Minister of the Gospel in Linktoun of Arnot, formerly Abbotshall, his SECESSION from the ASSOCIATE PRESBYTERY;
Grounds and Reasons
For his so doing.
ISAIAH iii. 8.
For Jerusalem is ruined, and Judah is fallen: Because their Tongue and their Doings are against the Lord, to provoke the Eyes of his Glory.
REV. xviii. 4.
And I heard another Voice from Heaven, saying, Come out of her my People, that ye be not Partakers of her Sins, and that ye receive not of her Plagues.
Printed in the Year. MDCCXLIII.
GROUNDS and REASONS of Mr. THOMAS NAIRN Minister of the Gospel in Linktoun of Arnot, formerly Abbotshall, his SECESSION from the ASSOCIATE PRESBYTERY.
I Was always, even from my younger Years, inclinable to the Opinion of these who differed from this established Church of Scotland in some Particulars, on Account of the covenanted Work of Reformation, which they did not assert and contend for: But not having examined these Matters fully, I was ordained a Minister of the said Church, in the Year 1710.
After that I was a Minister, I observed with Grief, that the Church Judicatories committed several wrong Steps, and that Error and Defections from our covenanted Cause daily increased; so that when some Ministers at last broke off from this established Church, I joined with them, after they had erected themselves into a new Presbytery, under the Name of the Associate Presbytery, being then persuaded, that they were resolved to carry on a covenanted Work of Reformation in these Lands; and for some Time I thought I saw a great Profession and Inclination in them that Way; but, through time, I began to discover, that they had not so much at Heart to carry on that Reformation to that Height, which by our Sacred Covenants, and the Pattern cast by our Ancestors, we are bound to aspire after, as I formerly observed of them. An Instance of this Kind, was the Presbytery's Procedure in Relation to Mr. Andrew Clarkson, when he desired to pass Trials before them. It seems the Presbytery were made to understand, that he was of the Dissenters Principles, with respect to the Civil Magistrate in Britain and Ireland, he having come under Engagements to maintain these Principles. Upon this they stopt his Trials, unless he would renounce these his Principles, as the Terms of their allowing him to proceed in his Trials, which is evident from a Letter written at the Appointment of the Presbytery, by Mr. James Fisher to him; the Tenor whereof followeth,
Dear Sir, Altho’ the Brethren that were at Perth, were satisfied in some Measure with what you said anent the Civil Magistrate; yet, in regard it will be necessary to connect the Minutes, in giving a solid Reason why the Presbytery is now satisfied to proceed in your Trials; therefore, I am desired to acquaint you, that you be present at their Meeting, which is at Orwell the second Wednesday of March, in order to the Presbytery's hearing from your own Mouth what you said at Perth, and minuting [i.e., recording it in the minutes] it accordingly: And if you are as plain at our next Meeting, as you was at Perth, in declaring, That tho’ you was once of Opinion, that the Civil Magistrate, to whom we should give Obedience, ought to be such only as hath the Scripture and Covenant-Qualifications, that now you was convinced of your Mistake; and that you now thought it was our Duty from the Word, to give Obedience to, and pray for the present Civil Magistrate, altho’ he should want the above Qualifications; and that you was willing to declare this in the most publick Manner, and that you should not further adhere to what is written in the Plain Reasons on that Head: I think it was to this Purpose you spoke at Perth; now, if you are satisfied to deliver your Mind in the like plain Terms, without any Kind of Reservation on this Subject, at next Meeting of the Presbytery, I know nothing to hinder their proceeding immediately to take the rest of your Trials, &c.
Accordingly, Mr. [Andrew] Clarkson was prevailed upon, solemnly to renounce the said Principles, publickly, before the People in the Church of Burntisland.
The Presbytery also refused to receive others of the Dissenters, who were willing to accede to them, unless they would drop their Testimony.
I was much against the making the Renunciation of these Principles, about Civil Government, a Term of Communion; and therefore I spoke against the Treatment that Mr. Clarkson met with, and did not vote to stop his Trials, upon the Account of these Principles that he had maintain’d; and I confess I was to blame, when the Presbytery was to hear his Renunciation, that I did not proceed further, and enter a formal Dissent against these and the like Proceedings: But I was hopeful, thro’ Time, my Brethren and I might come to a more thorough Understanding in these Matters. But severals of the Brethren went on to extravagant Heights, in exclaiming against the old Dissenters, in a very virulent and unjust Manner; alleging, That they maintain’d pernicious Errors, and bloody Principles, that were destructive of all Civil Government: But as the Dissenters maintain no other Principles than what are contain’d in our Covenants; the Brethren thus inveighing against them, strike against the Principles of the Church of Scotland, in the purest Times; and so condemn our worthy Ancestors, who compiled these our Covenants, as well as those who swore them, and particularly the Parliament and Church of Scotland, who refused to Charles II. the Instruments of Government, unless upon Covenant-Terms: So that it would seem to be agreeable to these Brethren, That it should be in the Magistrate’s Power to persecute poor People for their Adherence to the Covenants: And Mr. Hutton, one of their Number, as I was credibly informed, was so transported with this Kind of Zeal, that he said before several Witnesses, That if he were in Power, he would count it his Duty to take off the Person's Head to whom he was speaking, on Account of his pleading against paying to, and owning the present Powers.
These Things gave me great Trouble; for I had a good Opinion of the Dissenters, as being the truest Presbyterians. They regard the Word of God contain’d in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testament, as the only complete Rule of Faith and Manners: They own whatever is founded thereon, and agreeable thereto; such as, our Confession of Faith, Larger and Shorter Catechisms, Directory for Worship, Sum of saving Knowledge, Covenants, National and Solemn League, the Acknowledgment of Sins, and Engagement to Duties, the Causes of God's Wrath, and the Form of Presbyterial Church Government. They adhere to the faithful Testimonies for the Truth, emitted by the Martyrs before the Revolution, and sealed with their Blood, against all unlawful Acts and sinful Courses, as they happened in Charles II. and James VII. their Reigns. And it may be reasonably thought, That these Declarations had a suitable Influence in the Divine Providence, for fomenting and encouraging that Spirit, which afterwards produced the Revolution, so far as it was right, which put a Stop to the formal Re-introduction of Popery in these Lands: Also they adhere to the other faithful Testimonies since the Revolution; such as that against the Union, as not only binding up this Nation from Endeavours and Attempts to reform England in Doctrine, Worship, Discipline, and Government, to which we are sworn by our Solemn Covenants; but also establishing Prelacy in the same, &c. as may be further seen in their published Papers: But then, how the Associate Presbytery will reconcile their professed Regard to our Covenants in condemning the Dissenters, and yet declaring against the Union, is not easy to comprehend. The Associate Presbytery had been deliberating for some Years about the renewing of the Covenants; in which I was as hearty as any of them, providing it had been done in a due Manner, in all its Parts, and to prosecute the Ends thereof, in Sincerity, and without Hypocrisy, as I wished and expected.
When the Presbytery met at Edinburgh in October last, the Acknowledgment of Sins was considered and approven of; and then a Motion was made by some of the younger Brethren, That a Testimony against the Dissenters might be added. Most of these, who were present, spoke upon the Subject; whereupon a Form of that Testimony was drawn up; until which Time I did not offer to speak, but rather chose to hear others for my own Information; and after this Testimony was read, a Vote approving it was proposed: But one of the Members desired the Moderator to call upon me to give my Opinion upon the Subject of this Testimony: And the Moderator having signified to me, that all the Members were of the Opinion, That a Testimony should be given against the Dissenters. I answered, That then I was against them all in that Matter, and offered such Reasons as occurred to me at the Time. Whereupon Mr. Moncrief said, That he wish’d the Presbytery would drop this Testimony; for that he judg’d it was not so seasonable at this Time: And Mr. Thomas Mair seemed to be of that Opinion also; but said, He was then taken ill, and therefore went off. After which the younger Brethren insisted that it should be put to a Vote, and, in the voting, Mr. Moncrief said, That rather than differ from his Brethren, he would vote, Approve; and it carried Approve; and immediately after the Approbation of the Testimony against the Dissenters, in the Terms to be afterwards mentioned, I offered my Dissent. But the Presbytery entreating me to consider further of the Matter, and engaging to take in my Dissent at their next Meeting, in case I insisted on it; I was prevailed on to delay it till then.
