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A Vindication of the ministerial Mission and Authority of the Rev. Mr. M'Millan senior, deceased, and the Constitution of the Reformed Presbytery.

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A Vindication of the ministerial Mission and Authority of the Rev. Mr. M'Millan senior, deceased, and the Constitution of the Reformed Presbytery.

James Dodson

In a Letter from his Son,
The Rev. Mr. John M‘Millan junior,

to the Author of
Vindiciæ Magistratus.

[Extracted from pages 219-236 of Vindiciæ Magistratus.]

To the Rev. Mr. John Thorburn, at Pentland.

Rev. and dear Brother,

I Received your brotherly epistle, wherein, besides other things, you inform me that you had occasion lately to converse with some people who belonged to the Secession; and that you find, they, by the instigation of their ministers, make a great handle against the constitution of the Reformed Presbytery, particularly in respect of the two first constituent members thereof, as having no ministerial mission and authority; viz. the Rev. Messrs. John M‘Millan senior, and Thomas Nairn, both of them represented as deposed men; and the first of these, as having even acknowledged the justness and validity of his deposition, and therefore having no right to the exercise of any part of the ministerial office. And you tell me they are confirmed in these notions by a scurrilous pamphlet industriously spread amongst them, published by the deceased William Wilson,[Footnote 1] a good number of years ago, entitled, The Testimony deserted. For my own part, I would not choose to meddle myself, or even consent to the raking up of these old stories, were it not but that I understand that that same pamphlet of his continues still in many instances to do hurt, both to the dead, to the living, and to the truth; in regard that no answer having ever been made to it, it comes now to be credited as truth by those who are ignorant of these matters, and to be badly improven; upon which accounts I cannot help being of the same mind with you, "That it is not improper that some remarks should even yet be made upon it," both for the vindication of the presbytery, and of the deceased servant of the Lord so greatly injured therein.

Altho’, Sir, my present hurry will not permit me to enter into a particular examination of all the scandalous matter with which that pamphlet is stuffed; yet shall very shortly notice, what I think may be sufficient to prevent the stumbling of any honest impartial enquirer after truth, and this without proposing any formal answer to Mr. Wilson’s invidious libel, which I cannot think it deserves. Modesty forbids me to say what I justly might, in commendation of the rev. and worthy Mr. M‘Millan my father, (who many years ago went off the stage of time, in a full well grounded assurance of entering into the joy of his Lord) in respect of his known piety, zeal, faithfulness and constancy in the cause of truth, to the very last.

The deceased Mr. M‘Millan was resolved to have answered the pamphlet foresaid, immediately after its first appearance, but was prevailed upon to desist, by the general advice and persuasions of the people under his ministerial inspection;—insisting—"That his character was too well established, to be hurt by such bare-faced calumny poured out against him:" And alleging, from the known wrangling temper of the author of that invective,—"That an answer would only tend to embroil himself in a needless and endless contention, in regard, that should he write nineteen pamphlets on that subject, the other would write the twentieth."——This I remember to have heard one say, who was then present, and one of those who at that time advised him to desist from writing. Now, though I think it was a pity, that the injured should have been hindered from vindication himself and the truth; nevertheless, this judgment, and counsel concerning it, plainly evidences, that the community of old Dissenters, who had equal access, with William Wilson, to know the true state of matters, as to Mr. M‘Millan’s leaving the established church, and his ministerial conduct and behaviour among them, both of a public and private nature, were satisfied, that it was stuffed with such gross calumny, falsehood and misrepresentation as deserved no answer, but contempt.

