Letter Second to the Reverend William Fletcher, Author of a Late Publication, Intitled, The Scripture Loyalist.
OBSERVATIONS ON SAID PUBLICATION,
FURTHER VINDICATION AND DEFENCE
PRINCIPLES AND TESTIMONY
R E F O R M E D P R E S B Y T E R Y,
LATE MINISTER OF THE GOSPEL, CROOKEDHOLM,
PRINTED FOR THE BOOKSELLERS.
R E A D E R.
The following Letter contains in it some further remarks and observations, on a late publication, intitled, The Scripture Loyalist, by the Reverend William Fletcher. Those who have had an opportunity to see the late worthy author’s first letter to Mr. Fletcher, in answer to his twelve queries, proposed to the serious consideration of the Reformed Presbytery, and their followers, will observe, that his plan, therein laid down, was not fully completed. In his conclusion to said letter, he observes, that there were various articles, which did not so natively occur in answering the queries, and on which he meant to offer his thoughts at some future period. That he wished, particularly, to consider Mr. Fletcher’s attack upon the Reformed Presbytery, and their followers, concerning paying tribute to government; his assertion, that our solemn covenants oblige us to acknowledge even an infidel as king over these covenanted realms, &c. &c.
The following letter contains the author’s remarks and observations on these particulars. They were wrote by him soon after his first letter to Mr. Fletcher made its appearance in public. Various occurrences, however, coming in the way, prevented their publication for a considerable time. When this was about to be accomplished, it pleased the sovereign Ruler, and supreme Disposer of all events, to remove, by death, the author of the following letter, and, as there is every ground to hope, called him from the service of the church militant below, to be employed in a nobler and more exalted service, in the church triumphant above. This mournful event again retarded the publication of the following sheets; and, as a posthumous work, they, doubtless, meet the public view, under many disadvantages. They had only been once wrote by the author; and there is no doubt, if they had been published under his own immediate inspection, various additions and amendments would have been made. It was, however, judged proper, by surviving friends, that they should appear much as they were found in the author’s manuscript; and the public may rest assured, that, in the sentiment, or mode of reasoning, no alteration at all, and even in the language and arrangement, only a few corrections have been made. If the first of these, in any respect, should be considered as new, they are only to be viewed as the sentiments of an individual, whose praise, however, is in the church of Christ. Upon the whole, it is hoped, they meet the public view, in such a way as not to be unworthy of their attention, and that they contain a solid and judicious defence of a part of the church’s testimony, and the conduct of those in the management thereof, who would wish, under much weakness, and, in the midst of many difficulties, to be found adhering to the same. The author also intended to have added an Appendix to the following letter, containing some remarks and observations on Mr. Fletcher’s answer to his former letter addressed to him. But his Master’s call to another and more agreeable employment prevented this. The publishers, however, are happy to inform the public, that something of this nature may still be expected from a surviving Brother. It is true, controversial writings are not suited to the genius of the times. And some may be ready to think, that the present controversy is nearly, if not entirely exhausted. But whatever is in this observation, yet justice to the author, and, what is of infinitely greater importance, to the cause of truth, the unprovoked attack on the part of Mr. Fletcher, his candid dealing with, and illiberal abuse of them, who, as they would charitably hope concerning him, wish to overcome, not only by the blood of the Lamb, but also by the word of their testimony, are, in the opinion of the publishers, a sufficient apology, for submitting the following letter to public view. They consider the reasoning therein contained to be solid and judicious, its application striking, and what is seldom to be met with in controversial writings, much of the Christian temper and disposition pervading the whole. They therefore solicit, for it, an impartial reading, and candid consideration. Thus used, that it may be effectual, under the influence of the divine blessing, for convincing the obstinate, informing the ignorant, confirming those who are halting between two opinions, for promoting the cause of truth, union among all its friends, and hastening the arrival of the happy period, when the watchmen on Sion’s walls shall see eye to eye in the matters of the divine glory,
Is the cordial desire,
and earnest prayer of
L E T T E R II.
REVEREND DEAR SIR,
Sometime ago, I had occasion to address you by a former letter, containing in it answers to your twelve queries, proposed to the serious consideration of the Reformed Presbytery, and their followers. Therein I also promised, that you would probably hear from me again, and obtain my thoughts upon various other articles contained in your book, intitled, The Scripture Loyalist, which did not so natively fall in under the queries. If my former letter has reached you, what reception it met with, is not for me to determine. But its favourable reception from an indulging public, as well as the pledge I had formerly given, have induced me to address you again by a second letter. Its contents, and what observations I have further to make on the doctrines laid down, and principles contained in The Scripture Loyalist, shall be comprised under the following Remarks.
R E M A R K I.
Your harsh and violent attack upon the Reformed
Presbytery and their followers concerning paying of Tribute.
That the reader may have a full view of their treatment from you, I will take the very disagreeable trouble of transcribing the whole, consisting of two pages.
Scripture Loyalist, page 22. “That the Reformed Presbytery do not reduce their own principles to practice. In words, they refuse all subjection to the present government: in deeds, they are truly loyal; for, in their several stations they support government as much, by paying tribute, as the most loyal subjects in the nation. The Reformed Presbytery are so sensible of this, that in their Testimony, page 199, they do not testify against paying tribute for the support of government, but against a direct, and active, a free, and voluntary paying of it. The loyal subjects of the nation are here supposed to be sinners, because they pay tribute in a direct and active, in a free and voluntary way; and the Reformed Presbytery, and their followers, are supposed innocent, because they pay tribute in an indirect and inactive, in an unfree, and involuntary way. This distinction between a voluntary and involuntary way of paying tribute, is a most ensnaring one; or, to use the words of the Reformed Presbytery, it is a mere shift and artifice, and serves for no other purpose but to cheat their own, and others consciences. If this distinction hath a foundation in the volume of God’s book, no man can be under any necessity to suffer persecution for conscience sake; for, by an indirect payment of tribute to the worst of princes, and for the worst of purposes, and by an involuntary obedience to their most impious commands, we may preserve a good conscience, and escape the rage of the enemy and avenger. If this distinction be just, Protestants in popish countries may have a lawful and an early way to escape banishment, imprisonment, or a cruel death; an involuntary subjection to the idolatrous worship of the Romish Harlot, and involuntary prayers to angels and the blessed virgin, will preserve in the peaceable possession of their lives and liberties. According to this modern rule of Christian conversation, Daniel might have escaped the den of lions, by an involuntary refraining of prayer before God for thirty days. The three children might have escaped the fiery furnace by an involuntary prostration before Nebuchadnezzar’s golden image. Our noble army of martyrs, in the late persecuting period in Scotland, might have saved their lives, and preserved a good conscience too, by an involuntary prayer for the king as head of all causes civil and ecclesiastic. Disloyalty to the present civil government, is, with the Reformed Presbytery a great branch of reformation; but their involuntary way of paying tribute is a dead fly in this box of precious ointment, for it allows them to be loyal beyond all bounds of reason and religion. Were the present government to demand a taxation for the hellish purpose of rooting out the Christian religion in Great Britain, the Reformed Presbytery could easily shelter themselves from sin, under the wings of an indirect and involuntary way of sinning. To pay tribute to the present government must be either a sin, or a duty: if a sin, it ought not to be done, neither in a voluntary, nor involuntary way: if a duty, it ought to be performed with the whole heart, for the law of God requires no such thing as an indirect and involuntary performance of any duty. But absurd and insnaring as this involuntary way of paying tribute is, Mr. Thorburn, in his Vindicæ Magistratus, page 213, pretends to support it from Rom. vii. 19, 20. For the good that I would, I do not; but the evil which I would not, that I do. Now, if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. If these words are indeed a just foundation, for an involuntary way of paying tribute, a Christian may steal, commit adultery, swear falsely, and then tell the world that he is blameless: that it is no more he that doth, but sin that dwelleth in him. And the evil which he would not, that he did. Alas! that a teacher in Israel should so grossly pervert the words of the holy One. But if the present civil rulers are so bad, in the judgment of the Reformed Presbytery, that it is a sin to pray for them, surely it must be a sin also to support them by paying tribute either directly or indirectly, in a voluntary or involuntary way. Therefore, when they insinuate, that they pay tribute in an indirect and an involuntary way, they just tell the world, that they are indirect and involuntary transgressors. Certain it is, that this indirect and involuntary way of sinning will meet with as little of divine approbation, as a direct and voluntary way of sinning. If the Reformed Presbytery, and their followers acted according to their principles, they would pay no tribute at all neither directly nor indirectly, but would let a great person whom they call the robber of Christ take it from them by force.
Our worthy ancestors, in the late persecuting period in Scotland, were not so well acquainted with the science of metaphysics as their successors. They knew nothing of paying tribute in an indirect and involuntary way to a prince who was indeed a robber of Christ. They did not spoil themselves of their goods with their own hands of the robber himself, when taxes were demanded to support an army for suppressing the gospel. They took joyfully the spoiling of their goods, knowing in themselves that they had in heaven a better and more enduring substance. The Presbyterian Covenanter justly calls the distinction between a voluntary and involuntary payment of tribute, a jesuitical distinction; and here I call it a diabolical, yea, a blasphemous distinction, and an attempt to support it by scripture is no less so.”
I shall now also, subjoin the passage in the Testimony of the Reformed Presbytery, upon which you ground your charge. And that you and other readers may have a full view of the state of the matter on their side, I shall likewise transcribe the paragraph immediately preceding.
Testimony, page 199. “Again, the Presbytery testifies against, and condemns that principle, that the Christian people of God ought to give explicit acknowledgment of, implicit subjection and obedience to, whatever civil authority, (though most wicked, and unlawful) the Lord in his holy providence, may, for the trial and punishment of his church, permit a backsliding people to constitute and set up without regard to the precept of his word. And they hereby reject, whatever in opposition to the covenanted principles of the church of Scotland does justly, and in its own nature imply, a voluntary and real acknowledgment of the lawfulness of the title and authority of an antiscriptural, anticovenanted and erastian government, constituted upon the ruined of our scriptural covenant reformation. Particularly, they testify against praying for success and prosperity to such, in their stated opposition to the Lord and his anointed, or in any form implying a homologation of their title as lawful, swearing oaths of fidelity and allegiance to such, by a voluntary enlisting under their banner, and fighting for their support and establishment: and that in regard these are actions, as they express a proper and explicit owning of the lawfulness of that authority, which they immediately respect, so they are such as cannot be obtained without the actual consent of the party performing, and must therefore imply a deliberate approbation of foresaid iniquitous authority.
Further, they testify against a direct and active, free and voluntary paying of tribute and other dues unto such, and that for conscience sake, as unto the ordinance of God, according to his precept, and particularly, when these dues are required as a tessera of loyalty to such; or when required, as an evidence of a person’s active contributing to the accomplishment of some wicked action, expressly declared to be the immediate end of the imposition. Thus the case was in the time of the persecution, when the declared end of the additional cess, was the immediate suppression of the pure preaching of the gospel in the fields. As also, not only against professed witnesses for reformation principles, their prosecuting of their witnessing brethren at law before the courts of antiscriptural unqualified judges; but generally, against all law processes, in a way of direct counteracting any part of reformation attainments, or express homologating the authority of an unlawful judge; and, in fine, against all voluntary subjection, for conscience sake, unto such powers, as are not the ordinance of God according to his revealed preceptive will as contrary to scripture, 2 Sam. ii. 10. 2 Kings xi. 4, 17. 2 Chron. xix. 2. Isa. viii. 12. and lxv. 11. Rom. xiii. 1, to 8. 1 Cor. 1, to 8. Contrary to the acts of this church approving, and ordinances of the state, establishing the civil authority upon its scriptural foundation, and thereby discovering the proper object of a Christian people: voluntary and conscientious subjection; and particularly to the act of classes. While in the meantime, it must be acknowledged, that the state and condition of Presbyterian Covenanters in these lands continuing, as a community, to witness and contend for reformation of both church and state, that obtained, and was established, betwixt 1638 and 1650, cannot be regarded as that of a free people, enjoying their ancient privileges and liberties, but as that of an oppressed people, brought under the power of a conqueror, and no better than captives in their own land. As this was evidently the state of the suffering remnant under the persecuting period, when by the force of the sword, they were robbed of their former liberties, and reduced to the most deplorable condition: So, however the Revolution did alter some circumstances in the condition of Covenanters; yet, in regard it was established upon, and did homologate the overthrow of the Reformation, to which that people do still adhere, it could make no substantial change in their condition from what it formerly was. And moreover, as it is necessarily requisite to the constituting of the relation betwixt magistrates and people, that there be a mutual voluntary consent: And as the community of Presbyterian Covenanters did never at, nor since the Revolution, give such consent, but, on the contrary have, in the most public manner, protested against the constitution and instalment of rulers in agreeableness thereto, as being contrary to the word of God, covenanted constitution, and fundamental laws of the nations; as it is evident from their printed testimonies and declarations: it follows, that their state is that of an oppressed people, in passive subjection to a conquering power, whose duty it is to wait with patience upon Israel’s God for his return to revive his work, and recall the bondage of his Zion. And while, they are to take care to do nothing that justly implies their consent to the continued opposition made unto the covenanted reformation, yet ought to observe a proper difference betwixt actions and things as are necessary, and in themselves just and lawful, by a moral obligation, and those that are not so: as also, betwixt that which cannot be had, nor the equivalent of it, unless the person actually give it; and that which may be obtained, whether he actually contribute to it or not. Most applicable to this our present condition, are the words of the Levites, expressing the distressed state of Israel, which they had brought themselves into by their sins, as recorded by Neh. ix. 36, 37. Behold we are servants this day; and for the land thou gavest unto our fathers, to eat the fruit thereof, and the good thereof, behold we are servants in it: and it yieldeth much increase unto the kings which thou hast set over us, because of our sins; also they have dominion over our bodies, and over our cattle, at their pleasure, and we are in great distress.”
Now, sir, I have laid open the whole mystery of iniquity, before you and other readers, which you so awfully decry, as mere shift and artifice, jesuitical, diabolical and blasphemous. Let us now try the justness of the charge. From what is quoted above, from the testimony of the Reformed Presbytery; it indeed appears, that they did not know, that the application of the words, the powers that be, unto all sorts of constitutions, that in some respect might have the similitude of civil government; and all sorts of princes, not only the meek and gentle, but also the froward, that in the course of providence, have been in all periods and places of the world, did legitimate and convert them into the ordinance and ministers of God; as the Papists say, that the application of the words, this is my body, to the bread and wine in the sacrament, converts them into the real body and blood of Christ. Nay, notwithstanding all that you, and the other writers on the part of the Secession, have said concerning it, they cannot believe it yet, no more than they can believe the Popish doctrine of transubstantiation. And that because it is equally contrary to the dictates of scripture, religion, reason, and common sense; as have been fully obviated, in the testimony and its defence, and the replies to your queries, especially to queries 5th and 6th.
It also appears, that the improvement that obtained in the civil state, at the time of the last Reformation, is considered by the Reformed Presbytery as solemnly obligatory upon the nations, as well as the reformation in the church. And that not only by the word of God, because it was a nearer conformity to it, than at any former period; but also by superadded ties, in the solemn acts and laws, both of the state, and of the church, intended to reach unto, become, and rest obligatory on posterity in all time coming, and more especially in our solemn national engagements comprehending both. This also, was evidently the judgment of the Secession judicatories, when both in their testimony, and in the declaration of their principles concerning the present civil government, they testify against the evils and defections of the present civil constitution, as inconsistent with, and contrary unto that, which the nations were solemnly bound to hold, and remain in. And therefore, restricted their subjection, unto such things only as they judged do not homologate the complex constitution, and accordingly declare, that they cannot take the oaths to the present British government; because as they say, there is no oath to the government, but what homologates the united constitution, and excludes the oath of our covenants. Now, if the evils and defections of the revolution constitution of the civil state, called even the Secession judicatories, to declare that their subjection is restricted from oaths of allegiance, and consequently from things in connection therewith; it needed not been much offence, at least to them, if the Reformed Presbytery, upon the same considerations, had been led not only to make the same restrictions, but to declare some limitations in the case of tribute also. And one would have thought, that by brother testimony-bearers, they might have been tenderly borne with, even allowing that they had been mistaken.
The Reformed Presbytery justly considered, that the simple payment of tribute, or any taxes whatever, does not immediately affect the conscience, so as necessarily to imply a conscientious recognition of the just right of the imposer to such a payment; unless it is so stated, and expressly acknowledged by both parties. And thus the Presbytery was led to conceive and express the restriction and distinction, concerning such payments respecting the present constitution, on account of the evils and defections noticed above, in these terms, a direct and active, free and voluntary paying, as unto the former constitution, which was not chargeable with these evils and defections. And this is that absurd distinction, which you brand with all the infamous characters above.
There are innumerable instances however, occurring every day, in the course of common life, that fully verify this distinction. What person passes through the various scenes of life in this world, but is frequently meeting with such usage as affects his person, family name, or estate, and which he either esteems to be, or are real injuries in a greater or lesser degree, which, all things considered he submits to bear, rather than enter into a troublesome litigation with the parties from whom he receives them? but does his submitting to a peaceable bearing of such injurious treatment, necessarily infer his conscientious acknowledgment of the person’s having a just right to make such impositions upon him? or is such a submission direct and active, free and voluntary? or is it not rather a mere forced and passive submission, to what can only be called the best of bad?
This may be more particularly illustrated by an example or two. A person, supposing yourself for instance, to run an accompt with your merchant, you at length come to settle. When the accompt is put into your hand, the sum is above your expectation, and you judge the charge unreasonable, or it includes articles which you have no remembrance of having received; and consider yourself imposed upon, and hesitate to make payment. Your merchant insists on the justness of his accompt, and is ready to constitute it legally, and insists that you shall pay it in terms thereof. You are in the event obliged by a legal decreet to make payment, or upon second thoughts, good nature, and prudence dictates to you the propriety of paying, rather than incur the trouble and noise of either a mutual reference, or an expensive lawsuit. I ask, would your compliance simply to pay the accompt, as in the case supposed, necessarily imply your conscientious satisfaction with, and acknowledgment of the justness of the charge? or would such a compliance be free and voluntary?
In like manner an honest traveller, suppose yourself, is taken up by a highway-man, who claims your money, offering violence to your person, you are not able to resist, and you cannot flee, you find yourself obliged to part with your money to save your person; I ask, would your compliance simply to give the money, necessarily infer your acknowledgment of his just right to demand it? and would your submitting to give it in the case supposed, be free and voluntary, or the reverse? I am aware, that according to your masterly way of answering queries, exemplified in your replies to Mr. Newton, you will say, that these supposed cases import that our civil rulers are false dealers, and robbers, “both these are the fruits of a slandering tongue; and a denial of them will suffice for a reply to the queries. This treatment of civil rulers is not the fruit of the Spirit, which is in all goodness, but the fruit of a blind and indiscreet zeal; a zeal like the fire of hell which hath fervent heat but no light,” page 64, 67. Such evasions, and palpable abuse, are strong evidences that there can be little honour, and no satisfaction in reasoning with a man of such a temper. But I am at present saying nothing about civil rulers, but I am proving the reality and justness of the distinction which you unjustly deny; and I have something to say about civil rulers, and your conduct toward them in due time.
The above distinction is manifest in the case of the children of Israel in Egypt. Pharaoh prohibited them from going into the wilderness to do sacrifice to the Lord, and increased their bondage on account of their asking liberty to go; they complied with the prohibition, and submitted to the heavy yoke. But was it a direct and active, a free and voluntary submission, which implied their conscientious acknowledgment of Pharaoh’s just right of dominion over them; or the reverse? the reverse is most certainly was, for they cried because of the hard bondage, and the Lord delivered them out of the house of bondage, and from the iron furnace. During the time of the judges, the neighboring kings usurped and obtained dominion over Israel, while very much of their labours and effects went into foreign treasuries, and the Israelites were brought under subjection; but did their subjection and payments, necessarily imply their approbation of the right of the foreign dominators to lord it over them? or did they either understand or intend it so? the contrary is manifest, from their crying unto the Lord, who raised up saviours and delivered them. The same distinction is undeniably evident, in the case of the Israelites under the Babylonish captivity.
The Secession judicatories, and people themselves, state this distinction, and proceed upon it. This is manifestly and necessarily implied in what is said by the Associate Presbytery’s declaration of their principles, page 54. “However quietly and orderly one may be obliged to live, under mere usurpers, or habitual tyrants, yet there should be no acknowledgment of their authority as binding upon the conscience.” Taking no notice at present, of the inconsistency of this with their other doctrine, I shall only observe, that it is here necessarily supposed that there have been, or at least may be mere usurpers, and habitual tyrants; it is likewise acknowledged that persons may be obliged to live quietly and orderly under such; and yet that orderly life may be consistent with rejecting their authority as binding upon the conscience. What can this orderly life be, but a compliance with the common order of the community in its present state of police, such as using the common money as the medium of commerce, attending upon, and at the appointed times and places of public business, paying toll, tribute, and custom of all kinds, and to any extent, without limitation or restriction, as the usurper, or tyrant, may think fit to impose; and yet in all this, persons should not acknowledge their authority as binding upon the conscience. Is this a free and voluntary subjection then? no, it is passive; the person is obliged to it, not by lawful authority, but by the force of an usurper or tyrant, who has no authority. Do such payments necessarily imply an acknowledgment of the authority? no, there should be no acknowledgment of their authority as binding upon the conscience. Can there be a more clear stating of the distinction you deny? it is just the same upon the matter, as if the Associate Presbytery considering themselves in the supposed situation, should say, they testify against a direct and active, a free and voluntary paying of tribute, &c. to such, as unto the ordinance of God.
This distinction is in like manner stated, and proceeded upon by the Associate Synod on the Antiburgher side of the Secession, in an act concerning what they call church payments in England and Ireland, recorded in Mr. [Adam] Gibb’s display of the Secession testimony, vol. 2. page 125.; which I shall here transcribe. “The Synod resumed further consideration of the affairs relating to various payments, required by the order of civil society in England and Ireland; particularly from some people there, who are under the inspection of this synod: which payments are applied for supporting the Episcopal churches there, in their state of corruption and superstition. After some time spent in reasoning and deliberation upon this subject, with prayer for light and direction in the case: the synod agreed in declaring, that though the afore-mentioned payments are applied for the support of manifold corruptions and superstitions in these Episcopal churches, which we are essaying to testify against, and which all ranks of persons in these lands ought to be humbled for before the Lord, as being deep causes of his wrath against and controversy with them: yet the synod do not find a relevant ground for scruple of conscience, about submitting to civil authority in the foresaid payments; as if this could imply any homologation of the foresaid corruptions and superstitions, or of what application is made of those payments to the support thereof; while the payers are openly engaged in a public testimony against the same, and are not suppressed in the maintenance of that testimony, but are protected in the exercise of their civil and religious liberties; and the said payments are made, only in compliance with the common order of society.”