The Presbytery proceeded to the Consideration of the Form in which they were to renew the Covenants; which being drawn up, it was put to the Vote, Approve of it or not, and all present voted Approve, except myself. And the Presbytery appointed their next Meeting to be at Stirling, where they resolved to continue for two Weeks, and renew the Covenants in the Method agreed to; whereby in Effect they were to swear, That the Dissenters Principles were dangerous and pernicious, and that covenanted Principles were contrary to the Covenants: But I proposed, That the Clerk should be appointed to furnish every Member with a Copy of the Presbytery’s Covenant, which was agreed to, whereof the Tenor follows:
“And in regard, it is the Duty of a sinning People, not only to confess and acknowledge their Iniquities, and to be humbled for them; but to take hold by Faith of God’s gracious Covenant, revealed to us in the glorious Gospel; to avouch the Lord to be our God, according to the Tenor of this his Covenant, and to return to the Lord our God, from whom we have fallen by our Iniquities; and in the Faith of his free Mercy through Jesus Christ, and Confidence of that Grace and Strength promised in his Covenant of Mercy, to engage unto, and pursue after Reformation; and being convinced in our Minds, and confessing with our Mouths, that the present and succeeding Generation in this Land are bound, as aforesaid, by the National Covenant of Scotland, and the Solemn League and Covenant of the three Nations, firmly and constantly to adhere to the Doctrine, Worship, Presbyterian Church-Government and Discipline of the House of God, laid down in his Word, contained in our Standards, and sworn to in these Solemn Covenants: Therefore, in Obedience to the Command of God, conform to the Practice of the Godly in former Times, and according to the laudable Example of our worthy and religious Progenitors, in the foresaid Covenants.” (The Form of the Oath followeth)
“We all and every one of us, with our Hands lifted up to the most high God, Do hereby profess, and, before God, Angels and Men, solemnly declare, That thro’ Grace, we with our whole Hearts take hold of the Lord Jesus Christ, as the only Propitiation for our Sins; his Righteousness as the only Foundation of our Access to, and Acceptance with God; his Covenant of free and rich Promises, as our only Charter for the heavenly Inheritance; his Word for our only Rule of Faith and Practice, his Spirit for our alone Guide. We avouch the Lord to be our God, and, in the Strength of his promised Grace, we engage to walk in his Way, to keep his Judgments and Commandments, and hearken to his Voice; and particularly, that we shall, by the Lord’s Grace, continue and abide in the Profession, Faith and Obedience of the foresaid true reformed Religion, in Doctrine, Worship, Government and Discipline; and that we shall, according to our several Stations, Places and Callings, contend and testify against all contrary Evils, Errors and Corruptions, particularly, these above mentioned. As also, we promise and swear, (by the same great Name of the Lord our God) That by all Means that are lawful and warrantable for us, we shall, in our several Stations and Callings, endeavour the Reformation of Religion in England and Ireland, in Doctrine, Worship, Discipline and Government, according to the Word of God; and promote and advance our covenanted Conjunction and Uniformity in Religion, Confession of Faith, Form of Church Government, and Directory for Worship and Catechising. And, in regard we are taught by the Word of God, and bound by our Covenants, National and Solemn League, to live together in the Fear of God, and in Love one to another, and to encourage one another in the Work and Cause of the Lord; and that, denying all Ungodliness and worldly Lusts, we should live soberly, righteously and godly in this present World: Therefore, in a Dependence on the Lord's Grace and Strength, we promise and swear, by the same great Name of the Lord our God, That we shall, in our several Places and Callings, encourage and strengthen one another’s Hands, in pursuing the End and Design of this our Solemn Oath and Covenant; and that we shall endeavour a Life and Conversation becoming the Gospel of Christ; and that, in our personal Callings, and particular Families, we shall study to be good Examples to one another of Godliness and Righteousness, and of every Duty we owe to God and Man; and that we shall not give up ourselves to a detestable Indifferency and Neutrality in the Cause of God; but denying ourselves, and our own Things, we shall above all Things seek the Honour and Glory of God, and the Good of his Cause and People; and that, thro’ Grace, forsaking the Counsels of Flesh and Blood, and not leaning upon carnal Confidences, we shall endeavour to depend upon the Lord, to walk by the Rule of his Word, and to hearken to his Voice by his Servants. In all which, professing our own Weakness, we earnestly pray to God, who is the Father of Mercies, through his Son Jesus Christ, to be merciful unto us, and to enable us, by the Power of his Holy Spirit, that we may be able to do our Duty, to the Praise of his Grace in the Churches. Amen.”
The Members of the Presbytery resolved to be at Stirling on the Monday, and on the Tuesday to humble themselves before the Lord with Fasting: But many of the Members not coming up, this Fast was not observed.
Upon the Wednesday, the Presbytery met about Four in the Afternoon, and the Moderator having constitute the Presbytery by Prayer, I offered my Dissent; but the Presbytery desiring an extrajudicial Conference, I frankly complied therewith, and thereupon the Moderator concluded the Meeting with Prayer.
Then the Brethren entred into a Conversation upon the Matter of the Dissent, which was read; and I stated what I apprehended to be the true State of the Question, and severals of the Members proposed Objections against the Principles of the Dissenters, which I answered in such Manner as occurred to me; and they parted that Night.
The Presbytery met on Thursday Afternoon, when I again offer’d my Dissent; upon which there arose a Dispute in the Presbytery, Whether the Testimony against the Dissenters was a finished Deed? but at last that was determined in the Affirmative: And Mr. Moncrief said, He was afraid, that the Testimony against the Dissenters was a rash Deed; and that the Swearing in the Method proposed, appeared to be materially, a swearing the Oath of Allegiance to King George. It would be tedious to resume all that passed on that Occasion; but, it being late, I offered my Dissent under Form of Instrument, about Twelve o’ Clock at Night; and then it was put to the Vote, Whether to receive it, or delay it till next Meeting of the Presbytery? And it was carried, Receive. Accordingly it was received in, and read by the Clerk, whereof the Tenor follows.
REASONS of DISSENT, Mr. THOMAS NAIRN Minister of the Gospel in Linktoun, against the Testimony of the Reverend ASSOCIATE PRESBYTERY, against the old DISSENTERS, and some few others, in these Words following,
“WE desire to be humbled for the dangerous Extreme that some have gone into, of impugning the present Civil Authority over these Nations, and Subjection thereunto in lawful Commands, on Account of the want of these Qualifications that Magistrates ought to have, by the Word of God and our Covenants, even, altho’ they allow us in the free Exercise of our Religion without Disturbance; and are not manifestly unhinging the Liberties of the Kingdom; an Opinion and Practice contrary to the plain Tenor of Scripture, and to the known Principles of this Church, in her Confession and Covenants, and of all other reformed Churches: And that some few others carry their Zeal against the Defections and Evils of the Times, to the dangerous Extreme of espousing Principles, in Favours of propagating Religion by offensive Arms, quite contrary to that Disposition which ought to be in all the professed Followers of Christ, who came not to destroy Men’s Lives, but to save them; and, for all these Things, the Lord may justly say, I hearkned and heard, but they spoke not aright.”
That I am sorry to differ from my Reverend Brethren, as to the Stigma put on these worthy Persons, called the old Dissenters, by the said Words.
That, as we are engaged in a good and necessary Work, in renewing our Covenants, National and Solemn League, I apprehend, it was noways suitable to reflect on these worthy Persons, tho’ they should differ from the Presbytery in some Points; and that it would been more agreeable to the Principles of Peace and brotherly Love, not to have touched such Matters upon such an Occasion, seeing they deserve all suitable Regard and Esteem for their Zeal and Honesty, in formerly declaring against the Defections of the established Church, as we do now, after having struggled long in Expectation of getting Abuses amended, in which we did not prevail; on the contrary, Things turning always worse, we were at last obliged to follow the Example of the old Dissenters, in separating from the established Church, because of her Defections and Corruptions in many Particulars, set forth in our former Declarations, Acts, and Testimonies.
That the Points wherein the Presbytery and the old Dissenters differ, as to the necessary Qualifications that the Civil Magistrate ought to be possessed of, are of such a Nature, as ought not to be testified against, especially when the Presbytery was about to renew the COVENANTS; because, according to these Covenants, the Dissenters seem to have the better of the Argument: And, tho’ by certain Distinctions, some may be able to satisfy themselves or others, that they may take and renew the Covenants, and yet swear Allegiance to the present Government without any Inconsistency; yet that is far from being the Apprehension of many good and plain thinking People; and therefore the reviving of that Dispute at this Time may be of dangerous Consequence, and prove a Stumbling-block to many, in going about the Solemn Work in View.
These old Dissenters, as must be admitted by all that know them, and their Principles, are good Men, and true Presbyterians, adhering tenaciously to the Doctrine, Worship, Discipline, and Government of this Church, as established by the Reformation in Scotland, and the many Laws thereupon enacted establishing the same; and to which, our worthy Ancestors bound themselves by the most Solemn Oaths and Covenants, which they took, and which some of them sealed with their Blood.
That, as by many fundamental Laws, the true Religion established among us, and our Kings, by their Coronation Oath, are bound to swear to serve the Lord according to his holy Word, and maintain the true Religion of Christ, and rule according to the Laws of the Realm, and to abolish all false Religion: So, by our Covenants, we are bound to endeavour not only the Preservation of the true Religion in the Church of Scotland, in Doctrine, Worship, Discipline, and Government; but also the Reformation of Religion in the Kingdom of England and Ireland, in Doctrine, Worship, Discipline, and Government, according to the Word of God: And to endeavour to bring the Churches of God, in the three Kingdoms, to the nearest Conjunction and Uniformity in Religion, Confession of Faith, Directory for Worship, and, without Respect of Persons, to endeavour the Extirpation of Popery and Prelacy, Superstition, Heresy, Schism, and Profaneness.
That notwithstanding thereof, by the Articles of Union, as Presbytery is established in Scotland, by an Act of our Scots Parliament; so in the 7th Act, anno 1707, ratifying the Treaty of Union of the two Kingdoms, it is declared, “That the Parliament may provide for the Security of the Church of England; and all the Successors to the British Crown are obliged to swear, That they shall inviolably maintain and preserve the Settlement of the true Protestant Religion, with the Government, Worship, Discipline, Rights and Privileges of this Church, as established by the Laws of the Kingdom in Prosecution of the Claim of Right; and, at the same Time, to swear to maintain and preserve inviolably the Settlement of the Church of England, and the Doctrine, Worship and Discipline thereof, as by Law established within the Kingdom of England and Ireland.”
Now it seems inconsistent with our prior Obligation by the Covenants, to endeavour the Reformation of England and Ireland, in Doctrine, Worship, Discipline, and Government, according to the Word of God; and the Extirpation of Prelacy there, and that the Settlement of the Church of England, and the Episcopal Government thereof, should be inviolably maintained there.
And, as our Kings are by our ancient and fundamental Laws, and by the Covenants, (which bind our Kings, Nobles, and Commons) obliged not only to profess and to preserve the reformed Religion of the Church of Scotland; but also to reform England and Ireland from Prelacy and Superstition: So it is absurd and inconsistent therewith, that our Kings may not only be of the Religion of the Church of England, but expressly obliged to swear, to maintain inviolably in England Prelacy, and the Superstition in the English Church.
The Scruple therefore that the old Dissenters had in acknowledging the late King George, and swearing Allegiance to him, does not want its Difficulty; namely, That as they had sworn to and were bound by Solemn COVENANTS, to endeavour the reforming of England from Prelacy and Superstition; it was inconsistent for them to swear Allegiance to a King, who not only did not possess the Qualifications required by Law; but also had sworn to maintain, and inviolably preserve Prelacy, and the whole Establishment of the English Church in its Doctrine, Discipline, and Government in England.
From this it would appear, that ’tis inconsistent when we are to renew the Covenants, that we should consider ourselves as under an Obligation to obey any Power, that is obliged to maintain and preserve Prelacy in England; and who, if we shall swear Allegiance to this Power, may require our Assistance to maintain Prelacy in England, which by prior solemn Oaths and Engagements, we are obliged to extirpate, even in England, by reforming them in Doctrine, Discipline, and Government, according to the Word of God, to which the Prelacy and Superstition of the English Church is most repugnant.