It is pretty evident, that prejudice and causeless resentment was the reason of this publication. Some time after Mr. Nairn joined with Mr. M‘Millan, William Wilson desired conversation of them, with a view, I suppose, to union, which he obtained at different times; the last conversation they had, after a variety of particulars which had subsisted as matter of difference, had been talked over, and William seemed to be in a pretty amicable way, Mr. M‘Millan knowing that a fama clamosa was spread upon William Wilson in the country where he lived, which nearly affected his moral character, happened to enquire at him, What way he would take to vindicate himself from that scandal raised upon him, which, he said, he behooved to do before he could be admitted into communion, even tho’ other differences were removed. Upon which, the said William Wilson turning passionate and very angry, the conversation soon broke up, and the immediate consequence was, the publication of the foresaid defaming pamphlet, whereby it appears, that it owed its birth to prejudice and resentment; and of which, some of William’s former companions were so much convinced, that they very soon left him, and joined themselves to the presbytery. The performance itself, both as to the matter and form, is very agreeable to the spring and rise of it. When looking over William’s friendly letter, I cannot help thinking, that, instead of acting agreeable to his profession, as a follower of the meek and lowly Jesus; guided in this matter solely by the influence of his own spirit, he has copied after the pattern of the great accuser of the brethren; and therefore his performance deserves the same severe check, of A get thee behind me, Satan, which our Lord once gave to one of his disciples. Look over his letter from one end of it to the other, he has not so much as one good word to speak, not a favourable construction to put upon any part of the conduct of him whom he makes the object of his resentment and raillery.—For, (excepting gross immoralities, which he does not pretend to charge him with) according to his account of Mr. M‘Millan, one of a worse character can hardly be supposed ever to have filled the ministerial office.—He represents him as,—"A novice in religion, unstable in all his ways, proud, self-willed, self-seeking, affecting a lordly supremacy over God’s heritage; such a worldling, that for love of a little money, he would make merchandise of truth. A backslider, and obstinately engaged in a habitual course of defection. A disorderly walker, that strengthened the hands of evil doers, made sad the hearts of the righteous:—one that handled the word of the Lord deceitfully, and profaned the ordinances of the gospel, making no difference between the precious and the vile, either doctrinally, or in the administration of the seals of the covenant. A notour habitual covenant-breaker, despising the oath of God, when lo he had given the hand." &c. Such is the picture he draws of him, the simple exhibition of which, is sufficient to convince any sober minded Christian, that the man has wrote just as his blind fury and rage dictated, without regard to truth and sobriety. And I can freely submit it to the judgment of all that were acquainted with the deceased Mr. M‘Millan, that this is just a contrast of his real character. But passing these general ungrounded charges which have their foundation either in the ignorance or prejudice of the author; and to set the matter in a just light, I shall give a brief, but impartial account of the Rev. Mr. M‘Millan’s conduct and behaviour with the judicatories of the established church, from the time of his being ordained to the office of the ministry in the parish of Balmaghie, which I find to have been in September, 1701; to the time of his uniting with the community of old Dissenters, who had never joined in with the Revolution church, but were standing to the Testimony as maintained by the witnesses for Scotland’s covenanted reformation, through the suffering period of persecution, and receiving a harmonious call from them to be their minister; which was in the year 1707. And without regarding the unfair account given by William Wilson, I shall candidly state the matter as I have my information from the original papers, mostly all wrote with Mr. M‘Millan’s own hand, yet in custody. There would be little occasion for this, were it not, that the true narrative and examination of pretended answers to said narrative published by Mr. M‘Millan himself, are now to be found but in the hands of very few. The case was as follows.