For farther illustration of this case, there is a footnote added, which I shall also here transcribe. “As hath been observed elsewhere, persons may reckon themselves safe in point of conscience, to comply with all simple payments (that is, payments without an concomitant declaration of consent to the uses made thereof) according to the civil order of society, whether statute or common law, in any country where they are enjoying the benefit of government, (no way like the case of our late sufferers, who were thrown out from the protection of government, and yet were required to pay a cess for the express purpose of hiring soldiers to kill them): without reckoning themselves any way answerable for the government’s application thereof: while they are otherwise studying honesty, with respect to public corruptions.
What of a person’s substance is required by common or statute law, as by the common order of civil society, cannot be reckoned his own more than the rent which is in a tenant’s hand can be reckoned his own: and consequently, the payment of it can no more infer an approbation of the uses to which it is applied by those to whom it is paid, than a tenant’s payment of his rent can infer an approbation of the debauched uses which perhaps his master makes of it.
Hard exactions were made on the Israelites in Egypt; and what of their effects and workmanship they were obliged to give up, was no doubt partly applied to the worst uses: but this was considered as their affliction; and their submission to such exactions was never charged on them as their sin. The Israelites likewise paid heavy taxes, under the Babylonish captivity; which no doubt were partly applied unto the worst uses of heathen idolatry: and they complained of this as a heavy trial, (Neh. ix. 36, 37); but they never confessed it as their transgression.”
This is the determination of the Antiburgher Synod concerning such payments. From the coincidence both of their principles and local situations, I have no reason to doubt, that the same distinction is stated, and practically proceeded upon by the Burgher Synod and their people, on the other side of the Secession.
Now, here we have an account of a payment, originally instituted and imposed for one end and purpose, viz. the supporting of churches that are corrupt and superstitious; the Synod takes it up in an entirely different view, and directs their people to pay it simply as a submission to civil authority, and in compliance with the common order of society. They abstract it in their own minds altogether from the sense and design of the imposers, and pay it in their own sense and view. In this way they consider and determine that with safety in point of conscience, all simple payments may be complied with. By simple payments they mean such as they can have a liberty to pay in their own sense; or to withhold a concomitant declaration of consent to the uses made thereof. By this distinction, they consider the payer as no way answerable for the uses the government may make thereof, while they are otherwise studying honesty with respect to public corruptions. This distinction they illustrate and support, by the consideration of a tenant and his master’s rent, the case of the Israelites in Egypt, and in Babylon.
Now, sir, can you say that there is no distinction stated here? Is the payment directed to above a direct paying? No; nothing can be more indirect, it is imposed in one sense, and payed in an entirely different sense, the payers could not comply with it directly in the sense of the exactors. Is this an active payment? No, the payers would never pay it, if it were possible for them to avoid it. Like the Israelites in Egypt and Babylon, they consider the paying of it as their affliction, and complain of it as a heavy trial: people are always passive under affliction and heavy trials. Is this a free and voluntary paying? No; people do not submit in a free and voluntary way to afflictions and heavy trials, they use all lawful means to avoid them. Is this method of paying, directed to as a duty to civil authority? No; the performance of duty may never be considered as affliction, nor complained of as a heavy trial. What is it then? It is just the making the best of bad, and endeavouring to have a conversation void of offence toward God and toward man, in a degenerate world, and among the snares and entanglements, the evils, defections, and backslidings of the church and nations.
To this method of payment, may be added the payment made to the established church of Scotland, though she is not a corrupt, superstitious Episcopal church; yet from the judicial declinature from, and testimony stated and managed against her, it is evident that she is such for corruption and defection; as the judicatories and people of the Secession cannot hold communion with her, and therefore cannot consistently, and with a safe conscience support her in a direct way, and so make their payments imposed for the support thereof, under the same distinction and restriction as their payments to the churches in England and Ireland. Now, sir, it is undeniable that here is just such a distinction stated and practised by the judicatories and people of the Secession, as that which is stated and practised by the Reformed Presbytery and their followers. I ask, is it of no use, but to cheat their own and others consciences? Is it a mere shift and artifice? Is it a jesuitical distinction? A diabolical and blasphemous distinction? And is their endeavour to support it by scripture, no less so? Or is this distinction just and proper, when it is used by the Secession, but absurd when used by the Reformed Presbytery?
If the simple payment of tribute and other public taxes, inferred a conscientious subjection unto, acknowledgment and approbation of, the government and constitutions by which they are imposed; then the subjects of one kingdom, would be the subjects also of every other kingdom with which they have any commerce, and conscientiously approve of their political constitutions too, however contrary both to their own kingdom and conscience. It would make a great part of mankind acknowledge and approve of that which they neither know nor understand; and the other part to acknowledge and approve of that which they know and judge to be wrong. It would lay an unavoidable snare for the conscience, and burden it with the guilt of other men’s sins. No man that would act cautiously, could make the least of these payments, without a previous process of scrutiny concerning the original institution of the tax, the present existing law for imposing it, the reasonableness of the sum demanded, the fidelity of the tax gatherer, the just and dutiful application of it, &c. &c. and after all, find great difficulty of getting at the truth, and if he obtained it, might find great reason for scrupling payment; and yet, by the power of civil authority, and the common order of society, it is impossible for him to avoid it. This inconveniency would not only attend the payment of public taxes, but it would extend almost to all other payments in the course of common life—how few of these but there are many circumstances of iniquity and injustice attending them; so that a tender conscience would be perpetually in fear how to proceed, and after the most circumspect care and prudence, be daily in distress with the thoughts of chargeableness with the guilt of others, while it finds that it cannot answer for its own.
Nay, the consequences of denying the above distinction in the paying of tribute reaches yet a more melancholy length, and will make all the martyrs of Jesus, who loved not their lives unto the death for the honour of his cause, to have been conscientious subjects unto, acknowledgers and approvers of the tyranny of their persecutors, and even of the very acts of tyranny, by which they were persecuted to the death. For, if the simple payments of taxes infer such an acknowledgment and approbation, much more personal subjection, or the subject of the body. If the subjection of the purse is significant, much more that of the man. The bloody bands encompassed round and apprehended the innocent Christian, and haled him to prison, to avoid greater inconveniency, abuse, and cruel sufferings, he walked quietly along with them, he remained quietly and orderly in prison, according unto the accommodations and regulations given him, he walked quietly from prison to the judgment hall, and from that to prison again, and at length from that unto the place of execution. The martyrs had just as much power to withhold their bodies their suffering, as the people of the Secession have to withhold their purses or effects when called upon to make church payments, or any other payer of taxes, and that is none at all. The one is subjected to the disposal of civil authority, and so was the other. If a simple subjecting of the former, recognized the authority by which it was imposed, and so in like manner did the other, and thus they, whom you call our noble army of martyrs, are brought in conscientiously acknowledging and approving of that tyranny which they declared that they had in conscience rejected, and neither did, nor were able to reduce their principles to practice.
I ask, sir, wherein the subjection of martyrs suffering for the cause of truth, under the hand of absolute arbitrary tyranny and persecution, differs from the subjection of the criminal malefactor, suffering justly for his bloody crimes, under the hand of the righteous law and ordinance of God, but in this distinction? The colour and form of law towards both are the same, and the circumstances of subjection in the case of both are every way the same. How then do they in point of subjection differ, or how are we to know that difference, but by the above distinction? The criminal malefactor, apprehended and legally convicted, and conscience convicted, and legally penitent, or having obtained evangelical repentance, has not only a concomitant sense of guilt and evil demerit, but a concomitant acknowledgment and approbation of the justness and equity of the law by which he suffers, and a concomitant consent unto the application of the law in which he suffers, and a concomitant declaration of that consent by the free and open confession of his crimes, the procuring cause of his suffering before God and man, even in the presence of the multitude before whom he resigns his life, in obedience to the law of God which he had violated. And thus, in the language of the penitent malefactor, says, I indeed suffer justly, for I receive the due reward of my deeds. This is a direct and active, a free and voluntary subjection to the objection of God: though it is passive in respect of the sufferings of the body, yet it is active in respect of the judgment and conscience. In the subjection of martyrs for the cause of truth, all these concomitants are a warning. Instead of an acknowledgment and approbation of the justness and equity of the law, they remonstrate against it as injustice, tyranny and persecution. Instead of a consent to the application of the law in their suffering, they remonstrate against it as the exercise of the highest tyranny and injustice; and instead of a concomitant declaration of consent by confession of guilt, they triumphed and rejoiced in the principles and practice of the truth for which they were called to suffer, expressly declaring their suffering to be most unjust, cruel, and tyrannical, which sometimes their conscience-smitten judges could not bear, but caused drums to beat to drown their voice. Now this is indirect, passive, and involuntary subjection. If you or any other should say, that the martyrs submitted freely and voluntarily; if it be meant that they did so in reference to the law by which they suffered, then it is just as much as to say that they suffered as evil-doers, and busy bodies in other men’s matters. They suffered freely and voluntarily in reference to the will of God whereby they were called to bear witness to his truth, and receive the crown of martyrdom. To deny the above the distinction, therefore, is to destroy the distinction between the unjust sufferings and death of the martyrs, and the just sufferings and death of the martyrs, and the just sufferings and death of the martyrs, and the just sufferings and death of criminal malefactors, putting them on a level, burying the testimony of the martyrs, and doing the highest injury unto their memory.
The martyrs of Jesus are said to overcome by the blood of the Lamb, and the word of their testimony, Rev. xii. 11. By the blood of the Lamb, they obtained grace to be faithful in giving the word of their testimony to the truth, and directing it against such principles and practices as were contrary to his word and kingdom. In this world it has ordinarily been the case, that the followers of Jesus have had no more in their power to do, for his cause and kingdom, but to give the word of their testimony. They ordinarily have no influence either by power or persuasion to remove those evils that are contrary unto it: their goods, bodies, and lives are generally at the disposal of the world, or what you call civil authority, and the common order of society, and are often rendered subservient to those very evils against which the word of their testimony is directed; and when this is the case, all they can do, is to declare the withholding of their concomitant consent to the application of their goods, to the immediate promoting or supporting of the said evils; or to declare that they give them under another and entirely different consideration than that for which they are imposed and applied. Now, this is exactly exemplified in the case of the people of the Secession with the corrupt, superstitious Episcopal churches of England and Ireland: they have directed the word of their testimony against them, yet their goods are imposed and applied directly and immediately to support them contrary to the word of their testimony, nor is it in their power to prevent this; neither have they influence by power or persuasion to remove these evils. All therefore that is left for them to do is, to declare that they withhold a concomitant consent to their being applied to support said evils, and that they give them not in that consideration at all, but under an entirely different view, namely, a compliance with civil authority, and the common order of society.
Now, after the judicatories and people of the Secession, have determined to proceed in this way, in the management of their Testimony, concerning paying tithes or tribute to the ecclesiastic part of the constitution, what ground can there be for their censure upon the Reformed Presbytery and their people, for managing their testimony in the same manner with regard to civil tribute, applied to the civil part of the constitution? If the one involves an absurdity, and invalidates their testimony, so in like manner must the other. If the method adopted by the Secession, for managing their testimony, as above, is proper and consistent, I confess, I cannot see how the other should be rejected. Even allowing the Reformed Presbytery to be wrong, in carrying their testimony too far; yet this cannot be a just exception against it; their error must be proved by some other argument. If their method of managing their testimony annuls it, not only must the Secession testimony be annulled by their method of managing it, but indeed all testimony-bearing must be at an end; nor was there ever any proper or consistent method of bearing testimony in times past. These things being duly considered, it is truly astonishing to see, with what audacity and confidence, one society of professed testimony-bearers can upbraid, stigmatize, reproach, and abuse another society, for that which they are strenuously maintaining, and daily practicing themselves. Peculiarly applicable here are our Saviour’s words: Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye. Matth. vii. 5. And in like manner the words of the apostle, Therefore thou art inexcusable, O man, whosoever thou art, that judgest, for wherein thou judgest another, thou condemnest thyself; for thou that judgest dost the same things.
I know not that any government ever stated the paying of tribute or taxes, as a test of conscientious subjection to, and approbation of, their constitution and administration. The British government have not done it; if they were to do it, the people of the Secession would be as hard bestead to keep a safe conscience, in consistency with their own principles and testimony, as the Reformed Presbytery. The Associate Presbytery easily saw this; and therefore they cautiously restricted the test of a conscientious subjection to, and approbation of, the constitution, unto oaths of allegiance, &c. whereby they saw that there might be some possibility of escaping, and did not risk the safety of their consciences in the broad and boundless field of tribute, and all taxations imposed, or that might be imposed, in which they saw danger absolutely unavoidable. Is the danger of consciences, from test oaths, allegiance, custom house and excise oaths, not great enough? justly complained of, and regretted even by the Secession; but they must explain the whole range of civil payments into so many tests of conscience also, just for the sake of a speculative entanglement of the Reformed Presbytery, and their people, while they are thereby laying a trap for their own feet, and digging a pit for themselves to fall into.
The rejecting the just and necessary distinction between voluntary and involuntary, concerning actions attended with sin, and sinful cases and circumstances, either from the party by whom they are done, or from the party toward, and with whom they are done, amounts unto a rejection of the distinction stated by the divine law, between sins of presumption, and sins of ignorance, the latter including actions attended with sin, done through infirmity, or some overpowering influence, internal or external, whereby the person might be drawn away, and the former expressive of such sinful actions, as the person went deliberately into, actively, freely, and voluntarily. By the divine law, sinful actions of ignorance, infirmity, &c. came within the compass of pardon, and a sacrifice was appointed for them, but sins of presumption were excluded. If we sin wilfully, after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, Heb. x. 26. The rejecting of this distinction, in like manner, manifestly amounts unto a denying of what the apostle says, of his own sense and experience, of what passed in his own mind and conscience, concerning his actions and conduct, Rom. vii. 19, 20. For the good that I would I do not; but the evil which I would not, that I do. Now, if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. Here he most manifestly distinguisheth between what was voluntary and involuntary, with regard to his own conduct. Now, Mr. Thorburn adduced these words of the apostle, to support the above distinction, which Mr. Thomson had called a jesuitical distinction; and you, without ever taking the smallest notice of what he says concerning them, in your usual unfair and unjust way, run away with them thus: “If these words are indeed a just foundation for an involuntary way of paying tribute, a true Christian may steal, commit adultery, swear falsely, and then tell the world that he is blameless.” And then you put on a grave face, and, with great pretence of solemn seriousness, say, “Alas! That a teacher in Israel should so grossly pervert the words of the holy One.” It is, no doubt, affecting to every serious mind, to see the words of the holy One injured. But, my dear Sir, where is the injustice here; let the words of Mr. Thorburn speak for themselves. Is Mr. Thomson’s calling it a jesuitical distinction; he says, page above quoted, “Now, at this rate, every Christian must, both in his principle and practice, be a JESUIT; yea, the apostle Paul himself must be a notoriously confessed jesuit, since he tells us, that, under the prevailing force of the power or law of sin which was in his members, The good that he would, that he did not; but the evil that he would not, that he did, Rom. vii. 19. And, at the same time, maintain this distinction in his very next words, Now, if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.” Pray, Sirs, where is the perversion here! is not this distinction clearly stated in the apostle’s words? It is just the same, as if he had said, the good that I would have voluntarily done, I did it not; and the evil which I would not voluntarily have done, that I did. Now, if I do that I would not, in an involuntary way, it is no more I, &c. The same distinction is stated by the apostle, 1 Cor. ix. 17. For, if I do this thing willingly, I have a reward: but if against my will, &c. Again, 1 Peter v. 2. Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly, &c. For this they willingly are ignorant of, &c. 2 Peter iii. 5. For if we sin willingly, &c. Heb. x. 26. It would be endless to quote the scriptures from both Old and New Testaments, stating this distinction; nor is it necessary; for what account can be given of human actions and conduct, whether in writing or conversation, but what states the distinction between voluntary and involuntary? and if there is no distinction of this kind, man is no more a moral agent: and it is not easy to say, what puts it into the heads of men to deny it, if it be not to support a senseless wrangle.
Well, but say you, “If these words are indeed a just foundation for an involuntary way of paying tribute, a true Christian may steal, &c. and say he is blameless.” Mr. Thorburn, Sir, did not adduce these words as a just foundation of paying tribute, either voluntarily and involuntarily, nor yet as a foundation for the distinction, but as a just evidence of that distinction. And he might have referred to the whole sacred volume in general, and to all human writings, as the undeniable and standing evidence of such a distinction. The foundation of the distinction between voluntary and involuntary is in the moral nature of man, and inseparable from it. The Presbyterian Covenanter, and you, who are excellent at drawing inferences, may say, therefore mankind have a jesuitical nature. The Reformed Presbytery, and likewise the apostle Paul, speak of cases and circumstances, in the present degenerate state of the world, and of human nature, wherein Christians may, by the prevalence of an overpowering force, be drawn into actions and conduct, which are contrary to their judgment and conscience; and therefore what they would not voluntarily, and upon choice do. From this you infer, that true Christians may voluntarily steal, commit adultery, and swear falsely, which are the highest acts of wickedness; and that after they have done so, they may lie about the matter, and say they did it involuntarily. If the man that draws such an inference has a clear judgment, he has certainly a most deceitful heart. If this is indeed a just inference, the apostle Paul was a jesuitical quibbler, and a double falsifier; for, if there is no distinction to be made between voluntary and involuntary, he falsified in making such a distinction; and he falsified, in telling the world, that he did things that he would not, while yet they were the things that he would. Examine, Sir, upon whom your charge of grossly perverting the words of the holy One turns. You are highly qualified for disputation: you can make everything arguments, and from anything, infer anything. But we shall have some more of this fertility by and by.
But, at present I observe, that you tell us, page quoted above, “That in the text used to support it, viz. the distinction the apostle certainly means, that it was remaining depravity which did that which he would not; and therefore Mr. Thorburn must mean, that it is indwelling sin which makes the involuntary payment of tribute. But the fatal difference is, the apostle disapproves of it in the strongest manner: but Mr. Thorburn approves, at least excuses. Unless he means, that the apostle approves or excuses, it is nothing to his purpose; and how impious the insinuation!” But, dear Sir, who is chargeable with this impious insinuation? it is wholly your own. Mr. Thorburn neither meant nor said, that the apostle either approved or excused his conduct, of which he complains; he had no occasion for such a meaning or sense of the apostle’s words. He meant, that in these words, the apostle gives an account of his case in the degenerate state of human nature, that by the prevailing power of depravity, he was drawn into things that were contrary to his judgment and conscience; and which he considered and complained of as an affliction and heavy trial to him, and unavoidable in his present state, and by his own power; and therefore he exclaims, O who shall deliver me! in like manner, the Reformed Presbytery and Mr. Thorburn give an account of a similar case, under the degenerate state of human nature, as it works externally in the world, without either approving or excusing it, but complaining of it as an affliction and trial, while it is also unavoidable in their present condition, and by their own power; and they pray to be delivered from it. Since the apostle and other Christians, or I may say all Christians, have been, and are, by the overpowering inward force of depravity, drawn into things which they neither approve of, nor excuse, and yet cannot of themselves avoid. Must it be accounted a matter altogether absurd to say, that Christians may be drawn away, in the like manner, by an external overpowering force, which they are not able to avoid? Is not this the very thing, represented and complain of by the judicatories and people of the Secession, concerning what they call church payments? By an external overpowering law and force, they are obliged to support what they testify against, as an evil, for which they say all ranks in the kingdoms ought to be humbled, and yet they cannot avoid this; and after the favourable distinction of paying, not in consideration of supporting these evils, but in compliance with civil authority, and the common order of society; yet they consider such a case as an affliction and a heavy trial; and I have the charity to believe, that they are daily praying to be delivered from it. These things being considered, what occasion can there be for so much absurd speculation about so plain a case?
That you may bring a home-stroke at the Reformed Presbytery, and their people, on the head of tribute, you think proper to make the following statement, viz. “To pay tribute to the present government, must be either a sin or a duty; if a sin, it ought not to be done, neither in a voluntary nor involuntary way: if a duty, it ought to be performed with the whole heart.” In this statement, you put me in mind of some zealous professors of very strong heads, and stiff minds, but of very weak and wavering judgments, who will have all their own actions, and those of their fellow Christians, with all the circumstances of their actions, positively stated, to be either sin or duty; and thereby lay a snare for, and burden their consciences; so that they cannot live an hour of the day, but they are either sinning themselves, or are necessary to the sin and guilt of others. According to the Associate Synod, there are cases, and circumstances, wherein the paying of tribute and taxes, is neither sin nor duty, but an affliction, and a heavy trial. This truth they justly illustrate and confirm, by the case of the people of Israel in Egypt, and in Babylon, who paid heavy taxes, and had much of their labours and effects applied to the worst of idolatrous purposes; and yet this was not charged upon them as their sin; neither was it a duty required of them by the divine law; for they complained of it, as their affliction, and a heavy and distressing trial upon them, as their own words do testify, Neh. ix. 36, 37. Behold, we are servants this day, and for the land that thou gavest to our fathers, to eat the fruit thereof, and the good thereof, behold, we are servants in it, and it yieldeth much increase unto the kings whom thou hast set over us, because of our sins: also they have dominion over our bodies, and over our cattle, at their plagues, and we are in great distress. Now, in no instance does the church complain of duty required of them by the divine law, under the notion of a grievous distress laid upon them because of their sin, as here. In the same situation do the judicatories and people of the Secession consider themselves, with regard to church payments, as has been noticed above. And here I might, on your statement, say, “To pay the tithes or tribute exacted for the support of the churches of Scotland, England, and Ireland, is either a sin or a duty; if a sin, it ought not to be paid, neither in a voluntary or involuntary way, neither directly nor indirectly; neither in compliance with civil authority, nor with the common order of society; if a duty, it ought to be performed with the whole heart; for the law of God requires no such thing as an indirect and involuntary performance of any duty. If it is a sin, and yet they say they pay it in compliance with civil authority, and the common order of society, is just to tell the world, that they sin in compliance with civil authority, and the common order of society.” I might also return your own sentiment, by accommodating your own words unto yourself, and say, if the Secession judicatories, and their followers, acted according to their principles, they would pay no church tribute at all, neither directly nor indirectly, but would let a great person, who, they say, is declared to be the head or fountain of church power, which therefore he must usurp from Christ, and of consequence is the robber of Christ, take it from them by force.
The judicatories of the Secession have, from first to last, declared that they cannot homologate the present united constitution; and therefore they reject and testify against all the oaths binding thereto. Even in a late publication, called an Overture of an act of the general Associate Synod in Scotland, concerning the sacramental test, page 27th, they say: “We reflect, with pleasure, on the peculiar advantage, which, as a religious body, we enjoy, in our contendings against established evils, and in pleadings for reformation, in having kept ourselves entirely free from the shackles of public oaths and deeds, homologating, in an unlimited manner, the constitution and present system of laws.” And, besides the unlimited nature of the constitution, they give it, as another reason for rejecting the oaths formerly noticed, viz. that they exclude the oath of the covenants. Now the Reformed Presbytery testify against paying of tribute, in such a way, as may include a concomitant consent unto, or homologation of, the united constitution in an unlimited manner, and that for the same reason, viz. because it is inconsistent with the former constitution, to which the covenant was an oath of allegiance. If it should be said, that there is a real and substantial difference between swearing to a government, and paying tribute, the former, in the nature of the thing, homologates the constitution, the latter does not. Then the Reformed Presbytery have all they plead for, and cannot justly be faulted, in paying tribute, either directly or indirectly, voluntarily or involuntarily, as it is not inconsistent with, nor contrary unto their testimony.