As the Covenants ought to be sworn in the Words they were conceived by our Ancestors, so far as is suitable to our Circumstances; so if these Words in the Covenants, to preserve and defend the King's Majesty’s Person and Authority, in the Preservation and Defence of the true Religion; I say, if these Words be applied to the present Sovereign, it can't be expressed indefinitely, because he has sworn to maintain a prelatical, false Religion in England, which we, by the Solemn League, are obliged to extirpate and reform England from; and therefore there is a Necessity, that at renewing the Covenants, the same must be done with an Alteration suited to our present Circumstances, that we may not involve ourselves in Contradictions and Perjury: Neither can we, in a Consistency with our Obligation to reform England, engage to preserve the Rights and Privileges of the Parliament; because it stands upon the Footing of the Union [in 1707], which allows the Settlement of the English Church to continue, without any Alteration of the Liturgy, Rites, Ceremonies, Discipline, and Government of that Church, as by Law established in England at the UNION, which is to remain in full Force forever. As the said Dissenters are known, according to their Principles, to be against Popery, they can never favour the Pretender or his Interest; nor is their Doctrine inconsistent with the Confession of Faith, in the 4th Article of the 23d Chapter, which bears, That Infidelity, or Difference of Religion, does not make void the Magistrate's just and legal Authority; for this is to be understood of a Land not reformed, where some that profess the true Religion may have their Lot and Residence: But where the true Religion is once made a Part of our Civil Constitution, and certain religious Qualifications in these, who are to be our Kings, are settled and made necessary, by fundamental Laws and solemn Covenants, that bind both King and People; there the Obligation upon the King to profess and preserve our true Religion, is as binding upon him, as the Obligation to submit to his legal Authority, is binding upon the People.
There is another Reflection cast upon the Dissenters, That they are for propagating of Religion by offensive Arms, which, I apprehend, is without any Foundation; for in none of the Writings of the old Dissenters, or others, do they ever assert or contend for a Power to propagate Religion by offensive Arms; all they ever pled for was, a Liberty for defending themselves and one another, in the Enjoyment of the true Religion; nor have they any Expressions to that Purpose, stronger than these used in our Covenants, namely, To endeavour with our Estates and Lives, mutually, to preserve our Rights and Liberties, and, for that End, to assist and defend one another.
Upon these Grounds, I humbly dissent from the above Testimony of the Reverend Presbytery, so far as it is intended as a Reflection upon the old Dissenters, or even upon some few others, as the Presbytery designs them; and crave the said Dissent may be recorded, with the Reasons thereof.
The Presbytery at this Time did not renew the Covenants, as had been concerted at their former Meeting at Edinburgh; for what Reasons, they can best account.
’Tis not easy to see, how the Associate Presbytery will reconcile their above mentioned Testimony against the Dissenters, requiring, as necessary in our Magistrates, these Qualifications, which they ought to have by the Word of God and our Covenants, with the Profession they make in the Preamble to their own Covenant, viz. That the present and succeeding Generations in this Land are bound, by the National Covenant of Scotland, and the Solemn League and Covenant of the three Nations, firmly and constantly to adhere to the Doctrine, Worship, Presbyterial Church-Government and Discipline of the House of God, laid down in his Word, contained in our Standards, and sworn to in these Solemn Covenants; seeing by our Solemn Covenants, and likewise by the fundamental Constitutions and Laws of this Nation, our Governors ought not only to be of the true Religion themselves, but also, by Office to maintain and defend the same. How is it then possible to maintain, that Governors not possessed of these religious and legal Qualifications are lawful Magistrates over us? The associate Brethren ought therefore either fairly to give up their professed Principles, as to the Obligation of the Covenants upon all Persons in this Land, or not to condemn the Dissenters, because they act consistently; whereas the associate Presbytery plainly acts a most inconsistent Part. They say, That the Dissenters Opinion and Practice is contrary to the plain Tenor of Scripture, and known Principles of this Church, in her Confession and Covenants: But this is the most bare-faced and groundless Assertion that ever was made by any Set of Men who ever read the Scriptures, or our Confession and Covenants, and equally militates against the Martyrs before the Revolution, who sealed these Truths with their Blood, making them die like Fools in Error and Delusion: But, whatever the World may think or say, with Moses, they esteemed the Reproach of Christ greater Riches than the Treasures of Egypt, and chose rather to suffer Affliction, than to enjoy the Pleasures of Sin for a Season, Heb. 11.25,26.
Are not all Ranks in this Kingdom sworn by our Covenants, to endeavour the Preservation of the reformed Religion in the Church of Scotland, in Doctrine, Worship, Discipline, and Government, the Reformation of Religion in England and Ireland, in Doctrine, &c. according to the Word of God, and to bring the Churches of the three Kingdoms to Uniformity in Religion, &c. to endeavour the Extirpation of Popery, Prelacy, &c. Can it therefore be said to be contrary to these Covenants, to object the Deficiency of these Matters to our Governors, or their Inability to do them?
Does not the Scripture enjoin Kings, as well as Subjects, to profess and endeavour the Preservation of the true Religion, 2 Sam. 23.2,3,4, The Spirit of the Lord spake by me, and his Word was in my Tongue. Ver. 3. The God of Israel said, The Rock of Israel spake to me, He that ruleth over Men must be just, ruling in the Fear of God. Ver. 4. And he shall be as the Light of the Morning, when the Sun riseth, even a Morning without Clouds; as the tender Grass springing out of the Earth by clear shining after Rain. Deut. 17.14. When thou art come unto the Land which the Lord thy God giveth thee, and shalt possess it, and shalt dwell therein, and shalt say, I will set a King over me, like as all the Nations that are about me: Ver. 15. Thou shalt in anyways set him King over thee whom the Lord thy God shall choose: One from among thy Brethren shalt thou set King over thee: Thou mayest not set a Stranger over thee, which is not thy Brother—Ver. 18. And it shall be when he sitteth upon the Throne of his Kingdom, that he shall write him a Copy of this Law in a Book, out of that which is before the Priests the Levites. Ver. 19. And it shall be with him, and he shall read therein all the Days of his Life, that he may learn to fear the Lord his God, to keep all the Words of this Law, and these Statutes to do them: Ver. 20. That his Heart be not lifted up above his Brethren, and that he turn not aside from the Commandment, to the Right-hand or to the Left: To the End that he may prolong his Days in his Kingdom; he, and his Children in the midst of Israel. 1 Sam. 12.14, If ye will fear the Lord, and serve him, and obey his Voice, and not rebel against the Commandment of the Lord, then shall both ye, and also the King that reigneth over you, continue following the Lord your God.—Ver. 25. But if you shall still do wickedly, ye shall be consumed, both ye and your King. 2 Chron. 15.12. And they entered into a Covenant to seek the Lord God of their Fathers with all their Heart, and with all their Soul; Ver. 13. That, whosoever would not seek the Lord God of Israel, should be put to Death, whether small or great, whether Man or Woman. Again, Is not Magistracy ordained of God for his own Glory, the Good of his Church, and of human Society? Rom. 13.3. For Rulers are not a Terror to good Works, but to the evil, Ver. 4. For he is the Minister of God to thee for Good: But if thou do that which is Evil, be afraid: For he beareth not the Sword in vain: For he is the Minister of God, a Revenger to execute Wrath upon him that doth Evil. Prov. 8.15. By me Kings reign, and Princes decree Justice. Ver 16. By me Princes rule, and Nobles, even all the Judges of the Earth. Isa. 49.23. And Kings shall be thy Nursing-fathers, and their Queens thy Nursing-mothers. Now, can these Ends be promoted, where our Governors are not of the true Religion? ’Tis not to be expected, that Kings and Queens will be Nursing-fathers and Mothers to the Church, till they be religious Kings and Queens.
And with respect to the Confession, [WCF XXIII.4,] Does it teach that ’tis a Matter of Indifferency, whether the Governors of a Christian Kingdom be of the true Religion or not? That Infidelity or Difference of Religion does not make void the Magistrates just and legal Authority, &c. is indeed a Position contained in our Confession of Faith: But does that say, that an Infidel, or one of a false Religion, can have a Right to govern a Christian State, where (as with us) ’tis a fundamental Part of our Civil Establishment, Act 8. Parl. 1. James VI. That the Prince and the People be of that one perfect Religion, which of God's Mercy, was then professed within this Realm? And was not Presbyterian Church-Government, as well as the reformed Protestant Doctrine at that Time, anno 1567, professed in this Realm? Are not our Kings, in all Time coming, obliged to take, at their Coronation, an Oath to maintain the true Religion of Jesus Christ, as then preached within this Realm? Are not then our Kings bound to this, or have they a Right to govern without this? If they could have such a Right, Difference in Religion would not make it void: But by our Christian and legal Constitution, they cannot have a Right to govern us. No doubt but Popery is more gross than Prelacy; tho’, ’tis to be owned, that Popery is the Daughter thereof: But will the associate Presbytery assert, That our Kings are not, by the above Laws and Covenants, obliged to be of the Communion of the Presbyterian Church of Scotland? Dare they maintain, That our Obligation both from the Word of God, and our Covenant Engagements, is not the same against Popery and Prelacy, in Proportion to their several Evils? Can they have the Assurance with such Boldness to assert, That ’tis contrary to the Tenor of Scripture, and known Principles of this Church, in her Confession and Covenants, to say, That none but a Presbyterian can have a just and legal Authority to rule over Scotland, or that the People’s Obedience in Scotland can legally be due to no other but a Magistrate taking and keeping the Covenants? If the Presbytery will maintain the contrary of these Propositions, ’tis plain, they must utterly abandon these Laws and Covenants that our reforming Ancestors made and entered into.
The Dissenters acknowledge it to be of the Mercy of God, that the Rod of the Oppressor is so far broken, at least bound up and restrained, that they are not now under bloody Persecution, as before the late Revolution; yet they think, they are obliged in Duty to witness and testify against the Evils and corrupt Constitution of a corrupted State and Civil Government, who are the Successors of those who overturned a glorious Work of Reformation, and are building themselves upon its Ruin, and are following those, who pulled it down, in all Things, except that of bloody Persecution; they think it their Duty as much to testify against such, and disown them, as a corrupt degenerate Church, who are but only Compliers therewith, and silent thereat: And the associate Presbytery may at their Leisure consider, how they will account for testifying against, and disowning the present Church established by Law, only for obeying and complying with the Laws made by the present Powers, and yet make such a Sputter against disowning of those, who are the Head and Fountain from which these Evils flow; whatever they may think of it, other Men, as well as Dissenters, cannot understand it.