Very soon after Mr. M‘Millan’s settlement in Balmaghie, he came to discover a warm attachment to the covenanted cause, not only in private, but also in public, openly opposing the general defection therefrom, and contending even in their judicatories for the reformation truths and principles: Tho’ this had not the desired effect upon them, yet I find that through the endeavours of some, more concerned for the interest of religion than others, the synod of Galloway passed an act October 21. 1702. wherein they profess their adherence to the true principles of the covenanted reformation, and appointed the brethren in their bounds to explain the National Covenant by catechizing and preaching, for the instruction of the people; and ordains, that the commission be desired to consider what ought to be done as to the renewing of said covenant, and the matter to be laid before the general assembly, where it would appear such a motion was knocked on the head, as it was no more heard of. Lame and defective as this act was, it is, I suppose, more than any synod in the national church has done since; however, it was not satisfying to all, and particularly objected against by the said Mr. M‘Millan, as not expressly specifying the Solemn League and Covenant; and I do not find any further notice taken of this act by the members of synod, save only that Mr. M‘Millan himself, after a considerable time spent in explaining the Covenants, preaching up the obligation of them, the duty of covenanting, sin of covenant-breaking &c. and having, with the concurrence of his session appointed a day of solemn humiliation and fasting, did thereafter solemnly swear the Covenants in way of adherence, declaring with reference to the civil state, that they adhered no otherwise to that, than it adhered to the covenants; and all in the parish were admitted to enter into this oath who willingly offered themselves to the Lord, and who after trial were found qualified in some suitable measure. It further appears, that Mr. M‘Millan, with two other members, gave in a paper of grievances to the presbytery of Kirkcudbright in July 1703, which grievances substantially contain an approbation of the covenanted work of reformation, and a testimony against the public national defections therefrom, craving that the presbytery would use some means to the obtaining redress of these, as wrongs and injuries done to the Lord and his work; but, instead of doing so, the presbytery dealt with the members who gave in the grievances, not to separate from the judicatories, but what they could not join with to protest against, and their protest should be recorded, which proposals, it would seem, came at length to prevail with the other two to give up with their contendings, as I find nothing more recorded anent them: But Mr. M‘Millan, upon mature deliberation, resolved to continue in a way of testifying against the defections complained of, and declared to his congregation publicly after sermon, that there was a sort of agreement like to take place, but for his part he was resolved to stand where he was, tho’ he knew the presbytery would proceed against him, as accordingly they did with great precipitation; and having appointed a presbytery at Balmaghie, under the pretence of a visitation, and Mr. M‘Millan to preach at the opening of the meeting; in the interim after making the above appointment, without his having any knowledge of their design, drew up a libel against him, and sent their officer to summon him to appear at their bar as a panel, and, at the same time, to read their libel at the most patent door of the church; but Mr. M‘Millan saved the officer his labour, and took and read it publicly before the congregation, obtesting every one of them to produce whatever they had to lay to his charge, either doctrinally or practically: And though, by their deceitful dealing, Mr. M‘Millan was laid under a considerable difficulty, by the two inconsistent appointments, one to preach before their meeting, the other to answer as a panel, yet he resolved, and accordingly did preach. After sermon, when the presbytery had got their libel subscribed, which was not done before, they then read their libel, but could not prove any article referred to probation; yea, after all, the presbytery offered to pass from their libel, upon Mr. M‘Millan’s promising to join them, and give over his contending with them any more, which he refused to do: And considering that his grievances were weighty, and matter of conscience to him, and no appearance of any redress to be obtained, but matters still growing worse, he therefore protested and declined the presbytery, and appealed to the first free and faithful general assembly of the church of Scotland. Upon the back of this, the presbytery rose, and almost the one half of them having gone home, the remainder who were most keen for pushing violent measures, went to a neighbouring church, and, together with two correspondents from Wigton presbytery, constitute themselves anew; and without regarding the appeal, or once acquainting either Mr. M‘Millan or his congregation, most precipitantly passed their sentence of deposition upon him; which sentence of deposition was not so much as pretended to be founded upon error in doctrine, immorality in life, nor insufficiency for the office of the ministry, or deficiency in the exercise of it; but for what they termed irregularities and disorderly courses, which were nothing else than his bearing testimony by public preaching, and before their judicatories, against the backslidings of the church, and all the sins of the times, so far as God discovered them to him: So that the true reason of this unjust sentence was his endeavouring to adhere to, and in his station faithfully to contend for the covenanted work of reformation, as it had obtained both in church and state betwixt 1638 an 1649.

But notwithstanding of this unaccountable sentence, (even some of that presbytery themselves being judges) illegal in its form, and wicked as to its matter, Mr. M‘Millan, being fully satisfied that he had not just reason to regard it as valid and binding upon him, went on in the exercise of all the parts of his ministerial work; the whole parish, excepting a very few individuals, continuing to cleave to him as their lawful pastor: Nor would the people ever deliver up the keys of the church to the presbytery, or to any that came to supply them as a vacancy, being fully satisfied of the injustice of their procedure against their own minister, but kept him in the possession of church and manse as long as he lived in that parish, notwithstanding of all attempts made by presbytery, patron and intruder to have him cast out.