I shall now turn to the other side of your dilemma, namely, “To pay tribute to the present government is a duty,” and ought to be performed with the whole heart.” You say, the statement of the Reformed Presbytery, about paying tribute, supposes themselves, and their people, to be innocent, and the loyal subjects of the nation to be sinners. Here you have pleased yourself, in making a statement to your own mind, which natively and necessarily supposed, the Reformed Presbytery, and their people, to be sinners, and the loyal subjects to be innocent. Let us try how far it is really so. Does it really appear from the general practice of the inhabitants of the nation, yourself being judge, that they are truly persuaded of the truth of the above proposition? not to speak of the course of contraband trade, carried on, actually connived at, and encouraged by all ranks, by receipting, vending, and purchasing; so that the severest discipline cannot wholly suppress it; all ranks of subjects, from them that sit in the senate-house, to the lowest class of the plebeian order, do vie with one another, by non-use, abridgement of all taxable commodities, and accommodations, and even by artificial evasion, and downright fraud, who shall pay the smallest part of toll tribute and customs. The government is so sensible of this, that an endless train of excise officers are appointed, and stationed in all departments of the nation, by sea and land, to watch the motions of the loyal subjects; and, least they should elude the unremitting care and diligence of these watchful men of trust, recourse must be had to the daily and habitual administration of the oaths of the custom-house and office of excise; not, indeed, as a test of their in giving in their accounts, that they may pay according to law. Not to speak of the secret murmurs, almost everywhere bursting out among the subjects, how frequent and manifold have been the public remonstrances from all departments of the community, concerning the impropriety, insupportable burden, and what has been reckoned the partiality of taxes? Such are the evidences of the loyal subjects of the nation paying tribute directly, and actively, freely, and voluntarily, and of their performing this duty with the whole heart.
Nor do I know, that the ministers and people of the Secession, are any more conscientious in the performance of this duty of tribute paying. You live in the mouth of the Highlands, where it is said they make very good whiskey, secreted from the watchful eye of the gauger. What! if perhaps you have taken occasion, at a time, to purchase a pint or two for the use of your house, without ever asking whether it had paid the duty, nay perhaps, because you knew it had not paid it, that you might have it that much cheaper, and retained it in your own pocket, instead of sending it to the office of the collector: and, in the same manner, a pound or two of good smuggled tea: or, perhaps, you have gone to the shop of your merchant, possibly also of your own communion, to buy a hat or a pair of gloves, and used the shift and artifice of taking and returning a ticket, to evade the tax, and laughed between yourselves at the trick; and in all this never thought of criminality. Is this performing the duty of paying tribute with the whole heart? If you have not personally practiced after this sort, you cannot be ignorant that it is frequent even among the people of the Secession: how many are the public house-keepers and shop-keepers, who allowedly and avowedly take every opportunity in their power to defraud the present government of the tribute, as well as those who are employed in the taxable articles of manufacture? I remember to have seen some years ago, in a public Warning against Popery, an ostensive declaration, that the ministers and people of the Secession could yield to none of their fellow-subjects, in a distinguished regard to the present government, and succession, &c. and I suppose they can yield to none of their fellow-subjects, in a distinguished regard to their own purses, when they come in competition with government, and in a distinguished care and effort to evade paying of tribute, and public dues, when they can have it conveniently in their power; so that I suppose the gentlemen of the excise find no more credit due to the loyalists of the Secession than to others who make less speculation about it. When the loyal subjects of the nation, and the scripture loyalists of the Secession, pay tribute to government, do they perform the duty with the whole heart? And perhaps when they defraud government of its tribute, which is as frequently as they safely can; pray, Sir, do they do it indirectly and inactively, unfreely and involuntarily? Are the apostle’s words applicable here? The good that I would, I do not; but the evil that I would not, that I do. Is it indwelling sin in the loyal subjects that forces them to this fraudulent conduct? Did you not see, Sir, that this statement of yours would conclude the loyal subjects of the nation, including those of the Secession, all under sin, while the Reformed Presbytery, and their people, against whom you intended the snare, would, upon their view of the matter, which is justified by the principles of the judicatories of the Secession, in the case of church payments, escape free? But your eye was so intensely set on a mote, that you could not see a mountain. It is indeed nothing new, for persons to fall into the pit which they had digged for others.
Your Christian care and sympathy toward the Reformed Presbytery, in their guilty practice, having occurred to you, upon second thoughts, you feelingly express, in a footnote, page 22d, “If the paying tribute to the present civil government be a sin, the best apology, which a reformed presbyterian can make for paying it, may be expressed in the words of the Syrian general to the prophet Elisha: When I bow down myself in the house of Rimmon, the Lord pardon thy servant in this thing, 2 Kings v. 18.” It is indeed a happy and comfortable consideration, that this guilt you have found the Reformed Presbytery in, lies within the compass of pardon, and that there is a sacrifice for it. This profane burlesque upon the solemn ordinance of prayer, is indeed harsh enough; but I am very sorry, that I must tell you a more melancholy tale, expressed in the words of the apostle: For if we sin wilfully, after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful looking for of judgment, and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries, Heb. x. 26, 27. If the Reformed Presbytery are guilty, in this matter of tribute, it is through ignorance. But the Secession have received the knowledge of the truth, and yet sin wilfully in defrauding government; therefore let them be aware of the danger.
Having manufactured the Reformed Presbytery’s sense of tribute paying expressed in the term voluntary, to your own mind, and to answer your own purpose, that you may render it as ridiculous and nonsensical, in the eye of your reader, as possible, you proceed to make some very extraordinary inferences from it, which the reader may see in the passage quoted at the beginning. They are expressed in the following words: “An involuntary subjection to idolatrous worship, involuntary prayers to angels, &c. an involuntary prayer for the king, as head over all causes,” &c. Now, here it is manifest, that though you retain the term involuntary, which is of a passive signification, because it answers your designing purpose, yet you take it in the active sense, as otherwise it cannot answer to the words with which you connect it, without the grossest and most palpable absurdity: and therefore, if any term could give the sense which you affect to represent it in, it must be a voluntary-involuntary subjection, &c. a voluntary-involuntary prayer, or restraining of prayer, &c. which as really contradicts and destroys itself, as these words, night-day, or light-darkness, or then, when a person expresses his though by any word, according to your method of inferring, it must be understood in the very reverse sense. Now, though the Reformed Presbytery has been so void of understanding, as to talk like children or idiots, it could be no reason for you, a man of sense, to contrive and speak nonsense too. Surely a man of understanding may expose the absurdity of his neighbour without speaking nonsense himself.
This train of absurd inferences, founded upon the rejection of the just and proper distinction between voluntary and involuntary, or, which is the same thing, between active and passive, is not more an insult and outrage on language, and common sense, than it is on common justice, and moral uprightness and honesty. Had you done the Reformed Presbytery and yourself the justice, as to attend unto the paragraph from which you picked the detached sentence, and the one immediately proceeding, you might have seen prayer, which you make the matter of the above inferences, expressly excepted and excluded out of the distinction, and ranked with allegiance, and other state oaths, as being what they judged, in their own nature, necessarily to imply a homologation of that constitution and government which they immediately respect, and which cannot be obtained, nor the equivalent of them, unless the person actually consent to it. These absurdities, therefore, belong not to the Reformed Presbytery, but, to use your own words, they are “spurious brats laid down at the door of the presbytery,” and, when inquired after, “yourself is found to be their true father.” And I may add your following sentence, viz. “It is unfair, and unmanly, to curtail, mangle, and misrepresent the words of an opponent; it is a mark of cowardice, and no small indication of a bad cause,” page 70.
When a person in an involuntary, or, which is the same thing, in a passive manner, submits unto a simple giving of money, which is not in its own nature sinful, and which he has no power to withhold, more than he has power to withhold his body from being apprehended, imprisoned, and put to death, if it so pleased the exactors; and any sinfulness attending the giving, arises from the injustice of the exaction, or the iniquitous application of it after it is exacted against which injustice or iniquity he either stands under a public testimony, or he gives a verbal remonstrance at the time of its being imposed, or of which the tenor of his conversation is an uniform and steady disapprobation. From this to infer, that, upon the same principle, a person may not only do things that are sinful in their own nature, and which cannot be done, but by his actual consenting to them; but that he may even commit the most atrocious acts of wickedness, viz. steal, commit adultery, or swear falsely, is a most absurd, forced, and false inference. By this mode of reasoning, no man, nor language, can be secure from the grossest misrepresentation and abuse. If a man says that he acts on one principle, you infer from that, that he acts upon the very reverse; or, if I should say, I was asleep at twelve o’clock last night, you would infer from that, that I was awake, and in a state of perfect activity at that same hour. Nay, the words of inspiration themselves are not secure against this method of reasoning. And I hesitate not to say, that the Unitarians, Socinians, and other sceptical infidels, are not more chargeable with injustice, in palming their heretical sentiments upon the scriptures, not only contrary to their spirit and scope, but to their express language, than you are in obtruding your absurdities, both upon the words of scripture, and the words of the Reformed Presbytery.
That you might, with some degree of politeness, act the part of the informers against the ancient sufferers, you are next pleased to say, page formerly quoted, “Disloyalty to the present civil government, is, with the Reformed Presbytery, a great branch of reformation; but their involuntary way of paying tribute, is a dead fly in this box of precious ointment. Here I may say separation from, and a testimony against the established churches of Scotland, England, and Ireland, is with the Secession judicatories and people, a great branch of reformation; but their supporting them, in compliance with civil authority, and the common order of society, is a dead fly in the ointment. Loyalty to the present British government, is, in like manner, with you and them, a great branch of scripture doctrine; and the paying of tribute, for supporting it, is a duty to be performed with the whole heart: but their habitual course of defrauding government of its tribute, when they can have it in their power, is a dead fly in this box of precious ointment. Another dead fly, as far as I know, yet undiscovered, perhaps, because it lies immersed in the ointment, is the connivance of the judicatories at this prevailing sin among their people. Though the ministers of the Secession, to a man, could wipe their mouths, and say they are innocent in this matter, which yet I presume, they will not venture to do, unless in some instances of imminent danger, of incurring the rigour of the law: yet, they well know, that fraudulent practice prevails among their people in every quarter; and yet, I know not, that either a judicial or doctrinal testimony or warning was issued out against it; nor, I suppose, did ever any man hear of a single instance of an individual among their people, being called to account, and censured for this sin, that others might hear and fear, and do no more so. Is it possible to believe, that either ministers or people of the Secession credit their own doctrine, concerning the present civil government, and its tribute? If they did, could they possibly juggle with their consciences, as they do in their behaviour toward it? These things being considered, it appears, Sir, that the boasted loyalty of the Secession is little more than from the teeth outward; it steps short of their pockets, and never reaches to their consciences at all,
You next say, “Were the present government to demand a taxation, for the hellish purpose of rooting out the Christian religion in Great Britain, the Reformed Presbytery could easily shelter themselves from sin, under the wings of an indirect and involuntary payment of it, which is nothing else but an indirect and involuntary way of sinning.” And I add, that the Secession judicatories, and people, could easily shelter themselves from sin, in the payment of it, under the wings of a compliance with civil authority, and the common order of society, which is nothing else, but a sinning, in compliance with civil authority, and the common order of society. Pray, Sir, what other shelter from sin had the poor suffering remnant, who actually fell under the trying case which you here suppose, but that their money and effects were demanded, and actually applied to the hellish purpose you mention, not only without, but contrary to their consent and approbation? And what other shelter from sin have the Secession judicatories, and people, but that their money and effects are demanded, and actually applied, to the supporting of backsliding and erroneous churches, episcopal and superstitious churches, which are inconsistent with our national vows, and for which, they say, all ranks in these lands ought to be humbled, contrary to their received principles, and contrary to the express word of their own testimony, not only without, but contrary to their consent and approbation?
Again, the Reformed Presbytery must be politely complimented, or rather insolently upbraided and burlesqued, with the science of metaphysics: “Our worthy ancestors, in the late persecuting period in Scotland, were not so well acquainted with the science of metaphysics as their successors; they knew nothing of paying tribute in an indirect and involuntary way to a prince who was indeed a robber of Christ: they did not spoil themselves of their goods with their own hands, nor with hands borrowed from their good neighbours, but they were spoiled of their goods by the hands, nor with hands borrowed from their good neighbours, but they were spoiled of their goods by the hands of the robber himself, when taxes were demanded to support an army for suppressing the gospel.” Believe me, Sir, I shall freely give my vote in presbytery, that they make over their part of the subtleties of metaphysics to you as a present, as they ordinarily have little occasion for them, in supporting the plain cause of truth; and I am certain, that they will be absolutely necessary to you, to extricate you from the charge of gross absurdity, both in doctrine and in argument, of falsehood in various instances, and greatly misrepresenting matters of fact; and I shall also say, had you observed the just rules of metaphysics of physics, ethics or logics, mathematics, or even moral honesty itself, there would have been less occasion for such a tedious and disagreeable wrangle with you.
The prince, under whom our worthy ancestors had the trying and unhappy lot to live, you say, “was indeed a robber of Christ.” And they were indeed, and in reality, in a state of subjection to him; he had dominion over their bodies, and over their cattle, at his pleasure; and they were in great distress, Neh. ix. 37. Was there no difference between the state and kind of their subjection, under the robber, and the state and kind of the subjection of a people, under a prince, who is just man, ruling in the fear of God, a nursing father and protector unto his subjects, governing them by their own just and equitable laws, and by whom they sit under their vine, and under their fig-tree, eating every one of the fruit of his own vineyard, and drinking the waters of his own cistern, in a state of ease, freedom, and felicity, far removed from fear and oppression? If there is a real substantial distinction between the two kinds of subjection, I beg to know, Sir, how, or by what term it may be expressed? In the latter case, will it do to say, that the subjection is a state of freedom and happiness, and the minds of the subjects hearty toward their prince, and all their acts of subjection so performed, so as to evidence an inclination dutifully to support him, and approve of his government? In the former case, will it do to say, that their subjection was a state of slavery, persecution, and misery, and the minds of the subjects alienated from the robber, and all their acts of subjection so performed, as to evidence a disinclination to support him, and a reluctance at, and disapprobation of his government? Take these, or any other words you please to conceive it in; for it makes no matter to me, what the words are, providing the distinction be preserved; for a distinction there necessarily must be; and they will be the same in sense and substance with the controverted words, namely, that the latter state of subjection is a direct and active, a free and voluntary subjection, and the former kind, under the robber, and indirect, and inactive, or, which is the same thing, a passive and involuntary subjection. And I confess, that I do not see what better terms the Reformed Presbytery could have chosen to express the distinction. The man who sees not a real and proper distinction in the above case, and the terms by which it is expressed, must be more stupid and brutish than the ass, which knows his owner, and the ox, that knows his master’s crib. As, therefore, the state of our worthy ancestors, under the robber, was a state of mere passive and involuntary subjection, from which they had it not in their power to emancipate themselves, so every part of their subjection was passive and involuntary. And whereas you say, they knew nothing of paying tribute in an indirect and involuntary way, it is manifest, that they knew nothing of any other way of paying it; every payment they made towards the support of the robber, was directly answerable to their state, merely passive and involuntary; and in a special manner so, as to all exactions made, for being actually applied to the suppressing of the gospel.
But, say you, “they did not spoil themselves with their own hands, nor with hands borrowed from their good neighbours, but were spoiled by the hands of the robber himself.” I am at a loss to say, what you mean by hands borrowed from good neighbours; if you mean it against the Reformed Presbytery, I shall only tell you, that no such thing is in their Testimony, nor in any of their writings; they give no such directions unto their people, and they know of no such practices among them. It is therefore an imputation, or, in your own words, a brat of your own, which you would lay down at their door; but they justly reject it, as they have no manner of concernment with it. A man is as really spoiled by the hands of the robber himself, when under the influence of superior, irresistible, and unavoidable force and violence, he gives his money with his own hand, as when he is bound hand and foot, and it taken out of his pockets, or from his repositories. The mariners in Paul’s ship were as really spoiled of their provisions by the storm, when, with their own hands, they cast the wheat into the sea, to lighten the ship, as if a raging billow had swept it overboard. That article of the devil’s doctrine is acknowledged to be true, “Skin for skin, all that a man hath will he give for his life.” In a case of distress, if a man can, with a part, save the remainder of his goods, or, with the whole, save his life, and this without prejudice to his conscience, he has a right, and it is his duty, to do it. But if the robber shall, along with a man’s goods, demand, that he solemnly profess, that he believes, in his heart and conscience, that he, the robber, hath a divine right to dispose of him and his goods at his pleasure, or if, upon a threatening of arbitrary punishment or death, he shall, in the same manner, demand, that the man shall reject the gospel, or any of the doctrines thereof; or, his belief in, and obedience to God, then the case is entirely altered. When the matter between him and the robber turns upon the things of his outward and temporal state, which he has a right to dispose of, when they come in competition with his life or happiness; with those, even though most unjustly exacted, he may procure his life or freedom. But, if the matter turn upon spiritual things, that belong immediately to God, and that are properly things of conscience, and stand only between God and his confidence, then he has no right to dispose of these upon any hazard.
Our worthy ancestors, under the robber to whom you allude, were in a state of real subjection, passive and involuntary subjection. Their property was demanded, and actually applied to the suppressing of the gospel; they really sustained the expense, loss, or damage thereof. Their money and effects, their bodies and lives, were all in his hand. When it served one purpose, be disposed of their property; when another, he disposed of their bodies and lives. They were under superior, irresistible, and unavoidable force and violence, in this case, the precise manner of their conduct in parting with their goods, liberty, or lives, appears to be rather a circumstance. Their giving the quota demanded with their hand, or declining this, being forced to it, they shewed the imposers their repositories, and stood quietly by, until they were broken up, and their money or goods embezzled, or, scrupling this, they absented or abandoned their habitations and possessions to the mercy of the robber or his emissaries. Any, or all of these, were under the immediate influence of irresistible force, and, I confess, that I am at a loss to see a real difference among them; or, that giving it with the hand necessarily implied a compliance with unjust power, or an approbation of, or consent unto the use of which it was applied, more than the other ways mentioned. Nor can I see, that the first was any more a free and moral act of the will than the latter; they were all the effects of dire necessity and irresistible force. In the same manner, those of them that were apprehended, it appears but a circumstance, whether they walked quietly on foot to prison, from that to the place of execution, and ascended the ladder to the scaffold, without any struggle or resistance, or suffered themselves to have been dragged in some other more cruel and ignominious manner. Those who walked on foot, were as really carried to prison by irresistible force, as Messrs. Cargil, Boig, and Smith, who were carried to it on horses backs. And I see no reason to doubt, had his cruel persecutors so permitted, but Mr. Cargil would have chosen to walk on foot, rather than be set on a bare horse, with his back reversed, and his feet bound hard under the horse’s belly. Nor can I see, that, in the circumstantiate case, his walking quietly on foot along with them, would, in the nature of thing, have implied a contradiction to his testimony, by homologating unjust power, which he had expressly declared he had rejected. And, as it was indeed the common case with the martyrs, that being once in the hands of their persecutors, they walked quietly along, without exposing themselves to greater hardships, by needless and impracticable resistance; so I do not recollect a single instance of an objection stated on this ground, even by their greatest adversaries, as if they conducted themselves inconsistently, and did not act up to their testimony; or, that upon their principles, they ought to have suffered themselves to be carried, or dragged in sledges, or in halters, as wild beasts, to the execution. Now, as their property, money, and effects, were equally in the land of their persecutors, as their bodies and lives, and they could, by resistance, withhold neither the one nor the other, I confess, that I can see no more inconsistency, in conveying, by means of their hand, the quota demanded of their property, than in conveying, by means of their feet, their bodies to prison, and to death. I or am I able to see, that the former was any more a free act of the will, necessarily implying a homologation of unjust power, contrary to their testimony, than the latter. And, if by means of simply and quietly walking along with their persecutors, when they permitted them to do so, they might avoid greater hardships, and more cruel and ignominious sufferings; why might they not, in the same circumstances, by means of simply giving, with the hand, the quota demanded, when that would satisfy them, avoid greater hardships, by having their property pillaged and robbed at no allowance? Neither am I able to satisfy my own mind, why this last should be considered as a real and substantial ground of objection, as being inconsistent with their testimony, and the former admitted without any hesitation. Their tender zeal for the truth, kingdom, and prerogatives of the Redeemer, the privileges and immunities of his church and people; their faithfulness and fortitude in starting and managing a testimony, against all encroachments upon these, even to the enduring of the greatest hardships and sufferings, is the immortal honour of our worthy ancestors to all future ages of the church. Yet, when a person, in other respects conscientious, steady and faithful in, and for the truth, beset about with the irresistible, unavoidable force and violence of cruel persecuting robbers, either through hurry and confusion, in that extremity, or as a means to prevent his immediate reducement to temporal ruin, by the unbounded pillaging and plundering of his effects, simply with his hand, gave unto them the quota demanded, when that would anyway satisfy them. I confess, that to me, it should have been a most difficult matter, to find a real and solid ground of objection against him, as unfaithful in making a compliance inconsistent with his testimony, while, if the same person had been personally apprehended at the same time, and by the same persecutors, and it demanded of him to go along with them to prison, he should have walked quietly along with them, without any resistance, I should have admitted of his doing so without any objection at all. To me, at least, it would appear, that if faithfulness to his testimony forbade him to give with his hand the quota, in compliance with the demand; it forbade him also to comply with their demand, in walking to prison, to the scaffold, and to death, on his feet. I cannot see but that they are acts of equal compliance. If it should be said, that his person was in their hands, being apprehended; and had he not walked, they would have carried him in a more ignominious and cruel manner; and, therefore, it was just as well to go without resistance, and prevent greater hardships. I answer, his property was equally in their hand, and had he not given it, they would have taken it; and why, in these circumstances, might he not give it, to prevent greater distress? That volition, whereby the feet were employed in carrying the person to prison, and to death, was equally a free act of the will, as that whereby the hands were employed in delivering the goods into the custody of the robber, both being equally and unavoidably in his power, and therefore, if in these circumstances, a person is chargeable with spoiling himself of his goods with his own hand, by a parity of reason, he is chargeable with spoiling himself of his liberty and life with his own hand: and thus the martyrs are chargeable with having a hand in their own death, and may be said to be self-murderers.