’Tis an old Calumny cast upon the Way and People of God, (yea, upon Christ himself) that they are Enemies to Cæsar, as if these who complained of the Evils of the Government, and would have them redressed, were the Enemies thereof, when indeed they are the best Friends thereof, who would have our Officers Peace, and our Exactors Righteousness, and so keep them from Ruin, which will undoubtedly come upon great Ones, as well as Small, who walk in sinful Ways, and put to their Hand to alter or destroy the House of God, in its Laws and Ordinances. ’Tis surprising, that the associate Presbytery should make use of the same Weapons against Dissenters, that the late Persecutors did against the Martyrs, and other Sufferers at that Time; whatever their Design may be therein, they have learned that Lesson from bad Hands, even the bloody Persecutors: And who knows, but this Reproach may be rendred into their Bosom, with such Weight as will not be easy to bear?
The old Dissenters, in no Testimony or Declaration of their Principles printed to the World’s View, ever declared themselves in any Principle sanguinary, dangerous, or destructive to Government, or the Peace of human Society; and their Practice for many Years past and present, to the Conviction of all among whom they have their Residence, can testify, that they are civil, good, and peaceable Livers, creating Difficulties or Disturbance to none, but labour to behave themselves honestly; and as much as in them lies, to study Peace with all, and to give no Offence to any; and rather to study to be useful, as hurtful to any, high or low, which may force a Title to some, to be Accusers of the Brethren.
The Presbytery met at Edinburgh, upon the 3d of February 1743, where, instead of recognoscing [recognized], affirmed and corroborated that Part of their Testimony against the old Dissenters; laid aside the civil Part of the Covenants; intimated to me, that if I would not retract my Dissent from the said Testimony, and consequently, as I apprehended, retract Reformation Principles, sworn to by all Ranks in this Land, they would proceed against me according to the Rules of the Church; and to this they unanimously agreed.
In this Case I found, that these Terms of Ministerial Communion with them, were such, as no faithful Presbyterian Minister could comply with; therefore, I desired that it might be marked in the Minutes. That it was with great Concern upon my Spirit, that I found myself obliged to differ in any Point from the Opinion of the Reverend Presbytery, or any considerable Number of them; more especially, in a Matter of great Importance. And were I not straitned in Point of Principle and Conscience, I would choose rather to be silent; for I could solemnly declare, That I contended not for Contending’s Sake, but because I considered the Matter, now under Deliberation, to be of the greatest Moment, and of the last Consequence, namely, How we should exert ourselves in the most serious and awful Work, of renewing our Sacred Covenants without Dissimulation. That I was heartily sorry, that the Reverend Presbytery thought fit to cast any Reflection upon these worthy Persons, called the old Dissenters; more especially, seeing I could not disown, that I was very much of the same Sentiments with them: So that any Condemnation of them must affect me, which obliged me to enter my Dissent against the Testimony of the Reverend Presbytery; and therefore, and for the Reasons contained in that my Dissent, I humbly begged of the Reverend Presbytery to recognosce that Part of their Testimony, which reflected upon these Persons who maintained these Principles, which the said Dissenters and I aver.
In the next Place, As to the Method of renewing the Covenants proposed by the Reverend Presbytery, I beg’d the Reverend Presbytery to consider further of it; for that it doth not seem agreeable to the Method in which they were first taken, being, as they were then conceived, I admitted, That they can't be taken by us at present in these very Words, If by the King’s Majesty and Parliament's, is to be understood the present King and Parliament, for the Reasons contain’d in my Dissent: And therefore, tho’ I was for swearing both the National and Solemn League and Covenants as they stand, and were sworn to; yet I did except some Particulars, where there must be an Alteration of the Phrase; and I could think of no other, or better Alteration, than to take them with the Variations as they were renewed at Auchinshaugh, near Douglas, July 24th 1712, whereof I was ready to give a Copy; and with these Alterations I declared, That I was at full Freedom solemnly to pronounce, and formally to swear to them; and if any further or other Alterations be necessary, it well deserved the Presbytery's serious Consideration: But without we pronounce and swear the very Covenants, as at first conceived, with Variations accommodated to our present Circumstances, I did not think we can be said properly to renew the Covenants, but rather to take a quite different Oath or Covenant.
All this was transacted in the private Presbytery, that met in Mr. [Adam] Gib’s House at Bristo, in the Forenoon; and after a Conference held, which they desired of me the Day before, and I frankly complied with; and, this was the third Conference that the Presbytery had with me, having had other two at Stirling, the one continuing for about three Hours, and the other from Four to Twelve o’Clock at Night. By which it appears, to any laying aside Prejudice, That I have been far from declining to give to these that asked me the Reason of the Hope that was in me; which I assayed with Meekness and Fear.
Thereafter the publick Presbytery being constitute in the Meeting-house at Bristo, about Four in the Afternoon, and the Minutes relating to this Affair being read, the Presbytery unanimously agreed to name a Committee of their Number to repair to my House, in order to their dealing with me to retract my Dissent; certifying me, That if I did not retract the said Dissent, the Presbytery would bring me under Censure. Whereupon I asked the Presbytery, if they would grant me the Petitions before mentioned; namely, to recognosce that Part of their Testimony against these true Presbyterians, viz. the old Dissenters; and if they would renew the Covenants, as they ought to be renewed, and as they were renewed at Auchinshaugh, near Douglas; which they absolutely refused; and thereupon I offered a Paper with a Shilling Sterling, which I desired might be read by the Clerk of the Presbytery; which Paper, at first, had no Title, lest the reading of it had been prevented thereby; and when I was interrogate anent the Matter and Contents of that Paper given in to the Clerk, I answered, This would be known when it was read; and the Presbytery allowed it to be read accordingly: The Tenor whereof follows;
Whereas the Reverend Presbytery did, at their former Meeting in October last, emit the following Testimony, viz.
“We desire to be humbled for the dangerous Extreme that some have gone into, of impugning the present Civil Authority over these Nations, and Subjection thereunto in lawful Commands, on the Account of the Want of these Qualifications Magistrates ought to have by the Word of God, and our Covenants; even altho’ they allow us in the free Exercise of our Religion without Disturbance; and are not manifestly unhinging the Liberties of the Kingdom; an Opinion and Practice contrary to the plain Tenor of Scripture, and to the know Principles of this Church in her Confession and Covenants. And that some few others carry their Zeal against the Defections of the Times, to the dangerous Extreme of espousing Principles in Favours of propagating Religion by offensive Arms: Quite contrary to the Disposition that ought to be in all the professed Followers of Christ; who came not to destroy Men’s Lives, but to save them; And for all these Things the Lord may justly say, I hearkned and heard, but they spake not aright.”
Against which I did enter my Dissent, for the Reasons therein mentioned; and whereas the Presbytery did, by their new Act, or unanimously approven Overture, instead of recognoscing, corroborate their former Testimony against the old Dissenters; laid aside the civil Part of our Covenants, as unsuitable for them; and also declared, That they will proceed against me according to the Rules of the Church, if I do not retract my Dissent; therefore I must take the Liberty again to dissent, for the Reasons contained in my former Dissent, and these following.
1. I can't agree to the present Form and Manner of renewing the Covenants; because ’tis not taking or swearing to these Covenants, as they were originally framed and sworn to by our Ancestors; but really taking a quite different Oath or Covenant, under the Pretence of renewing the old Covenants, which is a great Abuse and Imposition upon the People: For the old Covenants that were taken and sworn to, are plainly different from the present Oath that is proposed to be taken, as will appear from reading and comparing them.
The Preamble to the present Oath doth indeed assert, That we are bound by the National, and Solemn League and Covenants: But then the taking of this Oath, in no Sense, can be called the renewing of these Covenants; which is the Thing proposed, or, at least, that which the Presbytery would put upon the People as the former Covenants.
In the Solemn League and Covenant, we swear not only to endeavour the Preservation of the true reformed Religion, but also to bring the Churches of the three Kingdoms to the nearest Conjunction and Uniformity in Religion, Confession of Faith, Form of Church Government, &c. and to endeavour the Extirpation of Popery and Prelacy, &c. But this last is altogether omitted in this present Oath or Covenant.
In the next Place, As to the civil Part of the above Covenants, ’tis altogether omitted; and that seems to be industriously done by the Presbytery, because of the Inconsistency of what we are sworn to by these Covenants, with the acknowledging of the present Government, which is not upon the Footing of our ancient and covenanted Constitution: By the Covenant we are sworn to preserve the Rights and Privileges of the Parliament; and to preserve the King's Majesty's Person and Authority, in the Preservation and Defence of the true Religion, &c. Now, our Kings were, by the Law and their Coronation Oath, bound to maintain the true Religion of Christ, to abolish all false Religions, to the Reformation of Religion in England and Ireland, in Doctrine, Worship, Discipline and Government, according to the Word of God: But according to our present Constitution by the Union, the Doctrine and Government of the Church of England is to take Place in it; and the King, at his Coronation, is bound, and doth swear, to maintain the same inviolably: And therefore, ’tis inconsistent with our Covenants, That we should be obliged to maintain the Liberties of the present Parliament; and that we should acknowledge a King that has sworn not to observe our Covenants, by reforming England in extirpating Prelacy there: But, on the contrary, to maintain and preserve inviolably the Settlement of the Church of England’s Doctrine, Worship, Discipline and Government, as established at the Time of the Union, in England and Ireland.
’Tis plain therefore, that the present Covenant, proposed to be taken, is not the same with our former Covenants; and therefore, the taking it is not renewing these Covenants, but a burying, sopiting [canceling], and destroying them, by substituting another Thing in their Place, whereby honest People may be imposed upon, in a Matter that is sacred, and wherein the greatest Sincerity and Singleness of Heart ought to be observed.
Upon the Whole, it appears from the above-mentioned Testimony by the Presbytery, against which I dissented; and from the Form of taking and renewing the Covenants, agreed to by the Presbytery, that they have not sincerely at Heart to adhere to our covenanted Work of Reformation, sworn to by our said National and Solemn Covenants, in their genuine and full Sense.
I do therefore, not only dissent from these Resolutions and Acts of the Presbytery; but I do further appeal from them, to the first free and faithful Judicatory of our Lord JESUS CHRIST; and I hereby secede from the said Presbytery, and hereupon I take Instruments.
After this, I thus entitled this Paper, now read by the Clerk, Protest, Appeal, Secession, Mr. Nairn, and thereupon removed.
I'm informed, That the Presbytery have taken their Testimony against the Dissenters from the Place where it was intended to stand, as a Part of the Acknowledgment of Sins; because, they supposed it would not pass with the People, and they have put it in a separate Minute, whereby they pretend they have removed one of my Grounds of Dissent, but this is ridiculous: For how could it alter the Case as to me, as a Member of the Presbytery? Could I agree to such an Act as the Presbytery’s Deed, without dissenting from it? Or could it alter the Case as to me, upon what Bit of Paper it was writ, while it stood as a Deed or Act of the Presbytery?
