Separatists are of two kinds. 1. Such as separate from a pure church organization, because they hate its purity. 2. Such as separate from a corrupt church organization, because they abhor its corruption.
The first loves corruption and hates purity; the other loves purity and abhors corruption. The first separation is wrong, the other right. When the majority—the ruling power of the church—has become hopelessly corrupt, then it is the duty of the minority to earnestly contend for the faith by protest and declinature—by separation from the irreclaimable majority; for in this case the minority is the true church, and the majority is an apostacy from it. In reference to separation then, there are two duties incumbent upon the faithful church. (1.) In reforming times, it is the duty of the precious to separate the vile from the precious, by the faithful exercise of discipline; because the precious are then the majority, and the vile the minority. But in times of great apostacy, it is the duty of the precious to take forth the precious from the vile—or separate themselves from the vile—for the vile are then in the majority, and the precious in the minority. It is true, the power—legitimate power—is in the hand of the latter; the brute force in the hand of the former—brutum fulmen. "If thou take forth the precious from the vile, thou shalt be as my mouth; let them return unto thee, but return not thou unto them. And I will make thee unto this people a fenced brazen wall, and they shall fight against thee, but they shall not prevail against thee." Jer. 15:19. "When a majority violate the Scriptural terms upon which church members were united, it is lawful—a duty—for the minority to separate; testify against the defection; and walk by their former attainments." But it may here be asked, Inasmuch as it is the duty of the true church to be one, and undivided, how can it be a duty to separate and be two? Answer, While the precious and the vile are in the same church organization, they are already two, and should separate into two, that they may be one; that the precious may all be precious, and the vile all vile; that both parties may be seen, and appear to be just what they are.
Separation is the furnace which distinguishes the precious from the vile—the silver from the dross—that the silver may appear to be silver, and the dross—dross. Now we separate from the Synod, because she has violated the Scriptural terms on which faithful Covenanters were united. This she did, when she joined with voluntary associations; and in them, with all kinds of carnal professors and an ungodly world, with the plausible pretence of promoting moral reform, making a carnal and ungodly reformation; for, of necessity, this carnality and ungodliness with which she voluntarily associates, will give character to the reformation, and not secure her own supposed spirituality; for, when she voluntarily associates with the carnal and ungodly, how can she avoid making herself carnal and ungodly? Will any one show how this can be done? It cannot be done. She may, indeed, unite with carnal and ungodly associations, in accomplishing a carnal and ungodly reformation; but carnal and ungodly societies cannot unite with a spiritual society in making a spiritual reformation, any more than the flesh and spirit could unite in doing so. By voluntary association, a carnal society will always defile one that is spiritual; but by such association, a spiritual society never reforms or purifies one that is carnal. The co-operation of good and evil never results in good, but in evil always.
Indeed, good and evil, being antagonistic principles, cannot co-operate; but a so-called good, is often found co-operating with evil. An ungodly world and carnal professors, "call evil good, and good evil." And thus they make good and evil co-operate. When the Synod co-operates with carnal professors and an ungodly world, she is calling evil good, and good evil; but it is said—"Woe! unto them that call evil good, and good evil." Isa. 5:20.
In these anti-scriptural associations, the Synod has made herself a harlot; and then, all that are the members of Christ should say—"Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them the members of a harlot?" 1 Cor. 6:15. Shall I make those who are one spirit with the Lord, one body and one flesh with a harlot? Shall I remain associated with a Synod, which countenances her ministers and people in meeting in troops in the harlot’s house? Jer. 5:7, "How shall I pardon thee for this? Thy children have forsaken me, and sworn by them that are no gods: when I had fed them to the full, they committed adultery, and assembled themselves by troops in the harlots’ houses." Those that remain associated with harlots become harlots, and become defiled by their association: evil communications or associations corrupt good manners, and "a companion of fools shall be destroyed." The Synod is defiled, by her contact with corrupt societies; she became unclean, because she touched the "unclean thing;" and this touch has ripened into a continued contact, and a confirmed defilement. Hence, all who touch the Synod, touch the unclean thing, and become defiled. The word thing—in the phrase "unclean thing"—is a supplement, and restricts the meaning of the word unclean—to things; though in this passage, it relates only indirectly to things, and directly to persons—unbelievers. 2 Cor. 6:14-18, "Therefore, come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, and will be a Father unto you, and yet shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty." This teaches us, that God will neither receive the unclean nor those who touch them; the Synod, nor those who remain with her; because the Synod and those who remain with her are alike unclean—spiritually unclean. But separation from a corrupt majority or faction, is not separation from the true church; but it is using a divinely appointed means of maintaining the purity, peace, and unity of the true church of Christ.