As Mr. M‘Millan continued in the exercise of his ministry upon the footing of his protestation, but both he and the people meeting with much disturbance, especially on the Lord’s day, from those who came to supply; and as it was far from being a full presbytery that had hurried on the sentence, he and some of the people went down to a subsequent meeting of the presbytery at Kirkcudbright, and demanded if their sentence was unanimous, and if they continued to approve of it, or would reverse it; but instead of giving any direct answer to the question, their moderator summoned Mr. M‘Millan to appear before the general assembly in March 1704, and answer for his conduct; adding, that he knew that his appeal upon which he stood, was to none of their assemblies, and that he had perverted the people of Balmaghie into schism, &c. which citation he did not regard nor answer, and therefore got a new citation, and long libel sent him with an officer and two witnesses, to compeer before the commission in June at Edinburgh; and his attendance at that commission again in July following, was really such a snare unto him as Peter’s going into the high-priest’s hall proved to him; for there, through his own weakness, and the industrious flattering circumvention of pretended friends, promising all fair things; and that if he would but lie by from preaching a little until the following commission, he should have justice done him, and be reponed back to his congregation; and in the mean time let the presbytery have access to the church for supplying the people, and he might stay some time in Edinburgh, and not go home until he were reponed again; he was prevailed upon to subscribe their acknowledgements which they had prepared for him, namely, "That the sentences of a church judicatory, tho’ unjust, ought to be submitted to, and that redress is to be craved and expected from superior judicatories;" and so acknowledged it to have been his fault to contravene the sentence passed against him, and to decline the presbytery. Accordingly, after the commission, the presbytery appointed two of their number to inform Mr. M‘Millan’s family that he was to stay some time at Edinburgh, and to deal with the people to give them the keys of the church, and peaceably come and hear them, as they would expect their minister to be restored to them; which yet the congregation could not be prevailed upon to do; but the first entry that ever any of that presbytery had into that church was forced, breaking in at the window. This is the greatest slip and failure in all Mr. M‘Millan’s conduct, during the long course of his solitary strugglings and contendings with the revolution church, that his most virulent enemies can bring against him; and a great one it was indeed! wherein, through the deceit and subtlety of serpentine cunning, he was sadly carried off his feet. But that it went so far as to divest him of his ministerial authority which he had received of the Lord Jesus Christ, as Mr. Wilson and some others seem to think, is what I cannot be persuaded of. I rather am satisfied that the same grace and mercy which restored a fallen Peter to his feet, after a denial of his Lord and Master, did also happily recover him; and that his merciful Lord, by enabling him afterwards to his end, to make full proof of his ministry, convincingly discovered that he graciously approved and accepted him in returning to his work and service.

I think this may plainly appear from the following considerations.

1. That Mr. M‘Millan never did acknowledge the justness of the sentence passed against him, either as to matter or form. It is evident from the relation given above, that he always resented it as unjust before he went in to the commission, and acted accordingly in the exercise of his ministry: And even when he was imposed upon to make the above concessions to the commission, by the flattering circumvention of deceitful men, he never intended to give up with his ministry, or to own that he was justly deposed: therefore, as his acknowledgements were made in expectation of having that unjust sentence reversed, and his grievances in an orderly way redressed by superior judicatories, which he was made to hope for by the insinuations of false brethren; so they are evidently founded upon a mistaken and erroneous maxim in church politics, that has too much prevailed in all ages, namely, "That the sentence of an inferior judicatory, for even falsely alleged disorders and irregularities, and so past clave errante [Footnote 2], is to be submitted to for the sake of peace and good order, till a redress should be had from a superior judicature." Now, it is evident from the scope and tenor of Mr. M‘Millan’s acknowledgements, that he, viewing the above proposition to be just and agreeable to Presbyterian order, and so to the engagements that probationers are brought under at ordination, came to make the above concessions, viz. That it was wrong in him immediately to contravene the presbytery’s sentence, but that he ought rather, in a way of passive submission to church authority, (alias tyranny) for a little, to have applied to superior judicatories for redress, and have waited for their determination before giving any declinature. This appears plainly the amount of the whole; and which, tho’ it is a very sinful acknowledgement, and tends to advance church authority higher than is warranted by the church’s head, yet can by no means bear such a construction as his accuser falsely puts upon it, viz. "That he had laid down his ministry, and thereby stript himself of all authority." The justness of the above observations is further confirmed from Mr. M‘Millan’s behaviour during the short time of his silence, while he in vain waited for a justification of injured innocence at the hand of superior judicatories. I find by a letter directed to the presbytery of Kirkcudbright, after his return from Edinburgh, that while he proposes a readiness to unite with them, yet he was so far from having selfish ends in view therein, that he proposes it only on the footing of truth. He remonstrates against the justness of the sentence they had passed on him, declares that he will not acknowledge the equity of it, but testifies against it both as to matter and form; and craves it as a matter of right, "That they who had passed it, revoke it again, and vindicate him from all the aspersions he was unjustly loaded with." In the same letter he declares, "That he is not to be constructed as dropping any of the grievances formerly given in to them, but urges the presbytery to lay down some methods, and use some pithy essays [attempts] with superior judicatories, in order to the revival of a covenanted work of reformation, in all the parts of it; and particularly, that the first general assembly may make some acts declaring the binding obligation of the covenants, in opposition to these acts which declared them null, asserting presbytery, and, in a word, approving the whole of the reformation in the purest periods thereof;" and concludes with declaring, "That on this footing only, he will give what subjection the word of God requires of one in the station and office of the ministry." I find likewise from a letter, and a protest and appeal sent in by him to the commission in December 1704, that in both these Mr. M‘Millan remonstrates against the sentence of deposition as unjust, and declares, "That he never intended a justification of that unaccountable sentence by any thing ever he did." He declares, "That it was not the apprehensions of a bad cause that hindered him from attending the commission, but the just apprehension of personal hazard, from the malice of ungodly men: but that if he had security to pass and repass without trouble, and could he find the first assembly to sit at Edinburgh 1705, to be a free and rightly constitute court of Christ, he was willing and ready to follow out all the grievances which he had formerly offered, and that the whole process which concerned him, a capite ad calcem [from head to toe] be revised and judged by such a court, and both parties heard, tanquam in prima instantia." [as in the first instance] And, after retracting his former obligations to them, protesting against the validity thereof, and declaring his resentment of what he had rashly done at the former commission, he protests against the commission, because of their unfaithfulness to the Lord Jesus Christ, and to his church and people, in obstinately refusing to assert his truths and interest, and to redress the grievances of the Lord’s servants and people, on account of the manifold defections from covenanted reformation, and renews his former appeal to the first free, faithful, and right constitute general assembly, and concludes with protesting against all disturbance of him in the free and peaceable exercise of his ministry. It is entitled Protest and Appeal by John M‘Millan unjustly deposed. As also,