’Tis very certain, That the Presbytery have been all along deliberating about renewing our National Covenants: This is what they proposed, and what they would have the People understand they were to do; but let any Person read our National Covenant, and Solemn League and Covenant, and compare these with the Form of the Covenant agreed to by the Presbytery, they will see they are noways the same, either in Form or Substance; yea, they will see that they are noways like other.
If the Presbytery had proposed to make a new Form of a Covenant for themselves and their Followers, that they might do, as any private Set of Christians might do, and which a Christian People do, in Effect, when they partake in the Sacrament: But this is not what the Presbytery give out they are doing; they would have their People believe they are renewing the very Covenants, that were once nationally sworn to in these Realms, by Persons of all Ranks; and yet this Covenant is noways similar to the old Covenants: But under the Pretence of accommodating these Covenants to our Circumstances, by proper Alterations, they have made a quite different Covenant; wherein they drop some material and essential Parts of our National and Solemn Covenants; and yet they would have their People to believe, that, by taking this their Covenant, they are solemnly renewing our former Covenants. This is a vast Imposition upon the People, to put them off with a Name and a Form, in place of the Substance of our sacred Covenants.
In their Preamble, they assert the Necessity of Covenanting with God, that by our National, and Solemn League and Covenants, we are bound to adhere to the Doctrine, Worship, Presbyterial Government and Discipline of the House of God: But this is only a Part of these Covenants; for we are bound to more, as we shall immediately see, which the Presbytery think fit to drop. They begin with declaring, “That they take hold of the LORD JESUS CHRIST, as the only Propitiation for our Sins; his Righteousness, as the only Foundation of our Access to, and Acceptance with GOD; his Covenant of free and rich Promises, as our only Charter for the heavenly Inheritance; his Word, for our only Rule of Faith and Practice; his Spirit, for our alone Guide.—We avouch the LORD to be our GOD, and, in the Strength of his promised Grace, we engage to walk in his Ways, to keep his Judgments and Commandments, and to hearken to his Voice.” And all this is very good; but is it any more than what sincere and godly Protestants might say, and what in Effect they do every Time they partake of the Sacrament? Their Form goes on thus, “Particularly, that we shall, by the said Grace, continue and abide in the Profession, Faith and Obedience of the foresaid true reformed Religion, in Doctrine, Worship, Government and Discipline.” This every Presbyterian in Scotland can take, even these of the established Church, from whom the Associate Brethren pretend to distinguish themselves, by their taking this Covenant; yea, keep out the Word aforesaid, which refers to the Word Presbyterial, in the Preamble, and every Episcopal would take it: For our Confession of Faith is nowhere before this spoke of; but only our Standards, which will agree to the Episcopals, who have their Standards, and profess what they maintain to be the true reformed Religion, and then both Episcopals and Presbyterians would go in with what follows, viz. “That they shall, in their several Stations and Callings, endeavour the Reformation of Religion in England and Ireland, in Doctrine, &c. according to the Word of GOD.” Now, will not an Episcopal think, That the Doctrine, Worship, Discipline and Government of his Church, is founded upon the Word of GOD; and may he not promise, in his Station, to promote the Reformation of such as differ from him, and need, in his Opinion, to be reformed. What the Presbytery means by promoting our covenanted Conjunction and Uniformity in Religion, Confession of Faith, Form of Church-Government, and Directory for Worship, is not easy to be comprehended: It seems to be a dark Expression that needs Explication, before any Person can swear it.
It does not appear, where this covenanted Conjunction and Uniformity in Religion is to be found. Presbytery is established in Scotland, as agreeable to the Inclinations of the People; and, contrary to the Word of God and our Solemn Engagements, Episcopacy is established in England and Ireland: And therefore we should be told, what is meant by this covenanted Conjunction and Uniformity, before we can engage to promote and advance it.
As to what follows in the Presbytery’s Covenant, “To live in the Fear of God, and Love to one another, to encourage and strengthen one another in these good Purposes, live as becomes the Gospel; and that in our personal Callings, and particular Families, we shall study to be good Examples to one another of Godliness and Righteousness, and of every Duty we owe to God and Men.” Any good Christian may, and will take that Part of the Presbytery’s Covenant. As to their resolving “to encourage and strengthen one another’s Hands in pursuing the End and Design of this our Solemn Oath and Covenant;” ’tis very cautiously limited, obliging only to pursue the End of the Presbytery’s Covenant, and not the Ends of our National and Solemn Covenants. We see then what a Covenant the Presbytery are to put on their People; ’tis all so far good, but so lax, as that scarce any Christian can refuse to join in the greatest Part of it; and yet they would pretend to their Followers, that by taking this Model of a Covenant, they distinguish themselves from these People who adhere to the present established Church: But ’tis plain, there are no Presbyterians so lax, not even these who think Presbytery a Matter of Indifferency, and only conform to it, because it is established by Law, but may swear the whole of this the Presbytery’s Covenant, abstracting from the Preamble, which is no Part of the Covenant they swear.
I shall now consider, what there is in the National and Solemn Covenants, which the associate Presbytery pass over, and omit as immaterial and consequently, what they must be understood to repudiate and give up.
By the Solemn League and Covenant, Sect. 1. “We are to endeavour the Preservation of the reformed Religion of the Church of Scotland, &c. the Reformation of England and Ireland, &c. according to the Word of God, and the Example of the best reformed Churches.” This last Clause the Presbytery drop, “We are further to endeavour to bring the Churches of God, in the three Kingdoms, to the nearest Conjunction and Uniformity in Religion, Confession of Faith, Form of Church Government, Directory for Worship and Catechising.” It would seem the Presbytery resolve to use no Endeavours this Way, they either think it needless and improper, or impracticable, according to our Constitution by the UNION, and therefore, they drop this Article: But that the People may be amuz’d with some Words that sound like it, they substitute the above unintelligible Clause, viz. “To promote and advance our covenanted Conjunction and Uniformity in Religion, &c.” as if such Conjunction and Uniformity, had already, in a great Measure, taken Place in the three KINGDOMS.
Section 2d of the Solemn League, "We are, without respect of Persons, to endeavour the Extirpation of Popery, Prelacy, (i.e. Church-Government by Archbishops, Bishops, their Chancellors and Commissaries, Deans, Deans and Chapters, Arch-deacons, and all other Ecclesiastical Officers depending on that Hierarchy) Superstition, Heresy, Schism, Profaneness, and whatsoever shall be found contrary to sound Doctrine and the Power of Godliness; lest we partake in other Men’s Sins, and thereby be in Danger to receive of their Plagues; and that the Lord may be one, and his Name one, in the three Kingdoms.”
This the Presbytery drop altogether, Prelacy, Superstition, &c. it seems they are to be tolerated and allowed, as if we had no Concern, so much as to endeavour, so far as it lies in our Power, according to our Stations, to refute, far less extirpate or alter the Episcopal Form of Government. ’Tis surprising to see this Presbytery fall into such moderate and tolerating Principles, after the florid Profession they have made, upon their separating from the ESTABLISHED CHURCH.
As to the Civil Part of our Covenants, the Presbytery think fit not to let it at all enter into their Covenant, tho’ it makes several Articles of the Solemn League.
The Brethren seem to have imitated the Wisdom of the Serpent in this, they durst not (for their People) expressly acknowledge the present Constitution of the Parliament and Government since the Union, because that is inconsistent with our Covenants, National and Solemn League, which they were pretending to renew; and yet they would pretend to flatter the present Government: But as they could not swear to support the King and Parliament, as ’tis done in our National Covenant, they choose rather to say nothing about them: But lest that should give Offence to the GOVERNMENT, they made the above-mentioned Testimony against the old Dissenters, to make the Government believe, that they acknowledge the Lawfulness of their Authority and Government: But if they truly do that, What earthly Reason could there be, for their not taking the Sect. 3d, 4th, 5th, 6th, of our Solemn League? ’Tis this Scruple, which only hinders the Dissenters from taking these Paragraphs literally; and if the Presbytery be clear, that the Civil Constitution and Government with us, since the Union, is lawful, they ought to declare so, by taking these Parts of the Covenant. But they knew, this would alarm not a few, whom they incline not to disoblige,—who can't but see, that the Union is inconsistent with the 2d Section of the Solemn League, viz. “That we shall, without respect of Persons, endeavour the Extirpation of Prelacy, &c.” Whereby ’tis evident, that Prelacy is to be extirpated out of the three Kingdoms: Whereas by the UNION, Prelacy is to be established in England, as well as Presbytery in Scotland. And tho’ the present King is bound to preserve Presbytery in Scotland, yet he is not obliged to be himself a Presbyterian; but, on the contrary, he is bound by the Coronation Oath to be of the Church of England, and to maintain the Doctrine, Worship, Discipline, and Government thereof inviolably in England.
From what is already said, it will be easy to see, if Persons don't shut their Eyes against the Light, what an inconsistent Part with God, his People, and the Government, the associate Presbytery are acting, in pretending to renew our COVENANTS, and carry on a covenanted Reformation.
They propose to give their People a Form to swear, which they call a Covenant, and by which they would have them believe, they renew our National and Solemn Covenants: But when the Matter is considered, it is noways similar, either in Form or Substance to these Covenants; and therefore, I found myself obliged to dissent from this Form of their Covenant: And the Presbytery having enacted, “That unless I retracted my Dissent (which would be a retracting of Reformation principles,) they would bring me under Censure;” I was therefore necessitated not only to dissent, but also to secede from them; because it appears, that whatever their Professions were, they had it not truly at Heart, to renew our Covenants in their genuine Meaning, in order to promote a covenanted Work of Reformation; so far from this, that they will oblige me to renounce Reformation-principles, or I cannot be any longer a Member of their Society, which being a sinful Term of Communion, in the Opinion of all Casuists, is a warrantable Ground of Secession.