From what is said, it appears, that in the case of being necessarily subjected unto the irresistible and unavoidable force and violence of a robber, or, of an unjust and oppressive law, and the exactors of it, your distinction between a man’s spoiling himself with his own hand, and being spoiled by the hands of the robber, is without any just ground. When mariners at sea, under distress of weather, as in the case of those along with the apostle Paul, cast out their goods or provisions, as a means of saving their life, by lightening of the ship; I know not that ever any man took it into his head, to charge them with spoiling of themselves of their goods with their own hands, but allowed, that they were spoiled by the storm. In the same manner, and with equal reason may it be said, that those who are compelled to give away their goods, by the irresistible force and violence of a robber, or of an unjust and oppressive law, are spoiled by the robber himself, or by the unjust law, and not with their own hands. The people of Israel were as really spoiled by the unjust and oppressive hand of Pharaoh in Egypt, when under his tyranny; they spent their whole time in gathering stubble to make his brick, without diminishing the task; as if he had bound them hand and foot, and taken their money out of their pockets. The same may justly be said concerning that people, under the usurpation of the kings of the nations, in the time of the judges. And in like manner in Babylon; and therefore they not only reckoned them their spoilers, but actually called them so, Psal. cxxxvii. 7. They that wasted us, &c. This is the ground of their mournful complaint, Neh. ix. 37. They did not reckon their distress the less, that they give away the tribute, unjustly exacted of them, with their own hand, and that thereby they spoiled themselves, but imputed their spoiling sorely to their enemies, who had usurped the dominion, and lorded it over them.
As was noticed above a little ago, it is by the word of their testimony, through the blood of the Lamb, and not by the strength of their bodies, that the saints overcome. Their outward estate, bodies, liberties, and lives, have frequently been subjected, not only to the lawful commands, i.e. things not sinful, commanded by unjust and usurped power, but even to the most unlawful commands, such as the confiscation of goods, imprisonment, banishment, and death of their persons, for the name of Jesus; otherwise there would have been no record of their taking joyfully the spoiling of their goods, and that they loved not their lives unto the death. Their outward estates and liberties have been rendered subservient, and applied unto, the actual support of those very evils which the word of their testimony was directed against. Thus, it was the case with the Christians at Rome, under the persecutions by the emperors, and even in the quietest and best times of the church; they paid toll, tribute, and custom, in common with the other inhabitants, and according to their several stations, which was applied, not only to support absolute, arbitrary, despotic dominion, that voracious beast that rose out of the sea, and which was no divine ordinance either of God or man; nor was it either of God, or from God, in any other way, than other judgments permitted or appointed, in his adorable providence, as a scourge unto the sinning inhabitants of the earth, but to the support also of their whole system of Pagan superstition and idolatry. Against all which, it was the very design, tendency, scope, and spirit of the gospel, and their Christian profession, to operate. They, in the most explicit manner, bare the most express testimony, against their idolatrous superstition, and, of consequence, against the power by which it was supported and established; which was the very cause upon which their persecution was grounded; and yet, as far as I know, were never branded with a practical contradiction of their principles. The same was the case with Protestants under Antichrist, in the whole extensive boundary of the Roman empire; their money and goods, which they gave away in taxes, with the other inhabitants, went to support the Man of Sin, and son of perdition, who is to be destroyed with the breath of God’s mouth, and brightness of his coming, and to enrich the treasures of, and adorn with ornaments, the scarlet whore: and yet I never heard, that, on that account, their protestation against that idolatrous popish hierarchy was considered as null and void, or that they were upbraided with professing principles, which they behoved of necessity to contradict in practice.
Our worthy ancestors, who suffered for the name of Jesus, in the late times of apostasy, tyranny, and persecution, lived embodied and mingled with the community at large; and according to their several stations, their labours, money, and effects, went in the ordinary imposed taxes, in common with the other inhabitants, and were applied to support usurped power, founded upon the overthrow of the fundamental and constitutional laws of the land, and to the support also of the abjured hierarchy of Prelacy, obtruded upon them contrary to the covenanted constitution, and the coronation oath, with all the administrations and administrators founded upon, and arising from, that source of usurped power, civil and ecclesiastic; all which, they not only testified against, but declared themselves to have disowned and rejected; and yet, you do not charge them with a practice contradicting their principles, nor with professing principles, which they behoved of absolute necessity to contradict in practice.
Nay, further, the Secession judicatories, and people, for upwards of fifty years past, have stated and managed a testimony against, and a dissent from, the British united constitution, and have judicially declared their subjection thereto, to be so restricted, as not to homologate it in its united extent; and therefore cannot take the present allegiance to government. Defence of their principles, page 55. The same is declared by the general Associate Synod in Scotland, in their overture anent the test act, page 27, formerly quoted. And moreover, in the same page, they say, “And we reckon it no less our glory and happiness, that we have, among other particulars, voluntary promised and sworn, that, by all means that are warrantable and lawful for us, according to the word of God, the approven and received standards of this church, and our known principles, we shall, in our several stations and callings, endeavour the reformation of religion in England and Ireland, in doctrine, discipline, and government, according to the word of God, and to promote and advance our covenanted conjunction and uniformity in religion.” Now, here is not only a dissent from, and testimony against the British united constitution, with all the events included and dependent upon it, but a voluntary solemn promise and oath, to endeavour the reformation of these evils; and that during the whole course of the foresaid long period, Seceders have, in their several stations, been supporting the united British constitution, with all these very evils testified against, and which they have solemnly sworn to endeavour the reformation of. Must they therefore be upbraided, with contradicting in practice, what they profess in principle? Or shall I retort your query, “Doth God require Christians to profess principles, which they must of absolute necessity contradict in practice?” Shall I likewise add your following third query? “Is it not evident, even yourselves being judges, that you cannot reduce to practice a single jot of your political principles?” Your political principles, Sir, carry you not to homologate the united British constitution; there is therefore a part of it which you reject and disown; but must you not of as absolute necessity support that part of it, as the Reformed Presbytery, and their followers, must support the part you pretend to acknowledge? and therefore, you can no more reduce a single jot of your political principles to practice than they. You acknowledge that there are evils in the constitution. You say, page 26, “It is true, the British prince is a professed member of the episcopal church of England, which is a grievance to other presbyterians in Scotland, as well as to these called reformed.” As by reformed, I suppose you mean the Reformed Presbytery, so by other presbyterians, I suppose you mean the Seceders. As his being a member of that church is a grievance; so, that the hierarchy of Prelacy is an essential part of the British constitution, must also be a grievance. As also, all the acts and administrations in defence and support of it. Now, these things are not only contrary to your presbyterian principles, but contrary to your political principles; otherwise, it would be no more a grievance to you, that the British prince is a member of the church of England than any other man. These evils being contrary to your political principles, that part of the constitution you therefore reject and disown. You “reckon them national sins, and pray for the reformation of them,” page 64. Not only so, but in your bond, you voluntarily promise and swear to endeavour, by all means that they may be reformed. And yet all that part of the constitution you support in your several stations; and notwithstanding all your boasted numbers, and respectability, you have no more influence, neither by power nor persuasion, to remove a single grievance, than the despicable Reformed Presbytery and their followers. Do you therefore, in your practice, contradict your principles, prayers, and oath?
When it hath been the unhappy lot of the church and people of God, to fall under established evils, which they found themselves bound to reject, disown, and bear testimony against, and yet had no power to rectify or remove them, but have been obliged even to contribute to their support, in common with the other inhabitants among whom they were situate; they considered this as a grievance and an affliction, which they regretted, and were humble before God on account thereof. This appears in every age of the church, and is professedly the case with the Secession judicatories and people themselves. Finding that they are under a necessity to contribute to the support of established evils, which they say are causes of God’s wrath on the land; they consider it as an affliction and heavy trial, as, they say, was the case of the church in Egypt and Babylon. Why then should they upbraid the Reformed Presbytery, and their followers, with their sufferings under the same circumstance?
Nothing is more absurd and unreasonable, than to brand, upbraid, insult, and abuse a people, with their sufferings, under the corruptions of the times, because they can neither remove established evils, which they testify against, nor even withhold their contributing to support them; and insinuate, as if it either were not duty to reject, disown, and testify against such things, since they can neither remove them, nor even withhold contributing to support them, or, that then their testimony is null and void. This abuse is peculiarly aggravated, when it comes from a people who are under the same circumstances themselves, and is an evidence, either of stupid inconsideration, or persecuting malevolence. This insolent abuse, which you throw out against the Reformed Presbytery, and their people, is through them, thrown in the face of the people of God in all ages, and even in the face of your own judicatories and people. Nay! more, it strikes against the professors of the Christian religion in general. The Christian religion requires its professors to reject sin, Satan, and the world. But do they, can they, reduce their principles into practice? Why then does the apostle exclaim, O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death? Rom. vii. 24. What is the confusion, since man cannot live up to the profession of the Christian religion? give up with it; your profession is all a pretence: No mere man, since the fall, is able in this life, perfectly, to keep the commandments of God, but doth daily break them in thought, word, and deed. Well, since it is impossible for us to keep the commandments, let us lay them aside, and give free scope to our thoughts, words, and actions. In like manner, since we cannot alter the courses of the times, by our testimony and contendings, nor remove a single grievance, nor live even in the world, without being drawn, in some sort, to contribute to the support of the very evils of which we complain, then, what do we more than others? Our testimony is all in vain, and idle: let us give it up, and join the great multitude, and go in the common road.
But, after all, finally, to determine the matter at the mouth of two faithful witnesses, this just, necessary, and proper distinction, between voluntary and involuntary, or active and passive, in the case of tribute paying, must be condemned and anathematized: “The presbyterian covenanter justly calls it a jesuitical distinction;” and then you mount Cathedra yourself, and with an ostensive, magisterial and dictatorial air of superior self-importance announce, “Here I call it a diabolical, yea, a blasphemous distinction.” There is no matter, Sir; it makes no difference at all, nor does it alter the case. Men of as great talents as either of you, and, I may add, of as great grace too, have been mistaken; and it is truly the case with you. The curse causeless shall not come. From the foregoing observations, it will manifestly appear, that your anathemas, of which you are too profanely prodigal, come down upon your own pate.
Upon the whole, let what has been imperfectly said on this subject be deliberately and duly considered, and then let the reader judge, whether there was any just cause for treating the Reformed Presbytery, and their followers, with such severity.
I have been far too prolix on this remark, but this is my infirmity, and I cannot help it. I shall try to be more brief in what follows.
Concerning the Erastianism of the present times.
YOU introduce an objection, page 38th: “The king of Great Britain, &c. is an erastian king,” that, the supreme judge in the church as well as in the state. To which you answer, “The king has too much power in church matters; but it is not true that his power in them is supreme: The oath of allegiance, acknowledging the supremacy of king Charles II. and of his successors, over all persons, and in all causes, was rescinded at the happy Revolution, 1688, both by the English and Scotch parliament,” &c. Again, page 61st: “The British king hath had no other than civil headship over this nation since the Revolution.” And page 67th: “The British king hath no supremacy in the church, neither by the constitution, nor by usurpation.”
Here I shall only offer the observations of the author of the Criterion, printed at Edinburgh 1749, who, from the time in which he lived, and the place he occupied, and also being a historian, may be supposed to have a pretty accurate knowledge of the state of matters at, and since the Revolution. In the eighth difference which he observes between the Reformation and the Revolution periods, he says:
In the Reformation period, the General Assembly 1688 [1638?], having asserted the intrinsic power of the church, to meet and proceed in reformation work, by virtue of the authority received from Christ her head; and that Assembly having accordingly proceeded, in the face of an enraged king and court, as their acts preport, the parliament, 1640, did solemnly acknowledge and declare for the above headship and sovereignty of the Lord Jesus Christ, in and over the church, as his spiritual, free, and independent kingdom: and, as a native consequence thereof, the intrinsic power of the church was also solemnly acknowledged, and the faith of king and parliament several times pledged for her security, against all erastian encroachments whatsoever. But,
In the present period, although the parliament, 1690, did abolish the blasphemous act of supremacy, 1669, upon consideration of the estates having declared, in their grievances, that it was inconsistent with the establishment of the church government then desired, and have ratified the Confession of Faith, in which, chap. 8th, this doctrine is plainly held forth; yet, in the present settlement, there is not only an omission of not duly acknowledging the alone headship of the Lord Jesus Christ in and over the church, but a number of erastian encroachments upon her power and authority: such as,
The parliament 1690, their presuming, at their own hand, and at the first instance, to read, vote, and approve the Westminster Confession of Faith, as the public avowed Confession of this church and nation, without ever approving of, or ratifying the act of the General Assembly 1647, approving the Confession, (though thereby that Confession was formerly made ours,) and without referring to the act of the parliament, 1649, ratifying the same, or ever so much as calling another General Assembly at the Revolution, to read, vote, and approve the Confession of new; their sustaining themselves, in some respect, judges of doctrine, and, by the bye, dropping a very necessary declaration in the act of the Assembly, 1647, touching the intrinsic power of the church, which the parliament, 1649, espoused, by their ratifying that act, as well as the Confession thereby approved.
2. King William, and his parliament, thus binding down episcopal incumbents upon parishes, prohibiting the church from the exercise of discipline upon the impenitent, and enjoining the Assembly to admit such, without any evidence of their sorrow for their apostacy, upon their swearing the oath of allegiance, and subscribing a sham formula, substituted in the room of our covenants, and composed on purpose for the reception of episcopal incumbents, are further evidences of the erastianism of the Revolution settlement: for proof hereof, see king William’s letters, dated the 13th of February, 1690, 15th June, 169, and 11th January, 1692, the two former addressed to the General Assembly, and their Commission, and the last to the Episcopal Clergy. In the first he says, “We have thought good to signify our pleasure to you, that you make no distinction of men, otherwise well qualified for the ministry, who are willing to join with you in the acknowledgment of, and submission to, the government of church and state, as it is by law now established, though they have formerly complied to the introducing of episcopacy; and that ye give them no disturbance or vexation for that cause, or upon that head,” &c. In the second, his majesty ordains, “That neither the Assembly, nor any Commission, or church meeting, do meddle in any process of business that may concern the purging out of the episcopal ministers.” And, in his letter to the episcopal clergy, he says, “We doubt not of your applying to, and heartily meeting and concurring with your brethren the presbyterian ministers, in the terms which we have been at pains to adjust for you. The formula will be communicated to you by your commissioners,” &c. See also acted 23rd of the parliament 1693, and act 27th of the parliament 1695.
3. The erastianism of the present settlement appears farther, from the king and parliament’s prescribing and laying down of, sine qua non, conditions and qualifications of ministers and preachers, and prescribing a set form of prayer for the royal family, even for the church of Scotland, at their own hand, without the consent or advice of the church: for proof hereof, see act 23rd, sess. 4. parl. 1. king William and queen Mary, 1695, wherein it is ordained, “That none be admitted or continued ministers, who do not take the oaths thereby prescribed, and observe uniformity of worship, &c. as the same are or shall be allowed by authority of parliament.” On which we remark,
(1.) That this act restricts reformation by the ministry; for they are bound to observe the particulars mentioned in the act, only as the same are at present performed and allowed by the parliament, or shall hereafter be declared by authority of the same; and accordingly, by the authority of the Lords, spiritual and temporal, assembled in parliament 1712, is a set form of praying for the king and royal family, imposed on all the clergy, presbyterians as well as others. And,
(2.) By the said act, 1693, the ministers power is made to depend upon the allowance of king and parliament: for farther proof hereof, see act 27. sess. 5. parl. 1. king William and queen Mary, compared with act 2. parl. 1700. act 3. parl. 1702. act 2. parl. 1703. and act 6. parl. 1706. By all which, episcopal incumbents are continued in their pastoral charges, upon swearing and subscribing the foresaid, &c. and upon their so doing, declared capable of being received into a share in the government of the church.
4. Since the Revolution, king and parliament have several times imposed their laws and injunctions upon ministers and preachers, under ecclesiastic pains and censures, as deprivation, suspension, and the like, which none can deny to be plain erastianism: for proof hereof, see act 23. sess. 4. parl. 1. king William and queen Mary. Thereby it is provided, that such as shall not qualify themselves, by swearing the oath of allegiance, may be deposed, tam ab officio quam a beneficio, i.e. (as well from office as benefice.) See also act 27. sess. 5. parl. 1. King William and queen Mary, intitled, Act concerning the church. Hereby such of the episcopal ministers, or others, who had not sworn the said oaths, and conformed to the established church, are ordained to do it betwixt and a certain day, “with certification, that such of the said ministers as shall not come in betwixt and the said day, are hereby, and by the force of this present act, ipso facto, deprived of their respective kirks and stipends, and the same declared vacant without any further sentence.” Likewise, by an act of the 6th year of queen Anne, 1714, the oath of abjuration is appointed to be taken by all such persons in Scotland, as by former Scots acts of parliament, were obliged to take the oath of allegiance, and sign the oath of assurance; and this on pain of deprivation. Now, ministers of the gospel having been obliged to take the oath of allegiance, and sign the assurance, by our Scots acts, this British act necessarily obliged them to swear the oath of abjuration, under the pain of deprivation, which accordingly several of them did. Moreover, by an act in the first year of King George I. all masters in the universities, all probationers in divinity, before they enter upon trials, or obtain license to preach, and all schoolmasters in Scotland, must take and subscribe the said public oaths, upon pain of being disabled. And, by an act in the 5th year of king George I probationers refusing to qualify, are to suffer six months imprisonment, and to be excluded for a whole year, though they afterwards qualify; and patrons are discharged to present any who are not so qualified; and such presentations are reckoned null and void. Likewise by another act in the year 1718, every minister, except such as had taken the former abjuration, is ordained to take the oath of allegiance, and assurance, with the abjuration thereby prescribed, under such penalties and disabilities, as by the act made in the first year of the reign of king George. And, by an act in the 10th year of his present majesty, George II for the more effectual bringing to justice the murderers of captain Porteous, it is enacted, “That this act be read in every parish church throughout Scotland, on the first Lord’s day of every month, for one whole year, from the first day of August, 1737, by the minister of the parish, or such minister as shall preach in such parish church, respectively, on such Lord’s day, in the morning, immediately before the sermon; and, in case such minister shall neglect to read this act, as is hereby directed, he shall, for the first offence, be declared incapable of sitting or voting in any church judicatory; and, for the second offence, be declared incapable of taking, holding, or enjoying any ecclesiastical benefice in that part of Great Britain called Scotland.”
5. It hath been proved, that as, betwixt the 1638, and 1649, the church asserted, so the state allowed, of the intrinsic power of the church to meet in Assembly, by virtue of the authority received from Christ, her head; but at, and since the Revolution, the sovereign hath been in the use of calling dissolving the General Assembly by his own authority. As the General Assembly, 1690, was appointed by act 5th of the parliament that year, so the Assembly, 1690, being dissolved, the next was appointed to be held at Edinburgh, November 1st, 1691, but thereafter was adjourned, by proclamation, to the 15th of January, 1692. And, by another proclamation, an Assembly was indicted to meet at Edinburgh the 6th December, 1693, none of which were suffered to meet till the 29th of March, 1604, about nine full months after the parliament, 1693, had by their 22nd act, made an humble address for that effect. Again, though the General Assembly, 1694, adjourned to April, 1695, ye it was adjourned, by proclamation to the 11th of July that year; from thence, by another proclamation, to the 20th November thereafter; and from thence, by another proclamation to the 17th December the same year. The like did queen Anne in the 1703. And, to this day it is observable, that the Commission, to the person who represents his majesty in the Assembly, doth run in a style that plainly enough intimates the notion he hath of the Assembly’s power and right of constitution being subordinate to him: Thus seeing, by our decree, an Assembly is to meet, &c. And,
6. We cannot help looking on the sovereign’s appointing of fasts and thanksgivings, with the causes thereof, without advice of, or application from the church, though he sustains her a right constitute and well-ordered one, to be some degree of erastianism, as we have endeavoured to clear in the first edition of this essay, &c.
Now, from the above accurate account of matters by the author of the Criterions, let any one judge, whether there has not been an erastian supremacy exercised at, and since the Revolution, the same in nature and kind, and nearly to an equal degree, as was exercised over the church in King Charles’s time; although it had not the same formality of establishment: and yet, if we consider the nature of the episcopal hierarchy established, and the British sovereign set at the head thereof, and bound to be of the same communion, and the act of settlement at the union, it will appear, that an erastian supremacy, claiming and comprehending the external government of the church, is as really engrossed in, and become an essential part of the present British constitution at the Revolution, as it was in the year 1669, or at any other period whatsoever. Nor can I see, but that the present constitutional oaths as really bind to an acknowledgment of that supremacy in its being and exercise, in the present times, as the oaths of supremacy of king James VI or the oaths of allegiance, and declaration of king Charles II. If the state of matters be as you represent, with respect to the supremacy, a great and important, if not an essential branch of the Secession testimony, is superseded, nor was there any occasion for it. The restoration, and exercise of the power of patronage, may be justly considered as a branch of the supremacy of the present times.
But, to give a still further view of the matter, I will take the trouble to transcribe another difference which the author of the Criterion observes between the present and the reformation period, viz. Difference 9th. In the reforming period, says he, the church having moved and set on foot the renovation of the national covenant, in a way and manner adapted unto their circumstances, in the year 1638, and 1639, and entered into a solemn league and covenant with the kingdoms of England and Ireland, anno 1643, and renewed the same, in a solemn acknowledgment of sins, and engagement to duties, anno 1648, the privy council, the parliament and convention, and committee of estates, did, each in their sphere, promote the swearing of, and living answerable to these covenants, engrossed the same in their records, and established them as fundamental laws in this kingdom. But,
In the present period, the civil state have not only neglected, but, in many respects, opposed our covenants, national and solemn league, and gone into measures inconsistent therewith; such as, 1. Leaving the laws which declared void, and rescinded both them and the parliament’s and laws which authorised them, and discharged renewal thereof, standing in the body of our laws unrescinded unto this day. 2. The imposing and substituting of other oaths in their place; such as the allegiance, assurance, and abjuration. Indeed it occurs, not that these last were formally substituted in the room of our covenants, but, as a man’s second wife, comes in place of his first still alive, but alleged to have been divorced, though not lawfully so, it seems pleadable, that these oaths do virtually exclude the oath of the covenants, in regard that, though they contained all in them that is laudable in these oaths, yet they are set aside, and the oaths practised. 3. The incorporating union with England is another measure inconsistent with these covenants; in so far as, though the covenants abjured prelacy, and the solemn league bound to an endeavouring the reformation of England, yet the union gave up with that duty, and consented to the kingdom of England’s securing religion as they pleased. And, 4. Without multiplying instances notourly known, the act for tolerating episcopals, &c. in Scotland, in the 1712, was another measure altogether inconsistent with these covenant, as it contains a special toleration of episcopacy, and other evils abjured by them.
