele by the people, what had become of their pastor. Among the rest, Mrs. Peoples, in an agony of grief, the tears streaming down her cheeks, approached Mr. Steele exclaiming, "Oh! Mr. Steele, where is Mr. Peoples?" He could not but reply, "I don’t know, I confidently expected to see him here." Thus he sinned against Dr. Cunningham, who had come all the way from London, to salute his covenant brethren in America. He sinned against his own congregation. He sinned against the wife of his own bosom, and chiefly against God. In these facts, the reader can see the true reason for absenting himself from Presbytery in 1867, for his conscience told him that he was liable to censure.
From the year 1859, and from time to time afterward, some of his best friends did privately and affectionately beseech him to refrain from the use of intemperate language in the pulpit. Besides, complaints in writing and even petition for disjunction had been presented to Presbytery. On these grounds, he had been admonished, and his promise required and given for amendment in the future. These mild measures tended only to exasperate. He soon after violated his solemn promise; and when a libel was framed against him, he denounced one of his members as his enemy. He proceeded yet farther, and declared the Reformed Presbytery no longer a witnessing body, and that they were doing all in their power to shut the mouth of faithful witnesses—meaning himself. And moreover it is not known to this Court that he has ever been honored since he entered on his divisive course in 1865, as having been instrumental in bringing one adult member into fellowship, while he has scattered many.
A libel in due form was forwarded to the Presbytery in Philadelphia, in 1869. He falsely denied that he had received notice of said libel, yet on the following Sabbath, admitted in the pulpit that he had had notice of it. The Presbytery fully apprised of these facts, with others already mentioned, and knowing also that he had been circulating libelous language against his brethren, not only through the bounds of the Church in this land, but also beyond the Atlantic (this last fact surprised a member of Court when made known to him by Dr. Cunningham) then deemed it high time to take cognizance of his disorderly course. Having escaped censure in 1867 by absenting himself, he acted in 1869 also as a fugitive from discipline. He was accordingly suspended at that date from the exercise of his ministerial office. From 1869 till 1884, he continued in his divisive and disorderly course, in avowed contumacy of the Court’s authority.
A young man, Mr. Charles Clyde, had been licensed in 1882, and travelled through the Church, supplying vacancies with general acceptance, and had been ordained to the office of the ministry the following year. Proceeding through the Church as before, he called upon Mr. Peoples at his house and afterwards boasted of having so visited Mr. Peoples repeatedly, contrary to God’s word in the following and other places; Romans 16:17; 2 Thessalonians 3:6, 14. "Now I beseech you brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences, contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them," "Now we commend you brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly and not after the tradition which he received of us." "And if any man obey not our word by this epistle, note that man, and have no company with him, that he may be ashamed." This unlawful intercourse between Messrs. Peoples and Clyde was afterwards imitated by Elder Mr. James Campbell.
The commission already referred to, met in the house of Mr. Peoples contrary to law, and along with other cases of disorder which they rectified in the usual manner, proceeded ultra vires to take up the case of Mr. Peoples.
When this Court next met at the call of the Moderator, at Northwood, Logan Co., Ohio, on the 10th inst., after transacting some routine business, the Commission presented their report in the form of minutes taken at their two meetings. These minutes, so far as they referred to the case of Mr. Peoples, contained much libelous matter against the Presbytery itself, justifying Mr. Peoples and condemning the Presbytery. The question then arose as to accepting the report of the Commission, when the Moderator decided against its reception. An appeal was taken by C. Clyde; the appeal was not seconded. Mr. Campbell moved that the appeal he sustained, and Mr. John Tweed seconded this motion. Said Tweed had been absent from Presbytery from 1868 till 1884, and had assigned as the reason of his absence, the want of means to attend the Court. He was now present, having been supplied from the pubic fund, through Mr. C. Clyde, with the necessary means of traveling, and so ready to co-operate in the conspiracy. It was perfectly natural for him when the Presbytery met, to co-operate with the aforesaid Commission in the whole course of their subsequent disorder. At this juncture, Mr. Campbell made repeated efforts by captious and ensnaring questions to throw the Moderator off his guard, or lead him into a personal altercation, but without success; the Moderator still maintained order. Failing to carry a motion to sustain the appeal taken by the aforesaid C. Clyde, it was suggested by some that more time would be requisite to consider this matter. The suggestion being acquiesced in, the Court adjourned till next morning at nine o’clock.