The Committee which the Presbytery had named and appointed to repair to my House, in order to deal with me to retract my Dissent, thought fit to meet at Kirkcaldy; and I sent a Letter to Mr. [Alexander] Moncrief, one of the Members of that Committee, to be communicated; the Tenor whereof follows,
Reverend Sir, I give you the Trouble of this, to acquaint you, that as I found myself obliged (for Reasons contained in my former Protests that I entered) to secede from your Presbytery; so I am not now at Liberty to meet with any Committee of their Number: But I shall still bear a brotherly Love for, and Esteem of particular Members, for the many valuable Qualifications they are possessed of; tho’ I differ from them in some Particulars, which should not break the Bond of Love as Christians; and therefore, I expect they will also treat me in the same brotherly Way, and will do nothing that may weaken my Hands in the Work of the Lord, so far as I am capable to edify the Body of Christ, or any of the Members of it; and this I obtest and request of them, as they will be answerable to our great Master: For I have acted according to my Conscience, from a sincere Regard to what I apprehend to be Truth, and to what I was bound by these Solemn Oaths and Covenants, which this Nation once took, and the Obligation of which we all own. I am, requesting your Sympathy at a Throne of Grace,
Yours in all possible and known Duty,
Tho’ the Elders gave it as their Opinion, That the Committee should not go into my Meeting-house, to expose me in any publick Manner, yet they resolved to go into said Meeting-house, to run me down before the People, in order to influence them to desert me in the Exercise of the Ministry, as if I had been the greatest Heretick, and maintain'd the most pernicious and damnable Principles ever were vented in any Christian Land. Some Persons imposed upon the Beadle, by pretending they had a Commission from the Elders and Managers, to require the Keys of the Doors from him, and so prevailed on him, without his acquainting me of it, to open the Doors, threatning, that if he would not do it, they would break them open.
The Members of this Committee were Messrs. Ralph Erskine, Alexander Moncrief, Thomas Mair, James Thomson, Adam Gib and William Campbell, Ministers, and John Cleland Merchant in Edinburgh, Ruling Elder, who, without asking my Consent, came into the Meeting-house about Three in the Afternoon, they having previously sent some of their Emissaries to advertise the Elders and People to be present at their Meeting; and each of them had a Speech against the Truths maintained in my Protests: And (as I was informed by some Persons who attended by Turns) they never touch’d the true State of the Question, namely, Whether these presently possessed of the Civil Power in Britain and Ireland, be lawful Magistrates according to our Covenants: But they made many virulent and unjust Reflections, in order to prepossess and influence the People against me, alleging that I maintained Errors dangerous and pernicious tending to the Subversion of all Civil Government: Whereas ’tis plain, that I maintain no Principles, but such as we are all sworn to by our Solemn Covenants, the Obligation of which the Presbytery pretend to maintain.
After I was informed how I was traduced and misrepresented by the Committee, I came to the Meeting-house and mounted the Pulpit; and the Church being full of People, and illuminated with Candles, I told the People that I had Right to speak to them from the Place in which I stood; and read the Letter I had writ to Mr. Moncrief, giving the Reason of my not meeting with these Gentlemen, as I called the Members of the Committee, whom I could no more own; that I apprehended, the Design of their Meeting was plainly to pre-possess the People with unjust Prejudices against me, contrary to the Warning I had giving them in my Letter. Then I shewed the People, what was the true State of the Question betwixt the Dissenters and the Associate Presbytery; and I endeavoured to confirm the Truth by several Arguments, and answered the Objections, as I was informed, had been moved by the Gentlemen there present. After which, I represented to the People the absolutely harmonious Call they had given me, and solemnly charged them to adhere to me as their proper Pastor, seeing there was, as I apprehended, no other associated Congregation constitute in so formal a Manner, declaring, That according to the solemn mutual Covenant betwixt them and me, I was willing to exercise, as the Lord should enable me, the Ministerial Work among them, but that I was not to do it against their Will; exhorting them not to be led away by Prejudices and Calumnies, that were unjustly spread against me and my Doctrine. It was something to this Purpose, I think, I signified to them; but can't charge my Memory with the precise Words; (what I spoke being extempore) and after this I removed out of the Church. But the Committee exhorted and advised the People not to support me, or hear me preach any more. And, agreeable to this Advice, the next Day Mr. Gib preached to the People, in a Yard belonging to Thomas Jamison Dyer in Kirkcaldy, and after Sermon Mr. Moncrief baptized a Child of one of my Parishioners, without asking my Consent, thereby giving to the People an Example of disregarding my Ministry.
These were singular Steps of Procedure, being in Effect to suspend or depose me, without Form of Process, or giving me an Opportunity of being heard. John 7.51, Doth our Law judge any Man before it hear him? (ακουση παρ αυτου hear from himself) by no Means, nor doth the Law of any civilized Nation allow it.
The established Church did not deal in so absurd and tyrannical a Way with the seceding Ministers: When they seceded, they gave them a formal Libel, and allowed them an Opportunity of being heard, before they pronounced any Sentence against them: And should not the Associate Presbytery, before they dissolved my Congregation from me, have given me a Libel to answer, in case I should [have] thought fit to answer, and not to have proceeded in so summar a Way against me: But this Act of theirs, ’tis hoped, will shew the People what Sort of Persons they are, and how fit they are to have, or exercise Authority. It shows they have no Charity nor Gentleness, no Bowels of Compassion, no Regard to the very first Principles of Reason or common Justice.
As to the legal Right of Magistrates to govern their Subjects, (that I may cast further Light on this Dispute) there is a great Difference betwixt the Governors in Heathen and Infidel Countries, and these in Christian Countries.
The Heathens, who want the Knowledge of the Christian or true Religion, have nothing to govern themselves by, but the Light of Nature, or these Principles, which natural Religion dictates; or which, perhaps, have been deriv’d down to them by Tradition, from such Nations, as have once received some Revelation, Rom. 2.11-16, For there is no Respect of Persons with God. Ver. 12. For as many as have sinned without Law, shall also Perish without Law: And as many as have sinned in the Law, shall be judged by the Law. Ver. 13. For not the Hearers of the Law are just before God, but the Doers of the Law shall be justified. Ver. 14. For when the Gentiles, which have not the Law, do by Nature the Things contained in the Law, these having not the Law, are a Law unto themselves. Ver. 15. which shew the Work of the Law written in their Hearts, their Conscience also bearing Witness, and their Thoughts mean while accusing, or else excusing one another. Ver. 16. In the Day when God shall judge the Secrets of Men by Jesus Christ, according to my Gospel. From which it appears, That the Heathens have the Light of Nature, and by it they shall be judged: For as many as have sinned without Law, shall perish without Law. Further, To clear this, in a Parenthesis the Apostle evinces, That the Light of Nature was to the Heathen instead of a written Law, while they had the Works of the Law written in their Hearts, which directed them what to do by the Light of Nature; and by their natural Dictates, they apprehended some Difference betwixt Good and Evil. They did by Nature the Things contained in the Law, had some Sense of Justice and Equity, by the Light of which they were taught Obedience to Parents, the Conservation of publick Peace and Order; and while God in his Providence continues Heathens in a State of Heathen Ignorance, they can only act by that Reason which God hath given them, and that will lead them to seek some Rules of Society or Government: And therefore the Governors whom they choose, have a Right to govern, according to the Rules and Laws of Society; and no Person has a Right to disturb them in the Exercise of that Government, until the true Religion and Knowledge of it come among them.
Their own Subjects are bound, by their own Consent, to live according to their established Constitution; and Christians, who are cast providentially among such a People, are bound to regulate themselves according to these Laws (if not sinful) while they live in these Parts; for being no Part of their Society, they have no Right or Power to quarrel their Government.
But, in a Christian Country, where all the Subjects are Christians, and know the Truth, as they have a Hand in making Laws, and setting up Governors, ’tis their Duty to take Care, that the Rules of the true Religion be observed, that their Laws be agreeable to them; and to provide for the Preservation of the true Religion, by allowing none to govern but these who are (or at least profess to be) of the true Religion, and undertake to preserve it. And accordingly ’tis Part of our Civil Constitution, that our Governors shall be of the true Religion, and preserve it inviolably, in all the constituent Parts of it, viz. Doctrine, Worship, and presbyterial Discipline and Government; and we, as well as our Governors, have sworn, and are obliged to swear to preserve the said true Religion; and this being a Condition of our Allegiance, we cannot be obliged (in Conscience) to give Allegiance to any Governors that are not of the true Religion, or do not engage to preserve it to the uttermost: And therefore, tho’ Infidelity in a Heathen Country does not deprive the Governor of his Right to rule; yet Infidelity renders one incapable to rule in a Christian State, because Christians are bound, by the Law of God, not to set up Infidels over them, who may overturn the true Religion: And ’tis plain the true Religion, which Christians are bound to preserve, cannot be safe or secure, where Infidels, or these who are not of the true Religion, have the Government in their Hands.
After the greatest Part of this State of my Secession was written, there came to my Hand a printed Letter from one Andrew Stevenson in Edinburgh, which seems rather to be intended for the Publick, than for me; and therefore I am not obliged to answer it: But any Person, who considers the above State, will see, That the said Author has entirely misunderstood the Matter; and if it appear to any Person, that there is any Thing of such Weight, as to the Matter in Dispute, in this Letter, he will find it, and much more that has been said by others, solidly answered 29 Years ago, in a Pamphlet in the Year 1714, entitled, A Converse between two Presbyterians of the established Church, an Elder and a Preacher.
Upon the Whole, I am sorry that my late Brethren have given me so much Cause of Complaint, and Secession from them; and wish the Lord may open their Eyes, that they may see wherein they have acted so manifestly inconsistent with their hitherto professed Principles, and open Declarations. O! to be helped of the Lord, in the Day of dreadful Hypocrisy, in Sincerity to love the Truth, and to be upheld in Integrity, when so many of Understanding have fallen; such is the Time wherein our Lot is to live, That whosoever thinketh he stands, has need to take heed lest he fall.
IN Consequence of the Committee's Advice, to the People of this Associate Congregation, to withdraw from my Ministry, Thomas Jamieson Dyer in Kirkcaldy, David Pringle and George Greig in Dunniekier, and several others, gave a private Warning, to such of the Congregation as they thought fit, to meet at the New Church upon the first Day of April last, to concert a Petition to be given in to the Associate Presbytery, for Supply, in Opposition to me. Accordingly, upon the said Day, the Persons before-mentioned came to the New Church, sent for the Beadle, and he not being at Home, required the Keys of the said Church from his Sons, who said, they were not in their Custody: And thereupon Thomas Jamieson brought Mr. Malcolm, Writer in Kirkcaldy, and protested in his own Name, and in the Name of the Associate Congregation, against the Kirk-Officer and his Sons; and that it should be lawful for him or them, to break open the Doors of the said Church, and thereupon took Instruments. Thereafter the said Thomas Jamieson, and others with him, caused James White, Wright in Kirkcaldy, a Member of the Congregation, take off the Bands from one of the Church-windows, break open the West-door, draw off the Lock from the Ministers Door, and thus enter’d the Church, with the People who were advertised to be at this Meeting, and gave their Consent to the foresaid Petition for Supply. This being done, they put on a new Lock on the Minister’s Door, nailed a Plate of Iron upon the Lock-hole without; and also nailed the other Doors and lower Windows.