Much the same things are expressed by him in a letter to the following assembly, April, 1705, wherein he declares their sentences antiscriptural, and so what he could not regard, having no warrant from the word. From all which it appears that Mr. M‘Millan never acknowledged their sentences against him as just, and binding him up from the exercise of his ministry, but that any submission he yielded unto, was in expectation of justice done both to the cause of truth, and to himself. And that therefore, when he saw all doors shut against redress of grievances and wrongs, by the supreme judicatories of the church, he was at liberty, upon the footing of his first protest and appeal, to continue the exercise of the ministry he had received of the Lord, which he did to the conviction of many, and satisfaction of all the truly godly who were acquainted with him, and enjoyed his ministry; tho’ not without great and violent opposition both from church and state. Yea, were it proper here, I might evidence that none since the Revolution, ever endured such a degree of persecution, by both church and state, for upwards of twenty years that he continued in that parish, labouring in the work of the gospel, and all purely on account of his adherence to, and contendings for the covenanted work of reformation, against the prevailing stream of national defection; and yet through grace, was enabled to persevere to the end; which would further serve to convince every unprejudiced mind, that he was no such changeling in religion, as his false accuser would have the world to believe.

Mr. M‘Millan’s conduct in opposing the settlement of Mr. M‘Kee, in the parish of Balmaghie, as an intrusion upon his charge and labours, also proves the truth of the observation I formerly made. This was, I suppose, the first violent settlement made in the church of Scotland since the Revolution, upon the footing of Patronage. When the presbytery of Kirkcudbright found, that neither by crafty nor violence measures they could put Mr. M‘Millan out of the church of Balmaghie, nor alienate the affections of the people from their minister, they licensed Mr. M‘Kee, the patron’s chaplain, and sent him to preach thro’ different corners of the parish, and try by means to divide and break the congregation. That proving unsuccessful, they offered the parish their choice of any one that they pleased to fix upon, if they would give up their relation to Mr. M‘Millan; but if they would not comply, threatened they should get none but Mr. McKee; and accordingly they proceeded and ordained him at Balmaghie, when he had only nine persons besides the patron, in all the parish to own him as their minister. Against which unwarrantable settlement, not only the body of the parish protested, but Mr. McMillan himself went in person to the presbytery, when met for the above design, and gave in a large written protestation, containing a number of reasons, wherefore he found himself bound in duty and conscience, to dissent from, and protest against the said presbytery, for their vile intrusion, to testify against the designed intruder, and all who helped forward that intrusion: and protested, that this should be inserted in their records, ad futurum rei memoriam [for future memorial], and an extract given him; but which, to be sure, was refused. This was in the year 1710.