Difference 11th, In the reforming period, the Parliament were equally forward with the General Assembly, in promoting and preserving uniformity with England, in doctrine, worship, discipline, and government. But,
In the present period, the parliament have not only neglected the revival of our covenanted uniformity, but laid new gravestones thereupon: for instance, in the solemn league and covenant, both nations did swear to endeavour the reformation of religion in the kingdoms of England and Ireland, and to bring the churches of God, in the three kingdoms, to the nearest conjunctions and uniformity in religion, &c. and having mercifully attained a great measure of uniformity, all ranks in Scotland did, in the year 1648, renew their oath and subscription, to endeavour the preservation of what they had thus attained: but although, after the restoration of king Charles II 1660, the kingdom of England burst that bond of uniformity, and did cast off the Confession of Faith, catechisms, form and order of church government, directory for worship, &c. for being standards to the church of England, and restored episcopacy, with the liturgy, rites, ceremonies, and government thereof, and give these all the security they ever had before; yea, though matters stood at the Revolution, and though a door was then set open for renewing the old plea for uniformity, yet they quite neglected that opportunity; and not only so, but they laid a gravestone thereupon at the incorporating union with England: 1. By consenting to the English settling their church as they pleased. 2. By engrossing the English act, settling episcopacy, in the acts of the union parliament. And, 3. By annulling all acts contrary to the union settlement; which, according to Sir James Stewart, in his Abridgement of the Scots acts, ratifying and approving the treaty of union, were engrossed as points and conditions of the union. Thus the parliament of Scotland, in their act for a treaty with England, forgotten to be abridged in the collection so frequently referred to, but mentioned in the act of security, provides, that their commissioners for the treaty, should not treat of, or concerning, any alteration of the worship, discipline, and government of the church of England, as now by law established, and declare, that the parliament of England as they think expedient, to take place within the bounds of the said kingdom of England. Accordingly the parliament of England, by an act in consequence thereof, and before concluding the treaty of union with Scotland, entitled, An act for securing the church of England as by law established, do, in a way of reviving former laws, particularly a statute in the 1660, enact, “That the uniformity of public prayers, and administration of sacraments, and other rites and ceremonies, with the form of making, and ordaining, and consecrating bishops, priests, and deacons, in the church of England, and all singular acts of parliament now in force, for the establishment and preservation of the church of England, and the doctrine, worship, discipline, and government thereof, shall remain, and be in full force for ever; and that the sovereign next succeeding in the royal government of the kingdom of Great Britain, and so forever hereafter, every king or queen succeeding, and coming to the royal government of the kingdom of Great Britain, shall, in the present of all persons who shall be attending, assisting, or otherwise then and there present, take, and subscribe the coronation oath.” Likeas, the act of the parliament of England, entitled, Act for an union of the two kingdoms of England and Scotland, doth contain the foresaid act for securing the church of England, as by law established, and the exemplification, or copy of the act of the parliament of that kingdom, entitled, Act for an union of the two kingdoms of England and Scotland; (which act contains the whole foresaid acts, with the articles of union in the bosom thereof) having been transmitted to the parliament of Scotland, was ordered to be recorded; and accordingly is recorded amongst the laws and acts of our last Scots parliament. And, lastly, The foresaid laws and acts, of both kingdoms, contain a general clause, declaring the laws and statutes in either kingdom, respective, so far as they are contrary to, or inconsistent with the said united settlement and constitution, to cease, and become void hereafter.
From what is said, it is evident, that the gravestones, formerly laid upon our covenanted uniformity with England, are sealed, so far as men can do; and, considering the sovereign, and the whole English members of parliament, are bound to profess and to maintain the communion of the church of England; that many of the Scots representatives are either for episcopacy, or nothing; and that, though they were all found presbyterians, they can never maintain a balance with the English, in anything wherein their religion differs, there is no moral probability that ever there can be a revival or resurrection of our covenanted uniformity: and hence the union hath issued in. 1. A disclaiming of our sworn duty of endeavouring the reformation in England. 2. A consenting to the perpetual and unalterable establishment of abjured prelacy in England and Ireland. And so, 3. And avowed continuance or perjury and breach of the solemn league and covenant.” Thus far the author of the Criterion.
The erastian supremacy being engrossed into, and made an essential part of the British constitution at the Revolution, and further confirmed and established at the Union, was made a chief objection against the oath of abjuration, when imposed not only upon such as were in places of civil trust, but upon the ministers of the established church in the time of queen Anne and king George I. They considered the oath to homologate, and bind the jurant to maintain and defend that erastian supremacy, and prelacy of the church of England, inconsistent with, and contrary unto, their former constitution, liberties, and covenant engagements, as appears from letters that went among the ministers of that time, yet extant, wherein they expressed their difficulties and objections among themselves, on account of which some of them rejected, and protested against the oath, and were called the PROTESTERS; all which are more fully taken under review, in a book published at that time, entitled, Protesters vindicated, or a just and necessary defence of protesting, &c. by an anonymous author, printed in the year 1716. After that author had adduced various cogent arguments, to prove, that the oath of abjuration binds the juror solemnly to consent unto, and to maintain and defend the erastian supremacy of the church of England, as engrossed in, and made a part of the British constitution, he says,
Page 42d, “But that which puts it beyond debate, among all men who have no set themselves to deny plain truth, is the express words of that act of parliament, by which the oath was imposed, and to which it expressly refers, and in obedience unto which it was sworn, viz. The act of further limitations, printed in folio, page 2d, where it is said, On which said acts, (viz. Of limitation, and further limitation, the preservation of your majesty’s royal person and government, and the maintaining the church of England, as by law established, do under God) entirely depend: to the intent therefore, that these acts may be forever inviolably preserved, it is hereby enacted, that magistrates, officers, civil and military, and ministers, &c. shall take the following oath, viz. of abjuration.”
“By that act, the oath of abjuration is as directly and expressly intended and appointed for obliging all jurats to maintain the prelatic church of England, established by law, as it is for the defence of the queen’s person and government; for all these three, viz. the queen’s person and government, and the maintaining of the church of England, as by law established, are joined together in one affirmative sentence, by the copulative particle AND; and so they are all three equally affirmed to be maintained.”
The same author, having, by a series of arguments, and from the sentiments of lawyers, proved, that the coronation oath, by which the royal power is limited and fixed, and the oaths of allegiance, &c. must be of the same and maintain and defend by the one, the juror is bound to maintain and defend by the other. Says, page 57th, “Now, by what arguments I have advanced against Scots jurant ministers, on this head, viz. the oath of abjuration, I have clearly proven these points, namely, first, That the oath of abjuration, in its true literal sense, obliged all English subjects, before the Union, to maintain and defend the whole constitution of England, in church and state, in erastian supremacy, prelacy, &c. established by law.”
“Secondly, That the oath of abjuration still retains the same literal sense, obliging all Scots jurants to maintain English erastian supremacy, prelacy, &c. established by the English acts of limitation, and further limitation, to which it expressly refers, and in obedience to which they did swear it, because plainly evident, by what is said above that the incorporating Union did not take away the former security of the prelatic church of England, but, on the contrary, established it, to stand to all generations, and extended the power and authority of these laws, whereby the prelatic church of England is secured over the nation of Scotland, obliging Scotland to maintain the English erastian supremacy, prelacy, and English popish ceremonies, as an essential and fundamental part of the incorporate constitution of the realm of Great Britain. And, though the oath of allegiance, contained in the oath of abjuration, in its literal sense, obliges all jurants (since the Union) both of South and North Britain, to maintain the whole constitution of the united realm of Great Britain, including the laws of North as well as South Britain, of which laws, the act of security of the church of Scotland is one; yet, principally, it obliges to maintain the chief fundamental laws of that constitution, such as the English acts of limitation, and further limitation, by which supremacy and prelacy are established.”
“Thirdly, Though, in that sense, the oath obliges to maintain the act of security of the church of Scotland; yet, by that very act of security, the church of Scotland hath gone into the legal establishment of erastian supremacy and prelacy, and subjected herself unto the power of English prelates ad erastian supremacy, which, by the Union, the church of Scotland hath been obliged to obey. So that swearing to maintain that act of security, is a swearing to two things, 1st, That they shall swear to maintain an irritant clause of the establishment of an Union, whereof the establishment of erastian supremacy and prelacy is a principal fundamental article. 2dly, That they shall maintain an act, whereby the presbyterian church of Scotland is obliged to obey the lordly power of bishops, the English prelates being members of parliament and privy council, and also the erastian supremacy established by that Union; and accordingly the church of Scotland, anno 1710, made an act of her Assembly, obliging all her members, ministers and others, to keep the fasts and thanksgivings of the national church of Scotland, in obedience to the authority of the queen, with consent of the prelatic parliament and privy council of Britain. And all men know, that the church of Scotland will not appoint now, either national fasts or thanksgivings, upon any occasion, ordinary or extraordinary, but has wholly given up the power to the magistracy and prelatic authority, to be her dictators in these solemn duties of God’s worship.”
To the same purpose, he says, page 69, “The oath, in its proper literal sense, obliges jurants to defend the prelatic constitution of the realm of England, established by the Union, and sworn to, by that oath; and also the crown of England, and all its prerogatives, of which erastian supremacy is one, as it is also an essential part of the king of England’s royal dignity, as was proven from the 17th chap. of the statutes of king Henry VIII and statutes of queen Elisabeth, and of king William.”
If it should be said, I had no occasion to bring this objection to the taking of the oath of abjuration, as the judicatures of the Secession acknowledge that they can take no oaths to government; it is, therefore, out of the question. I answer, that I do not bring it as an objection to the taking of the oath, but as it hereby appears to have been an objection, grounded on a matter of fact, to the taking of the oath; so it is an evidence, that erastian supremacy is ingrafted into, and made an essential part of the British constitution, which is what you deny.
The same author of the Protesters vindicated, &c. describes the right, nature, and extent of regal power, as founded upon, and resulting from the oath of coronation of king James VI and king Charles I and II and which was frequently confirmed by acts of parliament, and made an unalterable fundamental law of the state in the time of reformation, and also from the nature and obligation of the covenants, national and solemn league; and then he sets over against it the Union settlement, of which, among other things, page 77th, he says, 3dly, “By the said Union, erastianism, English prelacy, and English popish ceremonies are established. 4thly, By that Union, there is a fundamental law of the united realm of Britain established, for requiring and commanding all ministers of the church of Scotland, to swear to maintain the said Union, and erastianism, prelacy, and English superstitious ceremonies, under an erastian penalty of deprivation of office to all intents and purposes, as the act of parliament expresses it. 5thly, By that Union, the crown of Scotland, for calling the parliament of this kingdom, for making laws for preserving and executing justice and equity, and for securing religion and our covenants, are wholly taken away. 6thly, By the said Union, the right of kingly government obliges all kings of Scotland and England to preserve the whole constitution of the said Union, and to swear to be only of the communion of the prelatic church of England, and to maintain erastian supremacy, prelacy, and English popish ceremonies, without which oath and obligation, no person is to be king or queen, to reign and rule Scotland and England.”
Whence, it is plain, “that the right of kingly government of these kingdoms of Britain and Ireland, now established by the Union, consists in this, that the fundamental laws of the united constitution, have statuted and appointed to invest king George, and all the succeeding kings of Scotland and England, with royal authority, and power of kingly government of the nations, for preserving the whole constitution of the incorporating Union, and principally for preserving the erastian supremacy, prelacy, and English popish ceremonies, and to swear to maintain the prelatic constitution of the church of England, and her ceremonies, and to be of the communion of the said prelatic church: and that these shall be, and remain to all generations, the essential articles and conditions of the right of regal government of Scotland and England (now united) without which no person shall ever reign and rule these kingdoms.”
And thus this author concludes with an observation, much the same in substance as the author of the Criterion, namely, “That the Union hath issued in, 1st, A disclaiming of our sworn duty of endeavoring the reformation of England. 2dly, A consenting to the perpetual and unalterable establishment of abjured prelacy in England and Ireland. And so, 3dly, An avowed continuance of perjury and breach of the solemn league and covenant.”
Agreeably unto the above, and as a confirmation of it, I must beg leave to subjoin the sentiments of the Associate Presbytery, expressed in the Defence of their principles anent government. They introduce their Testimony against the evils of government. They introduce their Testimony against the evils of government, “by opposing our ancient civil reformation to our present civil deformation,” and say, page 46th,
1st, “As it was once a peculiar duty of the Jewish nation so it is peculiarly incumbent on every civil state whereinto Christianity is introduced, to study, and bring to pass, that civil government among them, in all the appurtenances of its constitution and administration, run in an agreeableness to the word of God, be subservient unto the spiritual kingdom of Jesus Christ, and to the interests of the true religion and reformation of the church, as otherwise they cannot truly prosper in their civil concerns, nor be enriched by the blessings of the gospel.”
Having laid down this, as a received, holding, and general maxim, they proceed to give an account of our civil reformation, by inserting the coronation oath of king James VI and king Charles I and II and mentioning some of the acts of parliament relative thereto, together with the covenant obligations, especially the solemn league, whereby the nations were jointly engaged in the carrying on, and bound to abide by, said civil reformation; all which they approve of, and bear testimony unto.
They next proceed unto our civil deformation, and say, page 49th, 2dly, “It was not long till our sky, thus clearing up, was sadly clouded, and this beautiful work smothered, as it were, in the very cradle, by the woful apostacy of the same generation, especially at and after the restoration of king Charles II.”
And having given a short summary of the apostacy, perjury, treachery, tyranny, and hostility, as they term it, against the king, cause, and subjects of Zion, &c. in the persecuting reign of king Charles, and having also mentioned the deliverance from tyranny and persecution, at the Revolution, they say, page 50th,
“Notwithstanding, though the Lord hath dealt so bountifully with these nations, they have not duly remembered him in his ways; they have made no due requital, by returning to that beautiful reformation; for, apostatizing wherefrom, they were sorely plagued during the space of about twenty-eight years. The kingdom of England, at the Revolution, still adhered unto their apostacy, in keeping their government settled in favours of abjured prelacy, and according to the wicked laws which had been made against England’s reformation. The kingdom of Scotland, at that time, in settling government, and in offering the crown to king William and queen Mary, not only overlooked the whole civil reformation attained unto betwixt the years 1638, and 1650, but left the wicked laws revoking and razing the same untouched, and in force. Moreover, at the incorporating Union with England, anno 1707, a further, and very lamentable step of defection was made in our civil settlement; in regard the maintenance and preservation of the hierarchy and ceremonies of the church of England, is a fundamental and essential article of the said Union; so that it stands upon terms opposite unto, and inconsistent with our covenant union, whereby this kingdom is more deeply involved in perjury, and the guilt of England’s apostacy and corruption, while consenting thereto. In a word, since the Revolution, and by the Union settlement, though papists, and such as marry papists, are absolutely excluded from the crown, (which is a thing very laudable,) and while our kings are obliged to swear, at their coronation, that they shall inviolably maintain and preserve the settlement and privileges of the church of Scotland, as by law established; yet they are, at the same time, taken abound and obliged to communicate with, and to maintain and preserve inviolably the settlement and privileges of the church of England, in the kingdoms of England and Ireland. And, upon the whole, it is thrust into the way of our covenanted reformation, both in church and state; yea, a gravestone is laid and established upon the same.”
“Thus, our ancient civil reformation has been apostatized from, and grievously defaced. Notwithstanding the golden season afforded us, and the powerful obligation we were laid under unto the Lord, by his surprising appearance for us at the Revolution; yet all ranks have dealt very treacherously and ungratefully: they have not studied personal reformation; they have not endeavoured severally and conjunctly to promote the true religion and reformation of the church, once attained to, and professed in these lands. The body politic, particularly in Scotland, have never, by their deed of civil constitution, provided, that their magistrates be brought under, and admitted upon, obligations and terms, such as were fixed upon and established in reforming periods, (particularly in the coronation oath, anno 1567, 1649,) but such as are, in many respects, not only different from, but destructive of the same, unto the great prejudice of real religion and reformation in the house of God. They have never endeavoured to inform their magistrates of their sin and duty, in this matter, or to reform them from their corruptions; but, on the contrary, they have been a snare and stumbling-block unto them. And, it is evident, that, on all these accounts, great guilt and wrath from the Lord is still lying, and increasing, upon the body politic, wherein also all ranks, our princes, our pastors, our people, are very deeply involved.”
“Moreover, as our civil settlement has been thus corrupted, so it hath natively issued in a course of defective and corrupt administrations, unto the dishonour of God, and the detriment of his work. The Presbytery do not pretend to give out a full enumeration of these; and they only mention the following:”
“At the Revolution, prelacy was not abolished as contrary to the word of God, and abjured by our covenants. The settlement of Presbytery was according to the former settlement, anno 1792, and all the legal securities given to the church, from anno 1638, to 1650, were overlooked, nor was any regard had to the solemn oaths and covenants which we then came under. The wicked laws, anno 1661, condemning and razing our covenanted reformation, were left untouched, a general oath of allegiance was imposed, plainly excluding the oath of our covenants, and contrary to the reformed practice, anno 1649; such were retained in places of public trust, and military office, as were enemies to our reformation, and had been deeply involved in the horrid defection, persecution, and bloodshed of the former period. The power and privileges of the church were encroached upon, by dissolving the Assembly 1692, and adjourning the same from time to time, 1694, as indeed, by the act, 1592, according to which presbytery was settled at the Revolution, the Assembly is deprived of power, where the king, or his commissioner, is present, to nominate and appoint time and place for their next meeting.”
“After the Union, the whole nation was made to groan under the weight of unnecessary, repeated, sinful, and ensnaring oaths; a superstitious form of swearing, by laying the hand upon, and kissing the gospels, was soon introduced from England; and a foundation was laid for farther debauching the members of this church, by the sacramental test, while, also, the oath of abjuration was first imposed on those in civil and military trust, and afterward extended to the ministers of this church; and which, however, at length, altered, did still homologate the united constitution, and the corruptions of the church of England involved therein. Farther, though any active toleration to the least evil be altogether unwarrantable, yet, in the year 1712, a very dangerous blow was given to the government and discipline of this church, and a very wide door opened to error and profanity, by an almost boundless toleration, and, at the same time, a very sinful and sad encroachment was made upon the costly and valuable privileges of the Lord’s people, and a door opened for the corruption of the church, and the ruin of souls, while the right of patronages (which had been abolished, 1649) was again restored; and however this was afterwards restricted, yet it has still continued an intolerable yoke and snare, the lamentable effects whereof have overspread this land. Countenance has likewise been given for introducing among us the abjured superstition of observing holidays, and that by the vacation of our most considerable courts of justice, in the latter end of December. And as, by the Union, this kingdom hath become subjected to a parliament, whereof the bishops of England are constituent members; so an attempt is made to force the members of this church unto an approbation of the English hierarchy, while they can get no addresses received by the upper house of parliament, unless they bear a direction to the Lords spiritual, as well as temporal.”
“The above are evils that have taken deep root among us, for a considerable time, and the most are more particularly spoken to in the judicial Act and Testimony.”
“Moreover, the law of God hath been despised, and a toleration, upon the matter, given to diabolical arts and practices, by the acts repealing the penal statutes against witches. Likewise (as hath been declared by this presbytery in their declinature) a bold and fatal encroachment was made, anno 1737, upon the headship and sovereignty of Zion’s King, by the erastian act anent captain John Porteous. Farther, though it be unwarrantable for the civil magistrate, in ordinary cases, and where there is, and where access may be had to judicatories of a right constitute church, or that he sustains as such, to appoint fasts and thanksgivings simply by his power; yet, not only was the intrinsic power of the church despised, sometime after the Revolution, in the appointment of several fasts and thanksgivings, merely by civil authority, but, of late years, while the judicatories have practically surrendered this intrinsic power to the magistrate, he hath also practically assumed and exercised the same, in appointing fasts, merely by his own authority: for, whatever was his design, yet this was plainly the design of his appointments, in regard the judicatories accepted the same, as answers to their petitions for his nominating the day, and he hath never discouraged in their said surrender and acceptance. Against all which, this presbytery maintain a stated testimony, though they have no reckoned it necessary to apply the same, otherwise than by this practice.”
“All these corrupt administrations this presbytery judge to be the causes of the Lord’s wrath and deep controversy, which he is pouring out upon, and pleading with all ranks in these lands. And, as by the above-mentioned apostacy and corruption in the settlement and administration of the present civil government, the measure of guilt upon the body politic, and their legislators, is greatly filled up; so that this presbytery judge the said evils to be condemned by the word of God; as also, that to be deeply humbled for, and to testify against the same, in hope that the Lord will yet purely purge away our dross, and take away all our tin.”
To what is above, I shall take the freedom of adding only a few sentences more, from a very judicious sermon, and very seasonably adapted unto the times, entitled, True Patriotism, &c. delivered before the Associate Synod, Edinburgh, printed 1785, speaking of the evils of the times, he says, “A motley and self-contradictory settlement, with respect to divine worship, ecclesiastical government, is made an essential, and, so far as human laws can make it, an unalterable part of the British constitution; whereby uniformity, according to the word of God, and solemn covenants, (by human laws too, once declared unalterable, and which, by the moral law, still remain so,) is effectually precluded, and a seemingly insuperable bar laid in the way of any attempts for future reformation. In consequence of such an absurd establishment, the inhabitants of Britain, like the mongrel Samaritans, are authorised to fear the Lord, and serve their own gods. Religion is no longer to be framed according to one divine rule, and regarded for its true excellence, but squared according to the manner of the land, the situation of the country, the inclinations and customs of the inhabitants, and regarded purely of convenience, or political advantage.” And, page 106, “The wicked supremacy is still claimed and exercised by our princes; and, in the same day that any of them is anointed a king, he is, in some sort, consecrated a pope; and, instead of being only a member under Christ, the highest place which any mortal can possess in the kingdom of heaven, he is from that day forward, invested with the title of the supreme head of the church, a name like the wrote upon the crown of the beast, full of blasphemy, and a title nothing inferior, in absurdity and presumption, to that assumed by the man of sin; a circumstance in the constitution of the British government, that has long been a scandalous reproach to the reformation, and is none of the least of our national sins.”
Now, from the matters of fact, and the observations and sentiments upon them, stated in the above quotations, two things, if I am not greatly in a mistake, will appear in opposition to your assertion: 1st, That there is an erastian supremacy engrossed with, and made an essential part of the British constitution at the Revolution, as really as was in the time of Henry VII of England. And, 2dly, That that supremacy is not only exercised over the churches of England and Ireland, as being a part of, and inseparable from that hierarchy established by law, but that, in its exercise, it is extended to Scotland. And though prelacy was abolished at the Revolution, and presbytery settled; yet, as the abolishing of the former was not, because it was contrary to, nor the establishing of the latter, because it only was warranted by the divine word; so the abolition of the one, and the establishment of the other, was only to subserve a political purpose; and so both fell under the supremacy.
In like manner, the reading, voting approving, &c. of the Confession of Faith by the parliament, at their own hand; the adjusting terms of communion, both for the ejected presbyterian, and episcopal ministers, and prohibiting the exercise of discipline; the prescribing of sine qua non qualifications for ministers and preachers; the prescribing of a set form of prayer for the royal family, even for the church of Scotland, at their own hand; the imposing of laws and injunctions upon ministers and preachers, under ecclesiastic pains and censures, as deprivation, suspension, and the like: such as, taking the oath of allegiance, &c.; the reading of the act concerning captain John Porteous; as also, the calling, dissolving, and adjourning of the Assembly of the church of Scotland, at the Revolution, from time to time, and still retaining a power to do so; the restoring and maintaining of the right and exercise of lay patronages; the appointing of fasts and thanksgivings, and stating of the causes thereof to the church of Scotland. All which are administrations of manifest supremacy, and to such an extent, as, in a great measures, to engross the external government of the church.