A considerable Number of the Congregation signed a Petition to the said Presbytery, to meet at Dumfermline the fifth Day of the foresaid Month, earnestly requesting them to remove their Testimony against the old Dissenters, which they conceived was the Spring and Source of the Division and Confusion of this Congregation; and not only so, but, as they were afraid, did Hurt unto the Testimony, which our Martyrs sealed with their Blood in the last suffering Period.
This Petition was subscribed at Kirkcaldy, the 31st Day of March last, by 99 Persons, Members of this Congregation, whereof five were Elders; and they appointed six Persons, Members of this Associate Congregation, whereof three were Elders, to attend the Presbytery, and give in this their Petition to them, and do every Thing in their Name, as if they themselves had been personally present. Also, they appointed their foresaid Commissioners to give in a Paper to the Presbytery, containing Reasons and Grounds of Scruples, to which they referred in their Petition. The principle Grounds were these following,
1mo, ’Tis a Difficulty with them, how the Opinion of the Dissenters, with respect to the Civil Magistrate in Britain and Ireland, can be contrary to Scripture, as the Presbytery assert, when there are such positive Precepts in the Scripture, for the Qualifications of Kings over a professing People, and the Presbytery themselves grant in their Testimony against the Dissenters, that they should be qualified according to the Scripture.
2do, They cannot see the Principle of the Dissenters, condemned in the Presbytery’s Testimony, to be contrary to the Principles of this Church, in her Confession and Covenants; seeing, that they made the Covenants the very mutual Stipulation and Agreement betwixt King and People, whereby they are to perform their respective Duties to one another; and seeing the Presbytery maintains, That these Covenants are binding upon the very latest Posterity, they would fain know, how it shall be consistent with these solemn Engagements, to acknowledge, maintain, and defend the King any other Way, than as he preserves and defends the true Religion and Liberties of the Kingdoms; for they cannot see, how the King can be loosed from the binding Obligation of these Covenants, more than the People.
3tio, As for us having the free Exercise of our Religion, as the Presbytery assert, they can scarcely see; for, if so, the Presbytery, and these under their Inspection, had not been in the present Situation they are now in: And all the Liberty and Security there is for the Reverend Presbytery, and their Adherents, flows only from the Toleration, which gives no more Liberty and Security for them, than for Anabaptists, Independents, Quakers, &c. and consequently is no great Thing to boast of.
4to, Another Thing that was perplexing to them, when the Presbytery met at Edinburgh, February first, it was expected, that they would have answered the Reasons of the Reverend Mr. Nairn’s Dissent, which he gave in to the Presbytery at Stirling; but, instead of that, the Presbytery condemned the Principles of the Dissenters as erroneous, pernicious, and dangerous, and spreading thro’ the Land like a Gangrene, which gave Ground to think that they were Truths, seeing the Erroneousness of them was not made appear by the Presbytery.
5to, When the Committee met at Kirkcaldy, they proceeded to shew, wherein these Principles were dangerous, alledging, that the present Dissenters were not like the old Dissenters, but were new Dissenters, we having the free Exercise of our Religion, whereas they suffered Persecution; and if they could have had the same Liberty for Religion as we have, they would not have disowned the King’s Authority. But, as to this, some Difficulty remained with them; they granted, that we do not now suffer Persecution as they did in the last suffering Period; but then, this flows only from the Toleration: And, if we shall look back unto that suffering Period, we will see, how zealous the true Witnesses were in contending against all Indulgences and Tolerations, and would take no Shelter under such Refuges, which, if they had done, they would not have suffered Persecution more than others, &c.
6to, As for the Committee’s comparing the Divine Ordinance of Magistracy unto common Craftsmen, such as Wrights, Baxters, Shoemakers, &c. and saying, That a Man may be a good Baxter, Wright, &c. tho’ he want Scripture-Qualifications; and so a Man may be a good King, without Scripture-Qualifications also: This they could not understand; for, as to Scripture-Qualifications, they respected common Craftsmen, as Men, or rather as Christians, not as Tradesmen: But then they could not help thinking, That Scripture-Qualifications respects a King, not only as a Christian, but as he is clothed with the kingly Office, in order that he may rule for God, and the Advancement and Defence of the true Religion, according to the Word of God, Rom. 13.3,4; 1 Pet. 2.13,14,15; Deut. 17.13-20. Thou shalt in any wise set him King over thee, whom the Lord thy God shall choose, one from among thy Brethren, &c. This Precept they humbly judged to be moral, and not only respecting the Jews, but also binding upon all Nations of the World, where the true Religion is profess’d; as also Exod. 18.21; 2 Sam. 23.3,4; Deut. 16.18,19.—From all which it is evident, how Magistrates should be qualified in a Christian covenanted Land, &c.
The publick Presbytery met at Dumfermline, April 6th, about Four o’Clock Afternoon; and immediately after the Petition for Supply was given in to the Presbytery and read, the Petition for removing the Presbytery’s Testimony against the Dissenters, was also given in to them, with the Paper of Scruples against the said Testimony. The Presbytery allow’d the Petition to be read, refused to read the Paper of Scruples; but handed it about to the Members, who read it privately among themselves. Mr. Gib asserted it was no Petition, but an invidious Calumny against the Presbytery, an Affectation of Mr. Nairn’s Dialect, and that the Presbytery did only testify against Things, and not against any Person whatsomever. To which it was replied by some of the Members, That it could not be refused that the Presbytery in their said Testimony had some Persons in their View.
The Commissioners insisted for the reading of their Paper of Scruples, and craved Satisfaction from the Presbytery; but the Presbytery would not allow it to be read publickly, but referred the Affair to a private Presbytery, which was to meet about Eight o’Clock; and it was signified to the Commissioners, that they should be heard before the said Meeting.
The private Presbytery being constitute, they immediately stated the Vote, Grant the Petition for Supply or not? And it was carried by all the Members present, except one, in the Affirmative. And the Presbytery for granting this Supply, before they had proceeded in any Form of Process against Mr. Nairn, alleged for their Warrant, Acts 15.24, Forasmuch as we have heard, that certain which went out from us have troubled you with Words, subverting your Souls, saying, Ye must be circumcised, and keep the Law; to whom we gave no such Commandment. Ver. 25. It seemed good unto us, being assembled with one Accord, to send chosen Men unto you, with our beloved Barnabas and Paul. Thereafter the Commissioners insisted, That their Paper of Scruples might be read: But the Presbytery refused to allow it to be read, and appointed a Committee of their Number to meet at Nine o’Clock; and signified to the Commissioners, That they should be fully heard before the said Committee. When the Committee met, they would not allow the Paper of Scruples to be read, tho’ it was insisted on by the Commissioners; but proceeded to allege, That Mr. Nairn’s Principles were dangerous and pernicious; and that the present Dissenters were not of the Principles of the Martyrs, who denied not the King’s Authority before the Year 1680, when that heavy Cess was exacted and imposed for bearing down the Gospel. To which it was replied by the Commissioners, That there were severals of the Martyrs who denied his Authority before that Time, viz. Mr. James Mitchel, and the Five that suffered at Magus-Muir, and several others, as is to be seen in Naphtali. Then it was alleged, That none of the Martyrs denied the King’s Authority, until they were persecuted and oppressed; and, as Solomon observes, Oppression makes a wise Man mad; so, in this Case, they uttered some Words against the King, which they would not have done, if they had not been so oppressed; and had they enjoyed the same Liberty that we do, they would not have deny’d his Authority. It was answered by one or other of the Commissioners, That there was a Toleration granted, whereby they might have had some Liberty for enjoying their Religion, if they had accepted it; and all the Liberty that the Associate Presbytery enjoy, flows from the same Source of Toleration. Then it was alleged by the Committee, for the Lawfulness of the King's Authority, That he was chosen by the Representatives of the Nation. It was answered by one of the Commissioners, That this Choice was not according to the fundamental Laws of the Land, and our sacred Covenants; whereby we are bound to make Choice of one to govern us who is of the true Religion, and to maintain and defend his Person and Authority in the Defence of the same, and Liberties of the Kingdoms. Then they condemned the Principle which Mr. Nairn and the Dissenters maintain, as not having a Foundation in the Word of God, and required the Commissioners to produce one Scripture-warrant for it: For, said Mr. Hutton, we can produce Hundreds on the contrary. To which it was replied, That it had been many Times asserted there was no Scripture-warrant for the Dissenters Principle, and that they judge it needless to give the Scripture Qualifications of Kings to the Committee, since the Presbytery, in their Testimony against the Dissenters, own, that they ought to be qualified according to the Word of God. However, besides many other Scripture-Qualifications, the Commissioners could have given, they offered these set before us, Deut 17th Chap. 13 to 20 Ver. Deut. 16.18,19. 2 Sam. 23.2,3. Then they [the Committee] asked the Commissioners what they thought of Mr. Nairn’s Explication of Article 4th of the 23d Chap. of the Confession of Faith, in explaining it away to the Heathen Land; as if the Assembly of Divines had been so wise, as to make a Confession for the Heathens, how they were to do with their King’s? Answered, They heard Mr. Nairn explain that Article, tho’ not in the Sense above-mentioned: But if the Committee pleased, they would give them a true Account of Mr. Nairn’s Explication of that Article, which the Committee allowed. The Commissioners then told them, That Mr. Nairn explain’d that Article, as intended for the Benefit of our own Nation, when any of us have Occasion to be in a Land not reformed, where the true Religion is not made a Condition of the Government: In that Case, Infidelity or Difference of Religion does not make void the Magistrate's just and legal Authority, nor free us from Obedience to his lawful Commands. Then they asked then, What they thought of Mr. Nairn’s Explication of Rom. 13, as not to be understood of Rulers in Paul’s Time, but his exhorting to obey Magistrates that were not then in Being? Answered, Mr. Nairn explained it of lawful Rulers, which had the Qualifications mentioned there by the Apostle. Then it was alleged, That Dissenters Principles were bloody Principles; and made a long Harangue upon the Consequences of disowning the King’s Authority, and the Dissenters setting up Magistrates of their own. To which it was replied, We were to assay our Duty, and not to meddle with Events that belonged to the Lord; and that the Dissenters held no such Principle at this Time, of setting up Magistrates of their own; and that they maintained no bloody Principles. Then they asserted, That the Dissenters held the paying of Cess to be unlawful, and yet they paid it. This last the Commissioners denied; and when it was urg’d that they could not make use of Candle, Leather, Ale, or Money, without they paid Cess in some Sort, It was answered, This was not paying of Cess in any Sense: For that we were to use the good Things of this Life, which God had given us for our Sustenance, without asking Questions, and that the Martyrs were liable to the same Difficulties, and yet were obliged to use the same Things, as they were not to be guilty of Self-murder. This is the Substance of the Conference betwixt the Committee and the Commissioners, as is informed, and the Committee desired them to consider of what they had spoken to them, and the Conference was ended.