A 2d consideration to evidence that Mr. M‘Millan was in the lawful exercise of his ministry, notwithstanding of what William Wilson alleges to the contrary, is the unfeigned grief, bitter remorse, and godly sorrow which he evidenced for or on account of the sinful concession he made at the commission of the general assembly: his calumniator acknowledges, "That if he had fallen by the circumvention of false brethren, and immediately thereafter had given God the glory, by making a public confession of the same, and continued in the exercise of his ministry, a very favourable construction of what he did had been due unto him, and no good man would object it against him." Now, this was truly and literally the case with him, and not as the same person, setting himself in the place of Jehovah, and assuming his prerogative in judging his heart and secret designs, wickedly insinuates, viz.—"That it was a designed thing, for self-ends, to get the stipend of Balmaghie;" than which, nothing can be more false nor opposite to his prevailing temper of mind. All who knew him, knew that there are but few men so much denied to the world, as he discovered himself to be thro’ the course of his life. I have already shown how Mr. M‘Millan was circumvented and drawn into that snare, and how, notwithstanding, he never yielded up his ministry; and no sooner did his Lord turn and look back upon him with a compassionate eye, but he was made to weep bitterly. As his fall was of a public nature, and he had thereby wounded the cause of Christ, in which he was engaged; so he was not ashamed to make a public confession and acknowledgement of it. In his after-dealing with the judicatories, he still discovered his resentment of that step, and particularly to the commission, where he had been left to make it. He publicly declared his grief and sorrow for this to the world, in the narrative which he published; he did it to his people, and on days of solemn public humiliation; nay, there are yet living witnesses who can attest, that with grief and sorrow, he has declared,—"He would go mourning to the grave on account of that." And what more could any require? what more does the law of God require? I think I may venture to affirm, that he gave all the satisfying evidences of true penitency for that slip, that can be sought or expected of any penitent on this side time; so that by his accuser’s own words, his continued objecting thereof, unto him, stript him of the character of "a good man."

A 3d consideration which effectually confutes this invidious calumny, is the unjustness and unwarrantableness of that iniquitous sentence, which had no scripture authority to support it, as I have hinted above, and as appears from the whole of the process against Mr. M‘Millan. It was not because of insufficiency, error in doctrine, nor immorality in practice, that any church censures were drawn out against him. With whatever other pretexts they attempted to varnish over their sentences, in order to conceal their unjust, unfaithful and partial dealing; the true reason of his deposition was his espousing the covenanted work of reformation, and publicly bearing testimony against the Revolution church, her backslidings and courses of defection, with all other sins of the times. Now, this being the case, that Mr. M‘Millan was processed and sentenced for necessary acts of faithfulness, in which he was obliged to persevere, as he would be accountable to Christ from whom he received his mission, he was therefore laid under an inevitable necessity of disobeying the church, that he might approve himself faithful in obedience to Christ, and in prosecuting his necessary duty, agreeable to the apostle’s sentiments, Acts v.29, this is a consequence every one will grant, who is not disposed to advanced the church to an antichristian authority; an authority for destruction and not for edification. And whatever undue concessions Mr. M‘Millan was drawn into, through the unwearied importunity and imposition of men of corrupt principles, yet seeing he evidenced this to be the matter of his grief, and all along remonstrated against the validity of any sentence passed upon him, as I shewed above; and therefore, never meaned, nor could, in a consistency with his actings, be construed to mean, that absolute subjection to unjust sentences is lawful, when they are for express duty, but only that they ought to be subjected unto, when inflicted for things in themselves really scandalous, but falsely alleged to the party censured; neither their sentence, nor his own unwarrantable submission, can invalidate his ministry, and his after-acts of faithfulness, nor render him incapable of doing his necessary and incumbent duty as a gospel minister.