It is said by the Associate Presbytery, Defence, page 50th, quoted above, that, at the Revolution, “the nations did not return unto that beautiful reformation; for, apostatizing wherefrom, they were sorely plagued, during the space of about twenty-eight years. The kingdom of England still adhered unto their apostacy, in keeping their government settled in favours of abjured prelacy, and according to the wicked laws which had been made against England’s reformation.” It is farther said, that “the kingdom of Scotland, at that time, in settling their government and in offering the crown to king William and queen Mary, not only overlooked the whole civil reformation attained to betwixt the years 1638, and 1650, but left the wicked laws, revoking and razing the fame, untouched, and in force.”
It is again said, that, “at the incorporating Union with England, anno 1707, a farther and very lamentable step of defection was made in our civil settlement, in regard the maintenance and preservation of the hierarchy and ceremonies of the church of England is a fundamental and essential article of the said Union; so that it stands upon terms opposite unto, and inconsistent with our covenant union, whereby this kingdom is more deeply involved in perjury, and the guilt of England’s apostacy and corruption, while consenting thereunto.” Moreover, it is also said, page 51st, “The body politic, particularly in Scotland, have never, by their deed of civil constitution, provided that their magistrates be brought under, and admitted upon obligations and terms, such as were fixed upon, and established in reforming periods, (particularly in the coronation oath, anno 1567, and 1649,) but such as are, in many respects, not only different from, but destructive of the same, unto the great prejudice of real religion, and reformation in the house of God.”
And then the presbytery mentions the course of corrupt administrations that have natively proceeded from the corrupt Revolution and Union settlements. Such as, page 52d: “At the Revolution, prelacy was not abolished, as contrary to the word of God, and abjured by our covenants. The settlement of presbytery was according to the former settlement, anno 1792, and all the legal securities given to this church, from 1638, to 1650, were overlooked; nor was any regard had to the solemn oaths and covenants which we then came under. The wicked laws, anno 1661, condemning and razing our covenanted reformation, were left untouched; a general oath of allegiance was imposed, plainly excluding the oath of our covenants.”
“After the Union, the whole nation was made to groan under the weight of unnecessary, repeated, sinful, and ensnaring oaths.—Sacramental test.—Oath of abjuration, homologating the united constitution and corruptions of the church of England.—An almost boundless toleration.—The restoration of the right of patronages.—The introducing among us the abjured superstition of observing holidays.—By the Union, this kingdom hath become subjected to a parliament, whereof the bishops of England are constituent members; so an attempt hath been made to force the members of this church unto an approbation of the English hierarchy, while they can get no addresses received by the upper house of parliament, unless they bear a direction to the Lords spiritual, as well as temporal.—A bold and fatal encroachment was made, anno 1737, upon the headship and sovereignty of Zion’s King, by that erastian act anent captain John Porteous.—Appointment of fasts and thanksgiving,” &c.
Now, from the above account of the state of matters at and since the Revolution and Union settlements, it evidently appears, that the state of the testimony for the prerogatives of Christ, and the intrinsic power and privileges of the church, lifted up, and managed by presbyterian covenanters, after the overthrow of the religious and civil same even to this day, with little or no variation. And that, at the memorable period 1688, though the Lord made a very signal and glorious manifestation of his right hand, and holy arm, for working deliverance unto his church, and afforded a golden opportunity for the church and nation to exert themselves, and retrieve their loss; yet this was mismanaged, and the season lost; no real deliverance was wrought, nor was there really any Revolution made; since, as is observed above, all things continued as they were: the work of reformation was left buried under the parliamentary acts and laws of the former period of deformation, and its grave was sealed, that it should never rise. And, that the administrations, which are the native streams of the corrupt fountain of the foresaid settlements, are still running on. Any change that took place, was a Revolution, or rather only a relaxation of the severe administration of the former period; whereas the ministry under the reigns of Charles II and James VII would not even permit presbyterians to live, without declaring their active suffrage, unto the rescinding and overthrow of the reformation, and a positive acknowledgment and approbation of the right of regal authority, as proceeding upon that overthrow, by taking the oaths which they had framed for that purpose. The ministry, or parliament, at, or since the Revolution, although they hold the same ground, and keep the same station as in the former period, yet, upon principles of humanity and moderation, which are, to be sure, exceeding laudable, and for which the church has great reason of thankfulness unto the Lord; overlook them, and permit them to live under the colour of an arbitrary toleration, while yet, all presbyterians, who find themselves bound, in conscience, to adhere explicitly to the testimony for the prerogatives of the Redeemer, and the intrinsic power and privileges of the church, and who dare not give their suffrage to the continued burial of our former reformation, by the Revolution and Union settlements, nor make a positive acknowledgment and approbation of the right of regal authority, as proceeding upon, or derived from these settlements, by swearing the present oaths framed for that purpose, must be cut off, and excluded from the body politic, and have neither art nor part in government; they cannot be admitted to render any public service unto it, however well qualified, nor bear any honour in it, nor receive any benefit from it. This, to be sure, is less, and easier, than fines, forfeitures, and imprisonment, but still it is a suffering. And it were to be wished, that more could be said in the way of commending the administrations since the Revolution, than what can well be done. It is well known what contempt and abuse, and even imprisonments, presbyterian dissenters have been exposed unto, because they could not, in conscience, make the compliances required of them, in some instances. And even the people of the Secession have not been exempted from this, notwithstanding all the show they make in favour of government. They must either resile from [i.e., abandon] their testimony, or be liable unto such disabilities and sufferings.
I sincerely wish, Sir, that the eulogium you are pleased to make upon the Revolution settlement, page 61st, expressed in high strains of affected eloquence, was all just. But it is a contradiction to the accounts given of that event in the above quotations; and especially by the Associate Presbytery. You, and the reader, may compare, at your leisure, whether the Associate Presbytery, or the “reformed brethren,” are most chargeable with blasphemy, as you are pleased to style it, “the remarkable deliverance sent from Heaven to the nation on the 5th day of November, 1688.”
But, farther, in the above quotations, we have two political settlements, or civil constitutions, taken in a comparative view. The first is, the reformation civil constitution, between the years 1638, and 1650; the second is that of the Revolution, in the year 1688. The former is commended and approven of, as having all the appurtenances of its constitution and administrations running in agreeableness to the word of God, and being subservient unto the spiritual kingdom of Jesus Christ, and to the interest of the true religion and reformation of the church. And, being thus agreeable to the word of God, the supreme ruler, invested with the right of regal power, derived from it, was bound, by the word of God, and the coronation oath; and the people were bound, by the word of God, and their solemn covenants, both of them, respectively, in their places and stations, to maintain, support, defend, and abide by the constitution, inviolably, in all time coming.
And the latter of these settlements, viz. that of the Revolution, is represented and described, as not only the reverse of the former, but as actually reversing and overturning it, as being a mighty bar in the way of the reformation secured by it, as proceeding upon apostacy, perjury, and corruption; as not providing, by their deed of civil constitution, to have their magistrates brought under, and admitted upon terms, such as were fixed upon in reforming times, particularly in the coronation oath, &c. but such as are, in many respects, not only different from, but destructive of the same. “On all which accounts, great guilt and wrath from the Lord is still lying and increasing upon the body politic; wherein also all tanks, our princes, our pastors, our people, are very deeply involved.” And, in the administrations proceeding from this settlement, it is represented, as having overturned our solemn covenants, and the work of reformation sworn to therein; as having established the abjured hierarchy of prelacy, with the superstitious ceremonies thereof; as invading the headship of Zion’s King, and encroaching upon the intrinsic power and privileges of the church, by exercising an erastian supremacy over her, as introducing and tolerating superstitious observances, &c. &c. “All which the Associate Presbytery judge to be the causes of the Lord’s wrath and deep controversy, which he is pouring out upon, and pleading with all ranks in these lands.”
Now, whatever a thoughtless generation of inhabitants, or the great majority of a body politic, who frequently proceed in these things without knowledge, principle, judgment, or conscience, may say, will any people, who have entered into the views of the Associate Presbytery, and who believe, and are persuaded of the foundation, nature, truth, and importance, the effects, and consequences of these things, concerning government, as they have done, and as their successors and followers still profess to do, say, that esteem, honour, fear, and duty, are equally due to the two political settlements, as they are represented and described above? If so, why speak of the word of God, of oaths of coronation, of solemn covenants, and obligations arising from them, of bars in the way, and burials of reformation, of apostacy, perjury, and corruption, deeds of civil constitution, and terms destructive of these, and the danger of guilt, and of the pouring out of God’s wrath for anything concerning government? Why amuse, or rather needlessly fright people with these forbidding words, and the ideas annexed to them? Or how can people be chargeable in these respects, since every present time is its own rule for government, and every present government being, in some sort, connived at, or borne with, by the great, ignorant, injudicious, and unconscientious, or overawed multitude, is essentially right, and cannot be otherwise?
From the doctrine of the Associate Presbytery, about the Revolution settlement, there appear two things of the highest importance, and go far to nullify the whole in respect of lawfulness, if there could be unlawfulness in anything of the kind. And these are: 1st, The illegality of the investiture with the regal authority, it not being upon “obligation and terms, such as were fixed upon and established in reforming periods; particularly in the coronation oath, anno 1567, and 1640, but such as are, in many respects, not only different from but destructive of the same.” Now, if obligations and terms are of no consequence in a matter of such importance, why make them at all? or why mention them at all? 2dly, The nature and kind of the power invested with, being not civil only, but an erastian supremacy over the spiritual kingdom of the Redeemer, being made essential unto, and inseparable from the royal dignity. Now, this power, unlawful in itself, being made inseparable from the royal dignity, the royal itself cannot be acknowledged and maintained according to the constitution, without acknowledging, maintaining, and defending that unlawful supremacy, which is inconsistent with the principles of genuine Christianity, and especially with those of presbyterian covenants, as the judicatures and people of the Secession profess to be.
From what is said above by the Associate Presbytery, it appears, that political settlements are matters of very great and weighty importance, in their nature and consequences, and not to be altogether thoughtlessly overlooked by Christians, since they may be attended with error, apostacy, perjury, corruption, barring out, and burning the cause and truths of God, sin, and guilt, procurative of God’s pleading a controversy with the body politic, and all ranks in it, and of his pouring great wrath upon them. And, since all this is peculiarly the case in the Revolution and Union settlements, when they are taken in a comparative view with former attainments, morally obligatory, and considered with respect unto the word of God, fundamental laws of the kingdom, solemn covenant obligations, the prerogatives of the Redeemer, the intrinsic power and privileges of the church, and the genuine nature, simplicity, and prosperity of the Christian religion. All this being the case, however much you may be disposed to differ from me. I am clearly of opinion, that for a people who have entered into the views, and believe the truth, reality, and importance of these things, as the judicatures and importance of these things, as the judicatures and people of the Secession profess to do, the safest course is, to have as little concernment with them, and to stand at as great a distance from them, and the administrations proceeding from them, as possible, left being partakers with them in their sins, they be also made to share with them in their judgments: and, that what connection they must have with them, and what subjection they stand under unto them, ought rather to be considered as a matter of providential necessity, than of preceptive duty And this brings me to
Observations on the precise Topic defended by the Loyalist.
YOU say, Introduction, page 6th, the topic defended in the following sheets is precisely this, that obedience is due to the present British civil government in its lawful commands. Was obedience ever due to any government in unlawful commands?
This topic is evidently taken from what the Associate Presbytery call The True State of the Question, Defence, page 55th, which they say extends no further than this, viz. “By the word of God, and our covenants, we are inviolably bound, in our several capacities, to confess, oppose, and testify against all the corruptions and evils of the present civil government over these nations, whereby the reformation, once established therein, has been departed from, opposed, or overthrown. Ought we not, at the same time, to acknowledge the civil authority of the said government, in the administrations and commands thereof, that are lawful, and to yield subjection thereunto in these circumstances.”
To understand the above topic, and true state of the question, we must turn back, and consider the account of matters the Associate Presbytery gives, by opposing our ancient civil reformation, to our present civil deformation, Defence, page 46,-53, the substance of which is quoted in the foregoing observations. They introduce this, by laying down a first principle concerning civil government in every civil state whereinto Christianity is introduced; and that is, “That it is peculiarly incumbent upon them to study to bring to pass, that civil government among them, in all the appurtenances of its constitution and administration, run in agreeableness to the word of God, be subservient unto the spiritual kingdom of Jesus Christ, and to the interests of the true religion and reformation of the church, as otherwise they cannot truly prosper in their civil concerns, nor be enriched by the blessing of the gospel.” Same page, it follows, “Our ancestors, upon the reformation from popery, were enabled unto great faithfulness in the discharge of this duty. The true religion, purged from the erroneous, idolatrous, and superstitious abominations of popery, was, by the blessing of God, embraced and professed by all ranks, who were also engaged in a general and progressive course of reformation foresaid. Agreeably to all this, the deed of constitution was set upon a reformed footing, by act 8. parl. 1. James VI.” Here they insert the coronation oath of king James VI and then go on to observe, page 47. “Though the above settlement was, for some time, followed by suitable administrations, yet a course of lamentable defection and corruption therein, did prevail, until a reviving of the true religion and reformation in the church took place, and was gloriously advanced betwixt the years 1633, and 1650. That work of God, which became then engaged unto throughout the three kingdoms, by a solemn league and covenant, was also, in an agreeableness to this covenant, accompanied with, and supported by a civil reformation in England, (wherewith we have become more nearly concerned than formerly, by virtue of the solemn league and covenant,) the civil administration was, in some valuable instances, subservient unto the said work of God. But more considerable advances were made in Scotland, while, beside many laudable acts in the civil administration, the deed of civil constitution was farther reformed than ever before, by act 15 of the 2d session of parliament, anno 1649;” and then they insert the coronation oath of king Charles II which I will also transcribe.
“The estates of parliament, taking into their most serious consideration, the unhappy differences between their late sovereign and these kingdoms, caused by the evil counsels about him, unto the great prejudice of religion, and long disturbance of the peace of these kingdoms; as likewise the manifold acts of parliament and fundamental constitution of this kingdom, anent the king’s oath at his coronation, which, judgeth it necessary, that all kings and princes, who shall reign or bear rule over this realm, shall, at their coronation, or receipts of their princely authority, solemnly swear to observe, in their own persons, and to preserve the religion as it is presently established and professed, and rule the people committed to their charge, according to the will of God, revealed in his word, and the laudable constitutions received within this kingdom, and do sundry other things, which are more fully expressed therein: And, withal, pondering the manifold obligations, to endeavour the securing of religion and the covenant, above all worldly interests: THEREFORE they do enact, ordain, and declare, that, before the king’s majesty, who now is, or any of his successors, shall be admitted to the exercise of his royal power, he shall, by and attor [over] the foresaid oath, assure and declare, by his solemn oath, under his hand and seal, his allowance of the national covenant, and of the solemn league and covenant, and obligation to prosecute the ends thereof in his station and calling; and that he shall, for himself and his successors, consent and agree to acts of parliament enjoining the solemn league and covenant, and fully establishing presbyterian government, the Directory of Worship, Confession of Faith, and Catechisms, as they are approven by the General Assembly of this kirk, and parliament of this kingdom, in all his majesty’s dominions; and that he shall observe these in his own practice and family; and that he shall never make opposition to any of these, or endeavour any change thereof.
“It is also declared, enacted, and ordained, that, before the king, who now is, be admitted to the exercise of his royal power, he shall leave all counsel and counsellors prejudicial to religion, and to the national covenant, and to the solemn league and covenant; and give satisfaction to the parliament of this kingdom, as it is now constitute, in what further shall be found necessary for the settling of a happy and desirable preservation of the union between the kingdoms, and for the good of the crown, and for his own honour and happiness; and shall consent and agree, that all matters, civil, shall be determined by the parliament of this kingdom, and all ecclesiastical matters by the General Assembly of this kirk: For the which ends, the estates of parliament are resolved to make their humble and earnest addresses to his majesty with all possible expedition; all which they find themselves bound to prosecute, and resolved not to recede therefrom, but to see the same really performed.
“Likeas, the estates of parliament discharges all the lieges and subjects of this kingdom, to procure of, receive from his majesty, any commissions, patents, honours, offices, or gifts whatsoever, until his majesty give satisfaction, as said is, under the pain of being censured, in their persons and estates, as the parliament, or any having power from them, shall judge sitting.
“And, if such commissions, patents, honours, offices, or gifts, shall be procured or received by any of the subjects of this kingdom, before such satisfaction, the parliament declares and ordains all such commissions, patents, honours, offices, or gifts, and all that shall follow thereupon, to be void and null.”
And according to this settlement was king Charles II crowned at Scoon, January 1st, 1650.
From this deed of civil constitution, we may observe, that the right of royal authority depended solely upon the obligations, terms, and conditions positively expressed in this deed, without which, inconsistent with, or contrary unto these, it was null void, to all intents and purposes.
Again, from this deed, it appears, that an entire distinction and separation was stated between the civil and ecclesiastical jurisdictions. The claim of supremacy over the church was altogether removed, and civil and ecclesiastic government were considered and provided for, as distinct and coordinate ordinances, and no way subordinate the one unto the other; while the prince was to consent and agree that all matters, civil, should be determined by the parliament, and all matters, ecclesiastic, should be determined by the church.
It further appears, from this deed, that a very particular respect was had unto the personal qualifications of the prince, since he was to profess the true religion as it was established and professed; and was not only to allow of the true religion, including the covenants, national and solemn league, Confession of Faith, &c. but was to prosecute the ends of these in his station and calling, and observe them in his own practice and family; and never make opposition to any of these, nor endeavour any change thereof.
From this deed also, we may account for a mode of speaking, for which the Reformed Presbytery have been exceedingly censured, namely, that scriptural qualifications are necessary to magistrates in a Christian land, and among a Christian people. However this is rejected now with contempt, as nothing more absurd, yet we see it was understood by the estates of parliament, and whole people, at the time when this deed of civil constitution was framed and fixed upon, and established into a fundamental law. This manner of speaking, or what is substantially the same, the Associate Presbytery could not avoid, while they say, Defence, page 46th, “It is peculiarly incumbent upon every civil state, whereinto Christianity is introduced, to study, and bring to pass, that civil government among them, in all the appurtenances of its constitution and administrations, run in an agreeableness to the word of God, be subservient unto the spiritual kingdom of Jesus Christ, and to the interests of the true religion and reformation of the church;” as otherwise, say they, the civil state cannot truly prosper in their civil concerns, nor be enriched with the blessings of the gospel.”
But they are arrived at a superior degree of wisdom and understanding now, who say, “Nay, to them, it is a matter of great indifference in itself, what description of men be possessed of the power and offices of the commonwealth, supreme or subordinate, so long as they continue to discharge the duties thereof, and provided that religion sustains no injury, nor others be deprived of their equal right.” Just as these valuable ends could be truly attained, by having the places of power, and offices, supreme and subordinate, filled with men of any description. Is it not by the exercise of this indifference, in filling the places, supreme and subordinate, with men of any description, that matters, both in point of justice and religion, are come unto the low pass at which they are. The wicked walk on every side, when the vilest of men are exalted, Psal. xii. 8.
We may now turn unto, and take a view of the account which the Associate Presbytery gives of what they call our present civil deformation, which appears not only to be the reverse, but the reversing of the reformation, as the deformation succeeded unto the reformation, so the latter reversed the former. The present civil deformation reversed and destroyed the dead of civil constitution, particularly in the coronation oath, anno 1567, and 1649, quoted above, and thrust a mighty bar in the way of our covenanted reformation, both in church and state; laid, and sealed a gravestone upon it. Nay, according to the account given above, and which will be found agreeable to the true state of matters, the present deformation hath not only barred out, and buried the ancient reformation, but it hath raised up, and promotes, supports, and maintains deformation, not only in the terms, obligations, and conditions of holding the right of regal power and dignity, and in the principles and administrations of government; but also corruption both in the principle and practice of the body politic, or people at large.
In short, by the above representation of the difference between the ancient civil reformation, and the present civil deformation, opposed to one another, it appears, that, whereas the estates of the nation, in the ancient civil reformation, firmly determined and provided, that the prince should be admitted to receive and hold the right of regal dignity, upon these express terms, obligations, and conditions, sine qua non, viz. that he should profess the true religion, that is, the protestant religion, reformed and purged from the hierarchy, errors, and superstitious ceremonies of prelacy. That he should allow of the presbyterian religion, according to, and including the covenants, national and solemn league. That he should prosecute the ends thereof in his station and calling. That he should consent and agree to acts of parliament, enjoining the solemn league and covenant, and fully establishing presbyterian government, the directory of worship, &c. as approven by the General Assembly of this kirk, &c. That he should observe these in his own practice and family, &c. All which, with other articles, are more fully expressed in the coronation oath, inserted above; and all to be confirmed by his solemn oath, under his hand seal. And that these should be the terms, obligations, and conditions, sine qua non, of receiving, holding, and exercising the right of regal power and dignity by every successor in all time coming. And that he should never make any opposition to any of these, nor endeavour any change thereof. I say, whereas under the ancient civil reformation, the terms, obligations, and conditions of holding and exercising the royal power, were as above. Under what the Associate Presbytery call the present civil deformation, these terms are totally reversed. Before the British prince, or any of his successors, can ascend the throne, or be invested with royal power, in all time coming, he must profess the episcopal religion, and be of that communion, and is bound to maintain, inviolably, that whole hierarchy, doctrine, worship, discipline and government, with all the superstitious ceremonies belonging to that system. And thus the matter stands both by the Revolution and Union settlements, according to the Associate Presbytery’s own account thereof, which is as follows: Defence, page 50th, “The kingdom of England, at the Revolution, still adhered unto their apostacy, in keeping their government settled in favours of abjured prelacy, and according to the wicked laws which had been made against England’s reformation. The kingdom of Scotland, at that time, in settling their government, and in offering the crown to king William and queen Mary, not only overlooked the whole civil reformation, attained to between the years 1638, and 1650, but left the wicked laws, revoking and razing the same, untouched, and in force. Moreover, at the incorporating Union with England, anno 1707, a farther and very lamentable step of defection was made in our civil settlement, in regard the maintenance and preservation of the hierarchy and ceremonies of the church of England is a fundamental and essential article of the said Union; so that it stands upon terms opposite unto, and inconsistent with our covenant union, whereby this kingdom is more deeply involved in perjury, and in the guilt of England’s apostacy and corruption, while consenting thereunto. In a word, since the Revolution, and by the Union settlement, though papists, and such as marry papists, are absolutely excluded from the crown, (which is a thing very laudable,) and while our kings are obliged to swear, at their coronation, that they shall, inviolably, maintain and preserve the settlement and privileges of the church of England, in the kingdom of England and Ireland. And, upon the whole, it appears, that, under the present constitution, a mighty bar is thrust into the way of our covenanted reformation, both in church and state; yea, a gravestone is laid, and established upon the same.”