I being abroad, when Thomas Jamison and others broke open the Doors of the New Church; when I returned, being on Friday the eight Day of April last, some of these, who petitioned the Presbytery for Supply, took off the Plate which they had nail’d on the Minister's Door, drew the Nails of all the Doors of the Church, except the Minister's Door, kept the old Lock, and the Key of the new Lock, which they had put on it. The Day after the Kirk-officer took a Wright along with him, who drew the Nails of the Windows, took the Lock off the Minister's Door, and the Week thereafter put a new Lock on it, fitted for the old Key, which the Beadle had in his Custody. The said Day, about Five o’Clock at Night, my Opposers broke open the Doors of the House where my Tent was laid up, and set it up at the Back of the New Church.
Being informed, That Mr. Thomas Mair, Minister at Orwell, was, by Appointment of the Associate Presbytery, come to Kirkcaldy, in order to preach at the Tent the Sabbath ensuing, I wrote him the following Letter,
You was one of that Committee appointed by your Presbytery, who enter'd the New Church, contrary to the Opinion of the Elders, and without asking my Consent, to run me down before the People of this Congregation, in order to influence them to desert my Ministry, alleging, that I maintained Errors dangerous and pernicious, tending to the Subversion of all Civil Government; whereas ’tis plain, that I maintain no Principles, but such as we are all sworn to by our solemn Covenants. And tho’ I gave you, and others of your Brethren, a solemn Warning, as you should answer to our great Master, not to do any Thing to weaken my Hands in the Work of the Lord, yet, agreeable to the Advice of your Committee to the People to hear me no more, Mr. Gib preached in a Yard belonging to Thomas Jamison, Dyer in Kirkcaldy, and thereafter Mr. Moncrief baptized a Child to one of my Parishioners without asking my Consent: And I am informed, that, by the Appointment of your Presbytery, you are to preach To-morrow in my Tent, (which some, having broke open the Door, have taken out of a House where it was laid up till I had Occasion for it) and thereby to give the People your Example of disregarding my Ministry. These are most singular Steps of Procedure, being, in Effect, suspending and deposing me, without any Form of Process against me. If you and others of your Brethren, be at all a Presbytery, you ought to proceed according to the Rules of common Reason, and not to condemn or sentence a Man, that was once a Member, without, at least, some Form of Process; since you knew that I got a solemn Call from this Associate Congregation to be their proper Pastor; and that this Relation is noways regularly dissolved, I require you, (being resolved, if the Lord will, to preach in the New Church To-morrow) in Christ's Name, that you do not by preaching in the Tent, further encourage the People to disregard my Ministry; but rather go Home and preach to your own People: And if notwithstanding you will give Disturbance, by preaching without, when I am preaching within, you must answer for it at the great Day of Judgment, when the Place where you are to stand will witness against you,
Your real Well-wisher,
Minister of the Gospel in Linktoun.
The said Mr. Mair preached at the Tent Forenoon and Afternoon, notwithstanding of this awful Warning to prevent it; and one of Mr. Ralph Erskine’s Sons preached at the said Tent the Sabbath thereafter, and was prevailed with by the Petitioners for Supply, to observe a Fast with them upon April 21st; and Mr. White preached on Sabbath, being the 8th, at the said Tent; and ’tis informed, that Mr. Campbell is to preach there Sabbath next, being the 22d of this Instant.
It must be obvious to any Person that reads the above Narrative, That as it was owing to the undue Influence, that the said Presbytery used with the People of this Congregation, to seduce them from me, that some of them were induced to desert my Ministry, and apply for others to preach to them: So it was a groundless Breach of their most solemn Engagements to submit to my Ministry, thus to apply to the Presbytery for Supply, as if they had wanted a Minister, when I was never in any Form deposed, or had resigned my Office as their Minister.
At the same Time, it must appear equally absurd and irregular in this Presbytery, to encourage these People by granting such Supply, when I was never in any Manner convict upon a Trial, of such Fault as deserved Deposition; and yet I am treated by this Presbytery, as if I had been the greatest Criminal, and deposed by them in the most formal Way.
It must also appear, that the honest People who adhered to me, have acted a faithful Part; and by what past before the Presbytery, ’tis evident their Scruples are so strong, that the Presbytery could not, at least, did not offer the least Answer to them; but endeavoured to inveigle them with captious Questions, which, however, these honest and plain Men did sufficiently answer.
Let any Man read the 15th Chapter of the Acts, which the Presbytery cite as their Warrant for treating me as they have done, and they will see, that it concerns nothing of the Question between them and me; so that they might have as well cited any Part of the Bible as that. Is there any Question betwixt them and me about the Necessity of Circumcision? If they say, that I went out from them, and troubled the People with Words, subverting their Souls, let them shew that,—the above State will shew that there is no such Thing; on the contrary, the Tenets which the Presbytery seem to adhere to, are subversive of all Religion, and consequently destructive to the Soul, as being directly opposite to the Principles of our holy Covenants, which the Presbytery dare not disown; at least, pretend to maintain, how consistently, with their present Behaviour, the World will judge from what is stated in the above Case.
Though the abominable Act of Supremacy, Charles II. Parl. 2. Sess. 1. Chap. 1. was abrogated by Act 1. Parl. 1. Sess. 2. of King William and Queen Mary; yet the Presbyterian Government was mainly restored, as being agreeable to the Inclinations of the People, and Ministers, at the Revolution, accepted upon that Footing, and submitted to be called and dismissed by the Authority of the King, and to do nothing without a Commission from him, whereby they stood upon an Erastian Foundation; and they have never, by any positive Act since the Revolution, asserted the intrinsick Power of the Church, and its Independency upon the Civil Government, which shews, that their Settlement and Constitution is Erastian. And tho’ the Associate Presbytery complained of Defections in the established Church, yet they have never explicitly testified against their Erroneous and Erastian Foundation, nor made that any of the Grounds of their Secession, so that it would seem, that the Associate Presbytery have no Aversion to an Erastian Constitution of a Church. Also, they have not Magistrates or Magistracy in their Covenants, unlike the true Church of Scotland; and therefore, I add these as additional Reasons of my Secession from them; upon which Account, they must be lookt upon as a Sectarian Judicatory, and not a faithful Judicatory of the Church of Scotland; and I think the old Dissenters acted a wise and prudent Part, who would not own them as a Presbytery, when they directed their Papers to them, which caused them to be rejected.
I being informed, that Mr. William Campbell, a Member of the said Presbytery, has frequently from his Tent inveighed against me, and the Principles of the Dissenters; The Following Letter by him, directed to me, and dated Ceres, 15th December 1742, is here insert, to shew the Inconsistency of his Actings.
R. and D. F.
I am, since last meeting of Presbytery, not a little uneasy at what was transacted at our last Sederunt, concerning the Civil Government, the Article that was added to the Acknowledgment, confessing it as one of the Sins of the Land, the Opposition made against the Civil Government, when it was voted I was against it; but, since I have seen and considered the Copy of the Bond, which reduplicates upon the Acknowledgment; and that Article among the rest, I own, according to my present Light, I durst not swear that Article: So far as I remember, it is laid in such Terms, that it not only abjures David Lesly and his Folks, but also our old Dissenters, yea, also ourselves; Have we not, and do we not oppose the present Government in several Acts of their Administrations? and which we in Duty are bound to do, agreeable to our Principles. As for the old Dissenters in Scotland, altho’ I am not of their Way of Thinking about Civil Government, yet, at the same Time, I cannot say I have Freedom to condemn them in such a solemn Manner, as by an Oath. I humbly conceive, ’tis not the King we have to do with in the present Case, ’tis the Administration of the Government, and the Way ’tis settled, being founded upon the Ruin of our Reformation attained unto this Time hundred Year: Yea, considering the civil Administration at present, and these Years bygone, which hath been, and still continues to be gravaminous to the Subjects, as appears from our publick Prints, I do not think it our Duty to show so much Zeal for the present Government; abstracting from all other Considerations, it may possibly occasion strange Thoughts of us in the Breasts of our Enemies: True, were we bound in Duty to do so, we ought not to regard them; but this I do not see. There is another Thing, which, upon Reflection, is straitning to me, viz. That in all our Acknowledgment, I do not remember, that the Snare, I think I may call it, the Reverend Presbytery was left to fall into, anno 1740, in keeping a Day for Fasting and Humiliation, upon the same Day appointed by the Civil Magistrate, is mentioned as one of our Sins; altho’ the Year following the foresaid Year, the Presbytery came to see and acknowledge their Mistake, in their Act at Dumfermline anent a Fast. If the Reverend Presbytery did, in the Year 1741, acknowledge this to be a Sin, certainly it remains so still; and while we are assaying an Acknowledgment of Sins, to cover any one, I know not what to make of it.—Time does not allow me to write further at present; only, dear Father, I expect the Lord will direct you, and some of our old Fathers, to reason upon these Things at our next Meeting, if the Lord will; if these Difficulties be not got out of the Way, thro’ the Lord's Pity, I wish the Work may rather stop than be marred. I would have waited upon you at your own House, but my Affairs will not allow me. Our Session, at our last Meeting, recommended to our Societies to set apart a Day this Week for Prayer; and they themselves are to meet with me about that Duty upon Saturday next, the Design of which, is to assay pleading with the Lord, to guide and direct the Presbytery in the Work they are to have among their Hands at Stirling. I rest,
R. and D. F.
Your very humble Servant,
The above State and Appendix is published, that the World may see the Rise and Grounds of the Difference betwixt the Associate Presbytery and me: And the Readers will judge for themselves, which of us act most consistently with the Principles that both profess to maintain.