For clearing up this particular a little more, I would beg liberty to observe what is necessary to constitute an ordinary mission and call to the ministry. And divines generally condescend upon these particulars from scripture, as constitutive hereof: (1.) A gift or aptness to teach. (2.) The orderly trial and approbation of that gift, by them to whom this trial is committed. (3.) Singleness and sincerity of intention, in the person’s self. (4.) The concurrence of God’s providence in this matter. See Durham on the Rev[elation]. p. 45, and 46. So that an ordinary call to the ministry, is the lawful and orderly setting apart a person duly qualified and gifted, to the edification of the church.—Now such was Mr. M‘Millan’s call to the ministry, as valid as it could be in that time of the church. He was sustained as duly qualified, nor was the want of gifts so much as pretended in the grounds of any sentence he was laid under. He had a most harmonious and unanimous call from the people to whom he was ordained, and the generality of the parish still maintained their relation to him as their pastor, notwithstanding all that the church could do to break it; nay, I presume, he had God’s approbation of his call, both in the entry into, and in the continued exercise of the ministry, in his sealing his ministry on the hearts of not a few, evidenced by their declarations when going off the stage of time. But to all this it will be objected, that this power was taken from him by his deposition; yea, himself gave it up in his acknowledgments to the commission. To which I reply, That the objection is palpably founded on a gross mistake with respect to the office of the ministry, namely, That the ministerial authority flows from the church; whereas this is false: for altho’ that an ordinary call to the ministry is conveyed by the means of the church, both representative and represented, yet all that are truly called to this sacred office, have their authority immediately from the Lord Jesus Christ, the alone head of the church, and fountain of all church power. They are set apart to this office, and ordained by the instrumentality of the church, but only in the name of the church’s glorious Head and Lord. What the apostle says of his extraordinary apostolic authority, is true of that authority that all gospel ministers in an ordinary way are vested with, Gal. i.12, tho’ they receive it by men, yet not of man; and therefore no church has an absolute power to take away this authority from a gospel minister at pleasure, or divest him of his office. The case is far different here, from what it is as to civil offices among men. ’Tis true, when a minister, by a long course of wickedness, or obstinacy in error, evidences that he is left of God; that the church’s Head has disowned him in that character, then the church is bound to look into his case, and being satisfied that he has forfeited his right to the office, they are then in duty to lay him aside in the name of Christ, as one disowned of the Lord in that character: But it has been shewn already that it was entirely the reverse in Mr. M‘Millan’s case; he was sentenced for endeavouring to discharge his duty as a minister of the Lord Jesus Christ, which has indeed been the usual practice of the revolution church towards all that have appeared any way zealous for the rights of Christ, and interests of his church: hence, their sentence is null and of no force. Nor has a gospel minister any power in himself to throw up his commission, but must continue to exercise it, until his Lord come, and call him to give account of his trust. Now, it has been shown above, that Mr. M‘Millan never did give up with his office; so whatever promise he gave that was contrary to his duty, and could not be said to be in the Lord, was therefore unlawful for him to give, and consequently which he was bound to retract, and go on in the exercise of his Lord’s commission, which accordingly he did. It is therefore most unjust and unreasonable, still to throw up his fainting and failing in an hour of temptation, after his own voluntary public resentment thereof, as invalidating his ministry. It is exactly the error of the old Donatists, who unmercifully excommunicated all who, through weakness, made any yielding or compliance in time of persecution, however truly penitent they afterwards might evidence themselves to be.

I would only here further observe, That as the body of the people in Balmaghie, adhering to their first call, importuned Mr. M‘Millan to continue in the exercise of his pastoral office among them; so the united societies of covenanted Presbyterians in Scotland, who had all along stood out against the national defections, convinced of, and satisfied with Mr. M‘Millan’s orthodoxy in the faith, and fitness for the ministerial office, did, in the year 1706, give him a harmonious call to take the pastoral charge and oversight of them, and submitted themselves to him in the Lord. From all which considerations, I think it plainly follows, that Mr. M‘Millan had all the essential requisites to a lawful gospel minister; and in the midst of all the imperfections and weaknesses that attended him, was ever in the lawful exercise of his ministry. I need only further notice, in opposition to his accuser, that Mr. M‘Millan took not the benefit of marriage (which is not a church privilege, and so no part of church communion) from any but such as were in the way of making some appearance for the cause of truth, in opposition to the torrent of defection therefrom. And it is equally unjust in him to allege, that Mr. M‘Millan acted an inconsistent and contradictory part, after joining with the societies of Presbyterian dissenters, in the instances he mentions, viz. either as to his former session,—administration of sealing ordinances;—or in respect of the application of his doctrine against the public sins and defections of the times; against which, few have ever been more free and faithful than he. I shall conclude these observations on this scurrilous pamphlet, with an excerption taken out of a M.S. account of the observation of a private fast, on the last tuesday of August, 1743, by Mr. M‘Millan, left under his own hand, and it seems to have been with a particular eye to foresaid scandalous publication; for, says he, "the foresaid writer bragged he would expose me, blacken my character, and break my ministry, which was heavy to me; but on the day as above, the Lord was pleased to give me a kindly and favourable lift under my trouble, that it was entirely removed, in bringing these scriptures so powerfully and lively home upon my soul, Isa. xli.10, 11; Psal. xxxvii.14, 15. I had not the least disquieting thought about what that man had done, after that the Lord brought home these scriptures upon my soul." And, in the same account, he farther remarks, that when labouring under manifold discouragements, with respect to his ministry, the Lord had often made these scriptures refreshing and strengthening unto him, John xv.16; Heb. xiii.5, last clause; Mark xi.22; 1 Tim. iv.14, 16.