The Associate Presbytery having made the above statement of the difference between our ancient civil reformation, and our present civil deformation, call in the word of God, and our covenants, as an inviolable rule, and obligatory bond of our duty, with application unto the latter. Having set aside five articles, wherein they say the state of the question in controversy did not consist, they come to what they considered to be the true state of it: Page 55th, “And now it is abundantly evident, that the true state of the question extends no farther than this, viz.
“As by the word of God, and our covenants, we are inviolably bound, in our several capacities, to confess, oppose, and testify, against all the corruptions and evils of the present civil government over these nations, whereby the Reformation, once established therein, has been departed from, opposed, or overthrown. Ought we not, at the same time, to acknowledge the civil authority of the said government, in the administration and commands thereof, that are lawful, and to yield subjection thereunto in these circumstances?”
To this we may add what we have in a foregoing article in the same page, viz. “The question is not, whether it be lawful for us to swear the present allegiance to the civil government, which the presbytery acknowledge they cannot do: seeing there are no oaths to the government in being, but what exclude the oath of our covenants, or homologate the united constitution.”
These two articles must be understood to include, negatively, and positively, all that subjection that is exercised, or allowed to be exercised, by the Secession judicatures, and their followers, toward the present civil government. Let us compare it with that which was acknowledged and exercised toward the civil government, under what they call our ancient civil reformation.
This we may gather, first, from the national covenant, which runs in the following words: “We promise and swear, that we shall, to the uttermost of our power, with our means and lives, stand to the defence of our dread sovereign, and king’s majesty, his person and authority, in the defence and preservation of the foresaid true religion, liberties, and laws of the kingdom.” And, 2dly, from the third article of the solemn league and covenant, viz. “We shall, with the same sincerity, reality, and constancy, in our several vocations, endeavour, with our estates and lives, mutually, to preserve the rights and privileges of the parliaments, and liberties of the kingdoms; and to preserve and defend the king’s majesty’s person and authority, in the preservation and defence of the true religion, and liberties of the kingdoms,” &c.
Now, here we may observe a manifest and vast difference between the subjection allowed and exercised toward the government, under the ancient civil reformation, and that which is allowed and exercised by the Secession toward the present government; the former is attended with, and includes an engagement, with their estates and lives, mutually, to preserve the rights and privileges of the parliament, &c. That allowed and exercised by the Secession toward the latter has no such engagement, and is attended with a direct testimony against the government, for departing from, opposing, or overthrowing the reformation once establishing in these lands. As this statement of subjection runs, if it included an engagement to defend, it behoved to be a defence in the departing from, opposing, or overthrowing of the reformation, or the true religion, once established in these lands.
We may also compare this statement of subjection, allowed to the present government by the Secession, with that required by it, and allowed and exercised toward it, by the body politic. This may be gathered from the oath of allegiance, and more fully expressed in the present form of the oath of abjuration, which runs thus: “I, A. B. do truly and sincerely acknowledge, profess, testify, and declare, in my conscience, before God and the world, that our sovereign lord, king George II is lawful and rightful king of this realm, &c. And I do swear, that I will bear faith and true allegiance to his majesty, king George II and him will I defend to the utmost of my power, &c. And I do faithfully promise, to the utmost of my power, to support, maintain, and defend the limitation and succession of the crown,” &c.
Now, this subjection required by government, as an acknowledgment of its authority, and allowed and exercised toward it by the jurant, includes an engagement to support, maintain, and defend, and is not attended with any testimony against it; the therefore is essentially different from that allowed and exercised by the Secession. But, not to speak of this, the Secession decline taking any oaths to the present government at all; their reasons for this are given in the article quote above, viz. “There are no oaths to the government, in being, but what exclude the oath of our covenants, or homologate the united constitution.”
This is more fully expressed and explained in the Secession Testimony, page 122, in what is called a declaration concerning the clause of civil allegiance in some burgess oaths. The clause is this: “I shall be leal and true to our sovereign lord, king George II and his successors.” The Synod having given the reasons of this coming under their judicial consideration at the time, say, “Therefore the Synod did, and hereby do unanimously agree and declare, that the foresaid clause and allegiance in some burgess oaths, being materially the same, and of the same generality with the allegiance imposed by parliament in the year 1690; its coming into the room of our covenant allegiance, does lean not only unto the act imposing the same, but likewise unto the material nature of the oath itself, compared with the burial of our covenant allegiance by the act rescissory; and because, in the acknowledgment of sins prefixed to the bond for renewing our covenants, the said allegiance, in the year 1690, is declared against, for the generally thereof, seeing a general allegiance must necessarily be understood, as deriving all its limitation immediately from the standing constitutions and laws of the land, and as therefore containing a general approbation of those constitutions and law.”
To this, we subjoin what is expressed in a second act, concerning general engagements of subjection and obedience in some burgess oaths: “The Synod resuming the case of some burgess oaths, which bear none of the clauses yet judged of by them; particularly, having before them attested copies or narratives of the burgess oaths of Burntisland, Kinghorn, Kirkaldy, and Falkland, which bear general engagements of subjection and obedience to the magistrates of those respective burghs: And having maturely considered that affair, they unanimously agree, that a general engagement of subjection and obedience to the magistrates of a burgh, without a proper and distinct limitation, which might salve, and make it consistent with the present testimony, doth coincide with the case of the general allegiance to the sovereign, which hath been already determined by the Associate Presbytery and Synod; so that these under the inspection of this Synod, cannot further, with safety of conscience, and without sin, involve themselves in any burgess oath, bearing such a general engagement, in this period of defection; while they are justly and necessarily engaged otherwise, in a public testimony, against prevailing evils of the civil state, as well as of the church. And moreover, that those under the inspection of this Synod, who have formerly been involved in any such oaths, particularly of the burghs above-mentioned, ought, before their admission into the bond for renewing our covenants, to be dealt with,” &c. As also, what is said in a third act, entitled, “Act concerning the oaths imposed upon constables and churchwardens in England and Ireland, and concerning the bishops courts.” Having given the reason of these being the matter of their consideration at that time, they say,
“Copies of the aforementioned oaths having been read, and sometime having been spent in reasoning upon the whole subject, the Synod agreed to proceed, first, unto a judgment upon the affair of the oaths, and bishops courts: and, after some further reasoning, with prayer for light and direction in the case, the Synod agreed unanimously in finding, that the people under the inspection of this Synod, in England and Ireland, cannot, with safety of conscience, and without sin, engage in either of the aforesaid oaths. Because the constable oath is of a very unlimited nature, as containing a general allegiance to the sovereign, and a general compliance with the laws of the land in the execution of that office, without proper and necessary limitations. And because the churchwarden oath doth expressly reduplicate upon some articles of presentment, which plainly imply an approving of and concurring with the superstitions of the episcopal church. And moreover, they find, that the people under their inspection cannot warrantably, in conscience, and in a consistency with their profession, acknowledge, or take the benefit of the bishops courts in any causes, as this behoved to imply an homologating of an ecclesiastical constitution in those courts, with the civil places and power of kirk-men.
I shall also add an act, entitled, “Act concerning the constable oath in Scotland,” which is as follows: “The Synod having had laid before them, by their committee for overtures, an overture about giving direction to such of their people in Scotland, as come to be imposed upon to take the constable oath, and understanding that severals of them, in different corners, have, of late, been suffering imprisonments and finings, for refusing to take the said oath; and finding, by the report of some brethren, that this trial is now like to become more general among their people; the Synod, after due deliberation and reasoning, unanimously agree in this direction to the people under their inspection, that they cannot with safety of conscience, and consistently with their witnessing profession, take the said constable oath; because this oath is altogether unlimited with respect to whatever is required of them in that office, according to the laws of the land; notwithstanding the various corruptions thereof which we testify against, concerning the state of religion, and of a covenanted reformation; and because the oath is equally unlimited, with respect to whatever precepts or warrants may be directed to them from the justices of the peace. And the Synod advise, that their people should study the exercise of Christian meekness and patience, under any sufferings, for conscience sake, because of their refusal to engage in the said oath; so they recommend to their people, to comfort and sympathize with their brethren, under such sufferings, according to their abilities and opportunities.”
Now, after reading these, one might justly consider it as a matter of surprise and wonder, with what face judicatories, or a people who make such acts and declarations, can, at the same time, boast of a distinguished regard for, and what they call loyalty to, a system of government, which they cannot take allegiance unto, nor engage to support and defend it; but must reckon it a hardship to be called upon to take the allegiance or other qualifying oaths to government; and when exacted upon, for refusing to take them, must reckon it a suffering for conscience sake; and recommend it to their people to bear such sufferings with meekness and patience, while yet these oaths result from, and are conformable to the constitution, and engage to the maintenance of that very government, which they contend for and vindicate as lawful.
Let it be here observed, that the alone and formal reason given, why the allegiance, &c. are declined by the judicatories and people of the Secession, is, that such oaths derive all their limitation immediately from the standing constitutions and laws of the land. By which it must be understood, that the jurant, by taking the allegiance, or other oaths, doth, in the nature of the thing, give his suffrage unto, approve of, and engage to maintain and defend, the whole system of government, as by law established. And though the burgher side of the Secession profess that they are clear to take the burgher oaths, yet it is manifest, from their debate with the antiburghers upon the subject, that they understand and take these oaths, with such explications and limitations, as not to extend to the government as by law established. And by this way of doing, they swear to a government of their own, but not to the British government. Let the reader call this juggling, or by any other name he pleaseth.
It is manifest, then, that all subjection allowed to be exercised under, or toward the Revolution and Union settlement of government, is only, and no more, than a mere passive subjection. More is not allowed by the word of God, and our covenants. As it is said above, “By the word of God, and our covenants, we are inviolably bound, in our several capacities, to confess, oppose, and testify against,” &c. But the word of God, and our covenants, inviolably bound the subjects, in their several capacities, to an essentially different kind of subjection unto government under the ancient civil reformation, viz. not simply to yield a mere passive subjection to administrations and commands that were lawful, and this attended with a confessing, opposing, and testifying against, &c. but a testimony unto the lawfulness of the whole, and an engagement to maintain and defend it, to the utmost of their power, to continue inviolable in all time coming. And, indeed, it is only such a subjection as this, that can be called proper subjection to any government. But that subjection, mentioned above, as allowed and exercised to the present Revolution government, by the Secession judicatories, and people, is properly no subjection to any government; but is just such as must be exercised under anarchy, absolute, arbitrary, and habitual tyranny, or mere usurpation, and consisteth just in living orderly, according to the divine law, and as quietly as may be consistent with a testimony against the corruptions, backslidings, and defections of the times, enjoying any good the evil times will allow them, and, at the same time, bearing with meekness and patience, what sufferings they may be exposed unto for their testimony’s sake.
It may also here be observed, that this subjection, in agreeableness to the passive nature of it, is, and must be exercised rather from circumstances of necessity, than from a moral obligation. This is manifestly evident, from the manner in which it is deliberately and designedly expressed in The True State of the Question above. Moral subjection and homologation cannot result from that which is corruption and evil. But such, according to the doctrine and testimony of the Associate Presbytery, quoted above, is the Revolution and Union settlement of government, and that not only in the corrupt administrations resulting therefrom, but in the very deeds of settlement themselves. The right of holding and exercising regal power and dignity is conferred and established upon the prince, and successors, in all time coming, upon terms, obligations, and conditions, not only inconsistent with, but destructive of the terms of the deed of civil constitution, in the ancient civil reformation. Says the Associate Presbytery, Defence, page 51st, “The body politic particularly in Scotland, have never, by their deed of civil constitution, provided that their magistrates be brought under, and admitted upon obligations and terms, such as were fixed upon, and established in reforming periods, particularly in the coronation oath, anno 1567, 1649, but such as are, in many respects, not only different from, but destructive of the same, unto the great prejudice of real religion, and reformation in the house of God. They have never endeavoured to inform their magistrates of their sin and duty in this matter, or to reform them from their corruptions; but, on the contrary, they have been a snare and a stumbling block unto them.” In like manner, page 50, “The kingdom of Scotland, at that time, in settling their government, and in offering the crown to king William, and queen Mary, not only overlooked the whole civil reformation attained to betwixt the years 1638, and 1650, but left the wicked laws, revoking and razing the same, untouched, and in force. Moreover, at the incorporating Union with England, anno 1707, a farther, and very lamentable, step of defection was made in our civil settlement, in regard the maintenance and preservation of the hierarchy and ceremonies of the church of England, is a fundamental and essential article of the said Union, so that it stands upon terms opposite unto, and inconsistent with our covenant Union, whereby this kingdom is more deeply involved in perjury, and the guilt of England’s apostacy and corruption, while consenting thereunto.” The deed of civil constitution, in the ancient civil reformation, the Associate Presbytery bear testimony unto, as moral, and morally unalterable, in the passages quoted above; and assert farther, in their answer to Mr. Nairn’s 7th reason of dissent, part 15th, “Which deed of constitution, in all moral respects, is morally unalterable, because of its agreeableness to the divine will, revealed in the word; and because it was attained to, and fixed, in pursuance of our solemn covenants.” Now, can two deeds of civil constitution, inconsistent with, and destructive of one another, be both morally obligatory? The civil deed of constitution, in the ancient civil reformation, is morally unalterable, for the reasons given above. Can the deeds of civil constitution in the Revolution and Union settlement, which the Associate Presbytery calls our present civil deformation, whereby the former deed, morally unalterable, is departed from, opposed, and overthrown, be also morally obligatory? I cannot believe it. The one or the other must be given up.
The Presbytery say, page last quoted, “That they maintain it, as a principle founded upon the word of God, &c. that the defection of a nation from attained to reformation, doth not deprive them of a right to chuse civil magistrates for themselves; and that subjection to them, and obedience to their lawful commands, continues a duty incumbent upon the minority, who adhere to the covenanted reformation.”
But have a nation, making defection from former attainments in reformation, a right to invest their magistrates, which they chuse, with unlawful power? or with lawful power, upon unlawful terms? Have a nation, making such a defection, a right, not only to invest their magistrates with a power to depart from, but also to oppose and overthrow the reformation once attained to? Not only so, but to call and admit their magistrates to the power and office, upon express terms and obligations, sine qua non, that they shall employ their said power and office, to promote, and inviolably to support and maintain and defection and apostacy which they have made? Should this be the case, then a nation must have a right to reform and deform at their own pleasure, or do anything they please. Now, this is manifestly the case in the matter before us. In the Revolution and Union settlements, the nations not only departed from, and did oppose and overthrow the reformation once attained-to and established, but did call and admit their magistrates upon terms, whereby they became bound, inviolably, to promote, maintain, and defend that overthrow in all time coming. It is by the deed of civil constitution, that the Associate Presbytery says, “a mighty bar is thrust in the way of our covenanted reformation both in church and state; yea, a gravestone is laid and established the same.” Now, there is manifest and great difference, between a simple defect in a deed of civil constitution, whereby a matter of great importance may be left unprovided for, or unsecured, and an error, whereby a matter of the highest importance, such as an attained to and established reformation must be barred out and buried, and a gravestone laid and established upon it. When a nation, or the great majority of a nation, go into such a course as this, must a minority, adhering unto a covenanted reformation, formerly established, but now barred out and buried, be still under a moral obligation to acquiesce held or exercised upon such terms and obligations? Those that think so, are welcome to their sentiments. The presbytery, with equal justice, might have maintained it, as a principle founded upon the word of God, &c. that the defection of a church from attained-to reformation, doth not deprive them of a right to chuse ministers for themselves, and that subjection to them, and obedience to their lawful administrations and commands, continues a duty incumbent upon the minority, who adhere to the covenanted reformation; and this would have saved them the trouble of seceding from the established church. That the one is the church, and the other the state, does by no means alter the power of the majority over the minority. Slavish, in the extreme, must that doctrine be, which subjects the consciences of a minority, however small, unto the voice of a majority, when that voice goes to the carrying on of any matter, and especially that which is of the highest importance, contrary unto the word of God, and former attainments in reformation.
Great weight and stress is laid upon the voice of the people. Our rulers rule by the voice, the consent, the will of the people. But, according to what is stated above by the Associate Presbytery, have not the people, then, given their voice, consent, terms, obligations, and conditions of government, whereby they are not only allowed to depart from, oppose, and overthrow, to bar out, bury, establish, and seal a gravestone upon our covenanted reformation, both in church and state, but are even bound, to set up, maintain, and inviolably defend, in all time coming, the contrary corruptions, errors superstitions, &c. all which, when considered with respect to the moral obligations lying upon the people from the word of God, and attained-to reformation, formerly established, the presbytery call apostacy, perjury, and corruption: and have not the presbytery lifted up, and directed their testimony expressly and particularly against such a consent and voice? Must a minority be morally bound to confess, oppose, and testify against a wrong voice, consent, and a corrupt deed of a majority, and, at the same time, be morally bound to acquiesce in, and concur with, that same wrong voice, consent, or corrupt deed? They that think so, may enjoy their opinion. To lift up, direct, and bear an express, explicit, and particular testimony against the terms upon which the right of regal authority of holden and exercised, and, at the same time, to give, or declare a suffrage unto, acquiescence in, approbation of, and a concurrence with, that right of authority, holden upon these very terms and obligations testified against, must be utterly inconsistent and contradictory. To refuse to concur with administrations and commands, under the pretence that they are unlawful, while yet they are administered, and enjoined by that authority which is acknowledged lawful, and while they are administrations and commands that are agreeable to, included in, and warranted by the very terms, obligations, and conditions, upon which the right of that authority is holden exercised, must, in like manner, be utterly self-inconsistent and contradictory.
Lawful authority, i.e. authority lawfully vested, and the right of power, holden upon right and lawful terms, may be abused by unlawful administrations and commands; and, in these instances, may be lawfully and dutifully declined. But unlawful authority, i.e. authority unlawfully vested, and the right of power holden on unlawful terms and obligations, cannot; for its lawful administrations and commands become lawful; for its lawful administrations and commands may be approved of, acquiesced in, and obeyed, and yet the authority by which they are administered and commanded, may be, in itself, declined.
Authority is unlawful, when it is holden on unlimited terms, whereby the rulers, if they are disposed to do so, may impose unlimited subjection upon people, or on terms whereby they are at liberty to depart from, oppose, and overthrow former attainments in reformation, whether civil or religious, that have been established in agreeableness to the law of God; and still more unlawful, when holden on terms and obligations, whereby they are bound to restore, set up, maintain, and defend, inviolable, in all time coming, such errors, corruptions, and superstitions in principle and practice, as have been formerly reformed and purged out. Authority of this kind, when considered with respect to the word of God, and terms and obligations fixed upon and established by many fundamental acts and laws, can no more be esteemed lawful authority, than the possession of an estate, holden upon the express and positive violation of the rights of the former possessor, can be esteemed a lawful possession. Nor can the voice and consent of any majority legitimate such a power, unless it be supposed that a majority hath a right to act independent of, and control God and his law, and that the consciences of a minority are under a moral obligation to believe, and be bound to contradictions.
Lawful administrations, and commands, derive not their moral influence, or obligatory nature, from the authority by which they are administered and enjoined; they are morally obligatory by the divine law, independent of human authority; they are moral by an intrinsic righteousness and fitness in themselves, and in the expediency of their being done on suitable occasions, and in circumstances whereby they become requisite; and, in this consideration, they may, and ought to be approved of, acquiesced in, and obeyed on all occasions, whatever state the society may be in, whether, in what civilians call a state of nature, without any fixed form of civil government at all, or in a state of interregnum, or even revolution, where the right of government may be under disputation, under despotic, arbitrary, and habitual tyranny, or under mere usurpation. Lawful administrations, and commands, alter not in their obligatory nature, by these circumstances.
The administering, or dispensing of material justice, and commanding the performance of all civil and relative duties, is one thing, and a just and lawful right, according to the word of God and fundamental laws, founded upon the same, and established, in reforming times, to that honour, power, and dignity, is quite another and different thing. The one may, even in some good measure, obtain, and the other be a wanting. In as far as the former obtains, it is good, and ought to be acknowledged: but, when the right of administering, and commanding, is holden upon terms and obligations, whereby the rulers have a power, not only to oppose, and overthrow former attainments in reformation, but to bar them out, and bury them; not only so, but are bound to restore, set up, and maintain, and defend, inviolable, in all time coming, the contrary errors, corruptions, and superstitions, in principle, and in practice, it may, and ought to be declined, as unlawful, when considered with respect to the word of God, and former reforming and fundamental laws, confessed as above, to be of moral and unalterable force; and this without the smallest contradiction or inconsistency.
A simple passive subjection, under any government or dominion whatsoever, doth never, in the nature of the thing, imply a recognition of the right of authority, as lawful, unless the subject, actually and expressly, declare so much, or take a solemn allegiance, which, as the Associate Synod say, derives all its limitation immediately from the standing constitutions and laws of the land, or in some other way equivalent thereto. From all which it appears, that the subjection contended for, to be exercised toward the Revolution and Union government, is a mere passive subjection, exercised only from circumstances of necessity, and not from any moral obligation.
This appears, farther, from the last part of The True State, quoted above, which runs thus: “Ought we not, at the same time, to acknowledge the civil authority of the said government, in the administrations, and commands thereof, that are lawful, and to yield subjection thereunto, in these circumstances.”
In the first part of this True State of the Question, the Associate Presbytery have set aside the Revolution and Union government, as established by law, as what they are under no moral obligation to be subject unto. This is also declared by various acts and deeds of the Associate Synod, quoted above: “As by the word of God, and our covenants, we are inviolably bound to confess, oppose, and testify against, &c. Now, to be under a moral obligation to remonstrate, and bear testimony against a government, as by law established, and, at the same time, morally obligated to be subject unto it, is incompatible. The subjection that is contended for, in this last part of The True State, is exercised upon the score of circumstances of necessity. The Revolution and Union settlement of government, hath, according to the account given thereof by the Associate Presbytery above, barred out, and buried a covenanted reformation, and hath set up, and is engaged to maintain, inviolable, in all time coming, a contrary work of deformation, which, considered with respect to the word of God, and our solemn covenant obligations, amounts to what they call apostacy, perjury, and corruption, and which we are morally bound to dissent from, to remonstrate, and testify against. All this the body politic have backslidden into, and gone in with; and holy providence also, for holy and wise purposes, hath concurred with this course of defection, and has permitted it, for a time, to be so: so that all remonstrances, and testimonies, or other means competent or expedient to be used by a minority, in such a case, do not avail, to put a stop to the backsliding course, or alter the state of things. But, as lawful administrations, just civil decisions, acts of material justice, and commands enjoining the performance of civil and relative duties, are enjoined in, and obligatory by the divine law, and are unalterably the same in their nature, under every government, the worst government, or no government at all; in as far, therefore, as such obtain, we ought to acknowledge the lawfulness of them, and yield subjection thereunto, in these circumstances.”