On the following morning the conspirators declined to discuss the question of the preceding evening. The Moderator signified not only his willingness, but also his desire that the complex question should be discussed, under his solemn protest against the illegality and disorder of forcing this question again before the Court’s attention; it having been solemnly settled since the year 1868.
The disorderly party having diligently improved their time had prepared a paper containing several preambles and one resolution. The resolution was that the Moderator be removed from the chair to which he had been elected by his co-presbyters. The Moderator expressing his satisfaction with the motion, immediately put it to the house. It was carried, with the assistance of the aforesaid Tweed, and of an aged, and we believe, godly man, known to his neighbors as incapacitated by mental infirmity. The house being in possession of the faction, the Moderator, accompanid by his fellow members, retired and met in the house of Mr. R.J. Shields, Belle Centre, where they proceeded with business in the usual manner. The members then present were, the Moderator, David Steele, James F. Fulton, Ministers; George Alexander, David A. Renfrew, Robert Alexander, Elders. Mr. Robert Alexander having been present at the opening of this Court on the 10thinst., and invited to a seat as a consultative member, is recognized as such at this meeting.
The aforesaid C. Clyde, and some others who had co-operated with him, especially during the past year, had furnished abundant matter in private letters and in public print relevant to various degrees of censure; but this Court knowing that "though all things be lawful, all things edify not," have hitherto foreborne to proceed against them in due form of libel, hoping that upon more deliberate reflection they may come to a sense of their manifold sins against their brethren, and against Christ. "For when ye sin so against the brethren, and wound their weak conscience, ye sin against Christ."
We grieve when we think that before our meeting on the 10th inst., we learned by letters that our erring brethren had declared that "the thin end of a wedge was already entered; that the next issue of the O[riginal] C[ovenanter magazine] would drive it in further; and it was expected that the next meeting of the Presbytery would part the pieces. May 8th, 1885, C. Clyde." Other threats were uttered that matters would come before the next Presbytery which would "make the ears to tingle." Alas! surely this is not language dictated by the Spirit of God, amid professions of respect, and under oath-bound obligations. We are sorry to "tell these things in Gath, or publish them in the streets of Ashkelon."
The late uncourteous and unbrotherly treatment of our Moderator, who for some years has been the oldest minister on earth in the Reformed Presbyterian Church, reminds us of the case of Naboth, who was "set on high among the people," and afterwards stoned to death because he refused to give up the "inheritance of his fathers."
The private letters of C. Clyde, and his articles in print since he became editor of the O[riginal] C[ovenanter] demonstrate that he has not learned the importance of the Fifth Commandment, as explained in the Larger Catechism.
Most of the funds belonging to the Presbytery are for the present, by violence, in the hands of those that have forsaken our fellowship, to which funds we declare this Court only has the legal and moral right.
It is recommended that our people observe the annual days of thanksgiving and fasting, the last Thursday of November, 1885, and the last Thursday of February, 1886.
Presbytery directs the ministers of ‘this Court, whenever and wherever they and the people may agree upon, to administer ordinances.
In conclusion this Presbytery solemnly warns and affectionately exhorts all under its care to beware of future snares such as have now been laid open before them, and conscientiously attend to their duties, and keep in remembrance their solemn vows, recently renewed.
D. STEELE, Moderator.
J.F. FULTON, Clerk.
N.B.—Mr. Peoples having failed to ask relief from suspension, the Presbytery would most probably, but for the tumult, have made the injunction of 1869 perpetual on account of his incompetency, disorderly walking, private and public slander of his brethren, and. chronic contumacy. But, inasmuch as his misinformed sympathizers rendered this orderly course impracticable, it is credibly reported that Mr. Campbell restored Mr. Peoples to his office and placed him in the Moderator’s chair, saying, "we have now got a Presbytery," thus profaning the divine ordinance of Presbyterianism. They have temporarily placed Mr. Peoples in the conspicuous position of a monumental figurehead; and Mr. Clyde, the only minister of the party, as yet in regular standing, has acquiesced in this outrage on social order and common sense.
The whole disgraceful scene of disorder and tumult reminded several persons of the career of a certain Francis Gaily, some forty years ago. This man having unsuccessfully applied for ordination to three denominations, usurped the functions of the ministry and dispensed the seals of the covenant, rebaptizing persons of three generations. He is said to have ordained elders, and then in return to have been ordained by them. No wonder outcast Ishmaelites and profane Esaus mock, while others mourn in secret. To all such mourners in this time of insubordination and social disorder, Christ still says: "In the world ye shall have tribulation; but in me ye shall have peace." "Be of good cheer, I have overcome the world." "Arise O God, and plead thine own cause."