Now, dear brother, having answered what I apprehend is most material and plausible-like, in this pamphlet, as to any objection you say is brought by the presbytery’s opponents, against the first constitution of the Reformed Presbytery, since the Revolution. I need spend very little time in relation to the different sentences Mr. Nairn was laid under: the answers which Seceders think contain a sufficient vindication for their conduct in turning themselves into a distinct judicatory, at their first constitution, notwithstanding the censures they were laid under by the revolution church, will, I think, with greater truth, vindicate, in connection with what is noticed above, the first constituent members of the Reformed Presbytery, notwithstanding all the sentences passed upon them, their constituting of themselves into a judicative capacity, under the designation of the Reformed Presbytery, a title properly expressive of their principles, and ground of constitution, namely, a presbytery, the first since the Revolution, properly created upon the footing of an approbation of, and adherence to the whole of our covenanted reformation, from which the nations have revolted, both in their civil and ecclesiastic capacity; a presbytery not standing merely upon a testimony against some mal-administrations in the revolution church, which is the foundation of all the seceding judicatories in the land; but founded on a testimony against the revolution constitution of the church itself, as that includes a falling from, and opposition to the reformation constitution of the church of Scotland; and a presbytery constituted in an immediate dependence upon the Lord Jesus Christ, as God’s anointed King in Zion, the hill of his holiness, and without any dependence upon the revolution constitution, civil or ecclesiastic.

I shall therefore conclude this epistle with observing, as a proper and just inference from the whole, That the dastardly attack made upon the constitution of the presbytery, as discreditable, by a noted boasting champion, who lately issued out from the seceding camp, with a vain bravado against the truth and testimony in their hands, is a most vile, base, and unjust insinuation, deserving no regard but contempt, as it only serves to express the unrelenting malice of a dying opponent, who would gladly, if possible, reach a moral thrust with his last breath, at the Reformation cause in the hands of the Reformed Presbytery. What is above, may also serve equally to discover how unjust and groundless are the lying calumnies against the Reformed Presbytery, of some schismatical societies who have separated themselves from the truth, and standing upon right-hand extravagances, as distinct from all others, would pretend to send out ministers, in some kind of extraordinary way, namely, "That they who derive their mission from men, have no ministerial authority, but from the corrupt fountain of the indulgence and revolution church." This stigma they would fix upon the presbytery is bottomed wholly upon ignorance and prejudice; for it plainly supposes men and the church to be fountain of ministerial power, whereas, I have shewn before, that it flows only from the church’s Head.

So much in answer to your desire, at present; if any thing further is afterwards found needful, it may be added: mean time, that I may not longer encroach upon your other necessary work, and praying that success may attend all your ministerial labours——I am, Rev. and dear Brother,

Yours in all duty,

JOHN M‘MILLAN.

Sandhills, June 24.
1773.

P.S. As I understand you are publishing an answer in confutation of Mr. Thomson’s ill-natured, groundless attack upon the presbytery’s testimony, and which answer, from what I have had occasion to see of it, I apprehend may be of great benefit for the vindication of truth, and clearing up of several important points, which your antagonist has industriously clouded: if the above letter may be of any service to the cause of truth, in which we are engaged, I leave you at liberty to publish it at the end of your answers, if you judge it proper. This being wrote in a great hurry, it is neither so full nor accurate as otherwise it might have been.

Yours as above, J. M‘M.

Footnotes:

1. A person who during his life, was well known amongst the community of old Dissenters in the west and south of Scotland. On account of some personal failings, and some pretended instances of unfaithfulness, very unjustly alleged and laid as grounds of it, he deserted Old Mr. M‘Millan’s ministry as early as about the year 1713, in which way, with others which he carried along with him, he continued till his death in 1756, or 1757.

2. [This refers to a case where errant judgment is passed due to some defect in adjudication--through misinformation, inadvertence or malice. This sentence is understood to be one in which the judge exceeds his authority and is unjust and unable to bind in heaven. ED.]