Here, it is manifest, that this subjection, as far as it respects the authority of the administrator and commander, is exercised from circumstances and necessity, or a providential necessity, and not from a moral obligation arising from the authority. It is the same identical civil authority, resulting from the same constitution, and holden upon the same tenure, whereby the administrator administers and commands those administrations and commands, to which the Secession judicatories and people yield subjection, and whereby, at the same time, he bars out and buries, and establishes a gravestone upon a covenanted work of reformation, both in church and state; and both introduced a contrary work of deformation; whereby he sets up, and is bound to maintain and defend, inviolable, in all time coming, the hierarchy, doctrines, worship, discipline, government, and superstitious errors of prelacy, in principle and in practice, formerly purged out: and whereby he administers allegiance, abjuration, and constable oaths, and commands to exercise the office of a constable. Now, why should the civil authority of the administrator be acknowledged in the one, and declined in the other? If the former sort of administrations and commands, derive their lawfulness from the authority of the administrator and commander, why not the latter? They are all equally lawful by the constitution and government, as by law established. In the Secession judicatories and people reckon, as they do, that their acknowledging the civil authority, and yielding subjection thereunto, in the latter sort of administrations and commands, would be a concurring with the deformation, contrary to the word of God, and their own and the land’s solemn covenant obligations, to promote and maintain a covenanted work of reformation, against the general course of the defection of the times: and that their engaging in oaths and offices, would amount unto a concurring with, and engaging to maintain and defend the standing constitutions and laws of the land, contrary to their testimony. Of consequence, it follows, that they decline the authority of the Revolution and Union government, as it is by law established. Whatsoever authority the administrator holdeth, he holdeth it from the standing constitutions and laws of the land: and therefore the subjection yielded by the Secession judicatories, and people, to lawful administrations and commands, in as far as it respects the authority of the administrator and commander, is from necessity, and not from a moral obligation resulting from the authority: at most, it is a subjection to a civil authority of their own limitation and restriction, and not the civil authority of Revolution or Union government.
When any of the people of the Secession did, in any instances, yield subjection to these administrations and commands, whereby they were fined or imprisoned, for refusing to take the constable oath, and exercise the office of a constable, or, if any of them should be called to exercise such a subjection in time coming, I ask, would their yielding such a subjection, when considered with respect to the authority of the administrator and commander, be from a moral obligation: if so, then they have been, or would be, guilty of refusing of lawful authority, in refusing to take the oath and office of a constable, and submitted to just punishment for their offence. If they yielded, or should, in any time coming, yield subjection to administrations and commands, whereby they were, or may be fined or imprisoned, for refusing, &c. in a way of suffering for conscience sake, in preference to sinning against the ancient civil reformation, and a covenanted reformation, and established and secured thereby, which the Associate Presbytery say, is morally unalterable, and against their own testimony; then their yielding such a subjection was not, or would not, be from a moral obligation, but from circumstances of necessity, or a providential necessity. No man suffering for conscience sake, in preference to sinning, is bound to undergo such sufferings, by a moral obligation, arising from the authority of the administrator or commander, by whose administrations and commands he so suffereth. Now, the authority by which any of the people of the Secession have suffered, or may suffer, for such a recusancy, as above, is the same identical authority, resulting from the same identical standing constitutions and laws of the land, and holden upon the same identical tenure with that of any other administrations and commands whatsoever. And such administrations and commands equally result from, are agreeable unto, and warranted by the standing constitutions and laws of the land, as any other, the design, use, and tendency of which, being to strengthen, secure, and establish the constitution and authority resulting from it. Now, if the authority, by which oaths of allegiance, and constable oaths are dispensed, and the exercise of the office of a constable is commanded, is declined, because these must be taken and exercised according to the whole extent of the standing constitutions and laws of the and. And if administrations and commands, whereby any of the people of the Secession have been, in time past, or may, in any time coming, be exposed to fines, or imprisonment, for their declining of that authority, are subjected unto, not from a moral obligation, but from circumstances of necessity, it must follow, upon the principles of consistency, that subjection unto all administrations and commands whatsoever, as it respects the authority of the administrator and commander, is exercised from circumstances of necessity, and not from a moral obligation; for, if the authority of the administrator and commander of these administrations and commands, the design, use, and tendency of which, is solely, and altogether, for the strengthening, securing, and establishing of the constitution, and the authority, as resulting from it, is, in one case, declined, and, in another, subjected to, from circumstances of necessity, and not from a moral obligation: nothing is more obvious, than that the yielding of subjection unto these administrations and commands, the design, use, and tendency of which, has no immediate connection with the constitution at all, is, as it respects the authority of the administrator and commander, exercised not from a moral obligation, but from circumstances of necessity, And thus, all the subjection exercised toward the Revolution and Union government, by the Secession judicatories, and people, even in the administrations and commands thereof, that are lawful, is not from a moral obligation, but from circumstances of necessity. In other circumstances they would take a different course of conduct. This is the true sense of the last part of The True State of the Question above, or then, the first part of it is fallacious and deceitful, and language, in the last part it, without any certain meaning; and the whole is just as much, and no more, than to say, they are subject to the British Revolution and Union government, only because they cannot help it. According to the quotations from the Associate Presbytery above, the Revolution and Union constitution hath departed from, opposed, or overthrown, barred out, buried, and sealed a gravestone upon our ancient reformation, at the expense of apostacy, perjury, and corruption; on account of which, the Secession judicatures and people consider themselves as infallibly bound, by the word of God, and our covenants, to confess, oppose, and testify against it; and therefore cannot be morally bound either to homologate or support it; for no man can be morally bound to support that which he is morally bound to oppose and testify against, but they yield subjection unto the administrations and commands thereof that are lawful. In these circumstances, the administrations and commands are supposed lawful, and therefore obligatory in their own nature; but the constitution must be confessed, opposed, and testified against, and therefore must be considered as unlawful; of consequence, therefore, the subjection exercised to it, is only in these circumstances, or because they cannot help it.
A moral obligation to homologate authority, ariseth not from the circumstances attending it, but from the morality of the authority in itself, and of the right holding and exercising it. Many people have been compelled, by these circumstances, to yield subjection, not only to the lawful administrations and commands, but also to the most unlawful, oppressive, and tyrannical administrations and commands, of the most unlawful authority, of the most arbitrary, oppressive, and cruel despots and tyrants. The children of Israel were compelled, by these circumstances, to yield subjection, not only to the lawful administrations and commands, but to the most cruel oppression and tyranny of the arbitrary despot of Egypt, the iron furnace, and house of bondage. These circumstances also compelled the same people to yield subjection to the most cruel usage and abuse of the nations about them in the time of the Judges, in Syria also, and in Babylon. These circumstances, in like manner, compelled the Jews to yield subjection to the Roman usurpation and oppression in our Saviour’s days, and to pay tribute to Caesar. These circumstances compelled the Christians at Rome, to yield subjection, not only to the lawful administrations and commands, but to the most barbarous and bloody cruelty of the arbitrary and despotic emperors. And many thousands were compelled, by these circumstances, to yield subjection, not only to the lawful administrations and commands, but to the cruel abuse, barbarity, and bloody butchery of king Charles II and James VII in the late times of tyranny and persecution in these lands. But were these people, in all these instances, bound by a moral obligation to yield to such a subjection? Those who are capable of entertaining a sentiment so grossly absurd, may do it.
In like manner, by these circumstances, the societies of reform, and friends of the people, in the late popular commotions, were obliged to yield subjection to these administrations and commands, whereby they were compelled to desist from, and give up with, their enterprise of petitioning for, and bringing about, a reform in the British parliament, of which societies, very many of the people of the Secession, and some members of their judicatures, were constituent members, and all, generally, warmly approved of the measure. Did they abandon their design, and submit to these administrations and commands, by which they were compelled to do so, from a moral obligation? If so, then their enterprise was unlawful, untenable, seditious, and rebellious.
Or, should the present British ministry see it requisite and necessary, on account of the former and present popular commotions, to insist on a solemn allegiance being imposed upon the inhabitants of all ranks and denominations, whereby they should be bound, not only to a peaceable living, but to maintain and support the present constitution in all its appurtenances, and neither seek, or endeavour to bring about, any change thereof, in all time coming: and enact, that such as should decline such an allegiance, should be subjected to whatsoever punishment they should judge proper, imprisonment, fining, banishment, or death. And should the people of the Secession, as well as others, be compelled by these circumstances, viz. the power of the secular arm, to yield subjection to these administrations and commands; would this subjection be from a moral obligation? If so, then their present principles, upon which they refuse to take the allegiance to the present Revolution and Union settlements, are unfound, immoral, and untenable.
From the above True State of the Question, and the observations made upon it, it is abundantly evident, that the subjection allowed and exercised toward the present Revolution and Union government, by the Secession judicatories, and people, is only, and no more, than a mere passive subjection; a subjection restricted unto the administrations and commands thereof, that they judge lawful, while the constitution contains evils in it, whereby our ancient reformation, both in church and state, is departed from, opposed, and overthrown, barred out, and buried, and a gravestone laid, and sealed upon it: on account of which, they are inviolably bound, by the word of God, and our covenants, to confess, oppose, and testify against it. This, indeed, is but a poor compliment to the British civil government, to lay it on the same level with the worst governments that ever either did, or can exist in the world. This is just the same, and no more, than the same subjection that was exercised to Oliver Cromwell, by those who counted him a mere usurper, and to Charles II whose government, the Associate Presbytery say, was a force upon the nation, and who had not even the essence of magistracy; and also to James VII who was deposed from the throne, as an usurper and tyrant. The people yield subjection unto the administrations and commands of them that were lawful, in these circumstances. A person under the dominion of a highway robber and murderer, may, and, if it is for his own good, ought to yield subjection unto the administrations and commands of him, that are lawful, in these circumstances.
Upon the whole, it is altogether manifest, that this subjection, when it is considered in this controversy, and with application to the present British civil government, and compared with that subjection, professed and exercised by our reformers to the then government, under what the Associate Presbytery call our ancient reformation, and with that required by the present government in the oath of allegiance, and which is exercised toward it by the body politic, is a mere palpable blind, an idle, empty, vain, verbal pretence, calculate for nothing but to mislead and deceive. And yet, strange to tell! this is the subjection which the Associate Presbytery, and the Secession judicatories, and people, call their principles about the present civil government, and, in deed, about government in general. And, to maintain and vindicate this principle, they introduce a pompous train of topics of argumentation, from scripture precepts, from scripture example, from the principles of the foreign reformed churches, from the principles of the church of Scotland at the reformation from popery, and from her principles in the late period of persecution. And although the reasoning from all these topics had been just and conclusive, which yet is by no means the case; yet, what does it all prove? Just this, that a people may, or must, yield a passive subjection to any, or every government, which, in the course of adorable providence, prevails, how bad, or corrupt soever it may be, in these circumstances; or, in other words, while it is not in their power, by just or proper means, to bring about a change or reformation in it, to attempt such a proof, of such a principle, is just as idle, and as gross a prostitution of, and insult upon scripture and argument, as if one should attempt to prove from scripture, and a parade of other topics of argumentation, in the most verbose and artful manner, that a man shut up in a strong prison, without any possible means of escape, must subject himself to that government, in these circumstances, or until the door is set open to him; or that a man, bound hand and foot, with getters of iron, without any possible way of being liberated from them, must remain in that bondage, in these circumstances, or until he is loosed. What occasion for a proof of what is not only self-evident, but what cannot be avoided? Or who ever called the thing, attempted to be proven, into controversy? Or what occasion to prove, that a person or people, in these circumstances, may, or ought to yield subjection unto such administrations and commands as are just and lawful in themselves, or when such a subjection may tend to alleviate their own distress in such circumstances? Who ever controverted this? Not the Reformed Presbytery, nor yet their followers, that ever I knew of. They were always convinced of the truth of the proverbial saying, “Where the sheep is bound, it must bleat.” Nor did they ever, that I know of, take it into their heads, to imagine, that either their principles about government in general, or their dissent from, or testimony against, the Revolution and Union deeds of settlement of civil government, in the least, required them to flee in the face of, or resist any lawful administrations or commands; but to approve of all such as good in themselves, and in as far as they receive any benefit from such, or, as they are for the good of the community in general, they esteem them as common favours.
What purpose can it serve, for the Associate Presbytery, and the Secession judicatories, to represent the yielding of subjection unto administrations and commands that are lawful, in these circumstances, as all the duty they owe to civil rulers in general, and to the present British government in particular, unless it be, that it has led their people to believe, that, for fifty years back, they have been contending for, and maintaining an important article of truth and testimony about magistracy, and particularly anent the present government; while yet, in fact, it is just nothing at all, but an idle and empty blind; or, if it were in their power to impose upon government, by trumping up themselves as its most trusty and loyal friends, and thereby endeavour to secure their own credit and safety, while yet, this is not only grounded, either on a mere mistake, or rather a palpable deceit, but at the expense of the character of the Reformed Presbytery also, whom, upon all occasions, from pulpit and press, they harangue upon, and endeavour to represent them, as holding disloyal principles, anti-government principles, &c. &c. while yet, all their own boasted subjection and loyalty, is not unto the Revolution and Union constitution; for that they judicially declare themselves inviolably bound, by the word of God, and our covenants, to oppose and testify against, but restricted unto lawful administrations and commands; and that, in these circumstances, whereby, it is altogether obvious, that they keep a reverse in their own hand, and that all their boasted loyalty, and distinguished and trusty friendship to government, is just as times go. When it agrees with the spirit of the times, they can join with the multitude, and cry, Hosanna to the government; and when the tide turns, and the spirit of the times runs in a contrary direction, they can a so join the multitude, and cry, Away with the government.
I am here led to transcribe your fourth paragraph of your Introduction to the Scripture Loyalist, page 6th, “The topic defended in the following sheets, is precisely this, that obedience is due to the present civil British government in its lawful commands. The Reformed Presbytery have taught, in their Testimony, and its Vindications, that obedience is not due to said government in its lawful commands; and herein they differ in their political principles from all other presbyterians in Scotland. But if the faith of the reader, about subjection to civil rulers, stand not in the wisdom of men, but in the power of god, he will see that the doctrine of obedience, to the present civil government, in the Lord, is proven in the following pages, beyond all reasonable contradiction; and that the doctrine of disowning said government, in its lawful commands, is directly opposite to the doctrine and practice of prophets, of apostles, and of Christ Jesus the Lord.”
Now, of whatsoever importance and precision this paragraph may have been judged of by the writer, and some of its readers; yet, upon being more closely looked into, it will appear to be a mere random shot, without either truth or consistency. It proceeds upon a gross mistake, or then it is a sophistical misrepresentation of the whole matter. Obedience, restricted, and limited to the authority of the present civil British government, in its lawful commands, neither was, nor is, the matter either of testimony or controversy with the Reformed Presbytery, either in their testimony, or in its vindications. The matter of testimony and controversy is plainly and simply this: That the constitution of the present civil British government, in the Revolution and Union settlements thereof, is inconsistent with, and contrary unto, the constitution of said government, in what the Associate Presbytery call the reforming period, and our ancient civil Reformation, when settled by the coronation oath, anno 1567, and 1649, which constitution, the prince was bound, by his coronation oath, and the people, by the oath of the covenant, to support, maintain, and defend, inviolable, in all time coming. And that, therefore, to give a suffrage unto, recognize, homologate, or approve of, or to do whatever, in the nature of the thing, infers so much, the Revolution and Union constitution of the British civil government, or of the regal power, as resulting from, holden upon, and exercised according to the terms, conditions, and obligations of the said constitution, as by law established, is to give up with our ancient Reformation attainments, and is contrary unto the nation’s solemn covenant engagements, to support, maintain, and defend said Reformation, and is to consent unto, what the Associate Presbytery call the perjury, apostacy, and corruption of the said constitution; which constitution, they also say, has barred out, buried, and established a gravestone upon it, &c. All which the reader will see in the passages quoted above.
Is there a presbyterian in Scotland who will say, that the constitution of the present British civil government, in the Revolution and Union settlement of it, is not, in as far as in respects the religious privileges of the church, inconsistent with, and contrary unto the former? or, that the regal power is not now holden on terms, obligations, and conditions that are the reverse of the former? Why, otherwise, does the Associate Presbytery call the former, our ancient civil reformation, and the latter our present civil deformation? Or, what do they say, “That the body politic, particularly in Scotland, have never, by their deed of civil constitution, provided that their magistrates be brought under, and admitted upon obligations and terms, such as were fixed upon, and established in reforming periods, particularly in the coronation oath, anno 1567, and 1649, but such as are, in many respects, not only different from, but destructive of the same, unto the great prejudice of real religion and reformation in the house of God?” Or, is there a presbyterian in Scotland, or in Britain, who makes conscience of his principles, that can consistently give his suffrage unto, recognize, homologate, or approve of a constitution, an essential article of which is, that the regal power be received and holden upon these express terms, obligations, and conditions, sine qua non, that it be employed to support, maintain, and defend, inviolable, in all time coming, a prelatical hierarchy, in its nature, so contrary unto the spirit and simplicity of the kingdom of the Redeemer, whose sole and alone prerogative it is, to be King and Head of the church, and to the intrinsic power and privileges of the church, as his free independent kingdom, and which contains a system of government, doctrine, worship, superstitious ceremonies, and discipline, admitting of, encouraging and nourishing a course of such licentious and corrupt practices, as are inconsistent with the purity, simplicity, and whole genius of the Christian religion, and church of which Christ is the immediate and alone Head? I say, is there a conscientious presbyterian, that can consistently do so, even though that hierarchy had never been purged out, and much less, that it hath been purged out, and solemnly abjured by the nation, and its restoration and establishment, the consequence of what the Associate Presbytery calls apostacy, perjury, and corruption? Nor is there a denomination of dissenters in Britain or Ireland, who can consistently give their suffrage unto, recognize, and homologate a constitution, which establishes, in all time coming, these very ecclesiastical systems, which they profess conscientiously to dissent from. Such a submission unto, and acknowledgment of that constitution, would entirely contradict, and be totally incompatible with the principles they have espoused, and their Testimony, as stated in opposite to the same. In vain, Seceders have recourse, in order to quiet their consciences, and blind the eyes of their people, to the salvo, that their acknowledgement of the constitution, only respects the civil part of it, and is made only in things that are lawful. This, as has been already shewn, is a mere shift, to stifle the truth, and quiet their own consciences, under an obvious and striking difficulty, that comes full in the face of the principles they have espoused, and Testimony as stated and maintained by themselves. It is an acknowledgment of the constitution, which only exists in their own fancy, entirely foreign to its genuine principles, altogether unknown to those who impose or require oaths of allegiance to the existing government, and can never, in the nature of things, answer to that subjection, which the scripture and laws of our Reformation period require, to the ordinance of God, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake. At least, with equal, and perhaps, with much greater propriety, may the Reformed Presbytery, and their followers, plead, that their paying of taxes, and other dues, cannot be considered as a proper acknowledgment of the present government, nor invalidate their Testimony, as stated against it, on account of a mournful course, maintained, and carried on, of declension from, and opposition unto, the solemn vows and engagements, which we, as a land and nation, has been happily brought under to the most high God.
In fine, from what has been said in the above, with other vindications of a similar nature, whether the principles and practice of the former, or of the latter, are most consistent and most agreeable to the scriptures of truth, our solemn covenants, and the laudable attainments of our happy Reformation period, let the world judge.
C O N C L U S I O N.
THUS, Sir, I have accomplished what I intended, as promised in my last letter to you. I have endeavoured, not only to answer your twelve queries, proposed to the serious consideration of the Reformed Presbytery, and their followers; but also, as I hope, in the spirit of meekness, to animadvert on various other passages of your late publication, entitled, “The Scripture Loyalist.” The fallacy, anti-scriptural, and inconsistent nature of the principles therein contained, have been detected. The charges brought against the Reformed Presbytery, and their followers, have been considered, and their injustice, and illiberal nature, have been exposed. I have also endeavoured to shew, and hope I have done it in some measure, that there is not that inconsistency between the principles and practice of the Reformed Presbytery, and their adherents, you would wish to make the world believe. At least, in this respect, the community of Old Dissenters stand on the same ground, and in their practice are not more inconsistent with their principles, as containing in them a testimony against the defections of the state, than Seceders are, in their conduct, with their own principles, as containing in them a testimony against the defections of the church. That instances in the one case are more frequent, and daily occur, do not at all alter the case. This will be still the same in one instance, as in a thousand of a similar nature. The judicatures of the Secession have found, that the payment of church dues, tithes and stipend, for supporting the idolatrous and superstitious churches of England and Ireland, and the corrupt and degenerate church of Scotland, while this is done under the banner of a testimony against the defections of both, does not involve in it an acknowledgment of these, nor contradict their testimony, as stated in opposition to the same. And why may not the Reformed Presbytery be allowed to consider the matter in the same light, as it respects their testimony against the defections of the state? As far as they go, the cases are perfectly parallel. And there is, at least, no greater inconsistency in the conduct and practice of the one, than there is in that of the other.
Upon the whole, Sir, it is no pleasant and delightful matter, for one body of professing Christians, to endeavour to bear down and oppose the principles and testimony of another, by vilifying, reproaching, and stigmatizing their conduct and character, while, under much weakness, and in the midst of many discouragements of a very pressing nature, they would wish to be found faithful to God in the matters of his glory, contending for the purity of all the ordinances of his appointment, and stating themselves in opposition to all the defections of the time wherein they live, whether they are found in the constitutions or administrations of the church or the state. How much more comely and beautiful, how much more agreeable to their professed character, as Christians and followers of the Lamb? How vastly superior in itself, and how much more beneficial to the cause of duty, and of truth, especially, when this seems to be threatened with a total overthrow, by the enemy coming in like a flood, and by the strongest and most vigorous efforts of the common for; were they all studying union, harmony, in the way of truth, adhering strenuously to its interests, keeping close by the footsteps of the flock, maintaining a testimony to all our Reformation attainments, and contending earnestly for the whole of the faith that was once delivered to the saints.
I shall conclude this letter, by again expressing my cordial and sincere regret, that this should not be the case, and that there is yet so little evidence of the speedy arrival of the happy period, when an event so extremely desirable by all the friends of truth, shall take place. That the evidences of the divine displeasure are still so visible in the mournful divisions that yet prevail. That contentions and keep animosities still exist even among the professed friends and followers of the meek and lowly Jesus, whereby their hearts are discouraged, and their hands are weakened, in exerting their efforts against the common foe. - I shall also add my warmest wishes, that these may soon subside; that all the divisions of Reuben may speedily be healed, his mournful breaches closed, and the happy period soon arrive, when the watchmen shall see eye to eye, and when, as the name of Christ is but one, the profession thereof also shall be one, from the rising even to the setting sun.
Reverend Dear Sir,
F I N I S.
 The late Reverend William Steven, minister of the gospel at Crookedholm, and author of the following letter, slept in Jesus, 22d December, 1796. His death was sudden, and extremely afflicting to all his friends. Hereby the church, with which he was connected, lost a most valuable member; the congregation, in which he laboured, a faithful pastor; his family, a respectable head; and all his connections a friend, who was eminently qualified to be a comfort unto them on every occasion. He was a strenuous and earnest contender for the faith once delivered to the saints. As a watchman on Sion’s walls, he gave a faithful and distinct found. When seated in the courts of judgment, he was eminently useful. As a Christian, he was exemplary and pious; and every relation of life he filled with propriety. His praise is yet in the church with which he was connected; and his memory will long be savoury to all who had the pleasure of his acquaintance.