MINUTES OF THE REFORMED PRESBYTERY, 1866.
Philadelphia, June 13, 1866. 10 o’clock a.m.
The Reformed Presbytery met according to adjournment, at the call of the Moderator, and was constituted by prayer.
Members present were Rev. James J. Peoples (Moderator), Rev. David Steele, Rev. James F. Fulton, and Mr. William Shaw, Ruling Elder from Miami congregation. The Rev. John Cunningham, LL.D., missionary to the Jews in London, from the Reformed Presbyterian Church of Scotland, being present; on motion, it was Resolved unanimously, that he be cordially invited to a seat, and to the exercise of all the rights and privileges of the members of this Court. The Doctor took a seat accordingly,
The Minutes of last meeting were read and approved.
The days of fasting and thanksgiving had been observed by all the Congregations under the care of the Presbytery.
Rev. J. F. Fulton was chosen Moderator, and D. Steele, Clerk.
Papers were handed in and numbered as follows :—
No. 1. Petition from Societies in Philadelphia, asking to be organized into a congregation. No. 2. Complaint and petition from the Session of Miami Congregation. No. 3. Petition from Hill Prairie Congregation for an addition to the eldership. No. 4. A refreshing letter from the Congregation of London; and No. 5. A similar one from Covenanted friends of the same fellowship in Galloway, Scotland.
These papers were disposed of as follows:—
No. 1. The prayer of the Societies in Philadelphia was granted, and the evening of next Friday appointed for that business.
No. 2 was referred to a committee, consisting of Rev. Dr. Cunningham and Mr. William Shaw.
No. 3. Rev. D. Steele and Dr. Cunningham, with the co-operation of Mr. John Tweed, Elder, were appointed to carry out the object of the petition from Hill Prairie, at the convenience of the committee and Congregation.
The Court then designated the hour of 11 o’clock a.m., tomorrow, as the order of the day for hearing Dr. Cunningham’s address.
Messrs. Fulton, Peoples, and Shaw were appointed a committee on the Signs of the Times.
Adjourned by prayer till 3 o’clock p.m.
Same place, 3 o’clock p.m.
Presbytery met and constituted by prayer. Members all present.
The Minutes of the morning's proceedings were read and approved.
Rev. J. F. Fulton having stated to the Court that he had removed locally from his pastoral charge by reason of their inability to afford him adequate support, this inability arising from the migration of families beyond the bounds of the congregation, the Presbytery, in view of these considerations, with others, Resolved, That the pastoral relation between the Rev. J. F. Fulton and the congregation of Brushcreek be, and the same is, hereby dissolved.
The papers Nos. 4 and 5 were read, and Rev. J. J. Peoples directed to frame and transmit a suitable reply. They are as follows:—
“London, May 14, 1866.
“To the Rev. the Moderator and remnant members of the Presbytery of the Reformed Presbyterian Church, United States of America, to meet in Philadelphia, June, 1866.
“Dear Fathers and Brethren,—We embrace the opportunity of our beloved pastor's visit, to send you our most cordial greeting; and we hope and pray that his visit amongst you may be found to be as encouraging and refreshing to you as was the very pleasant and instructive visit of the Rev. Mr. Steele and his good lady to us two years ago—a visit not soon to be forgotten.
“We cannot report that the cause for which you and we are contending is at all brightening. Perhaps the opposite is true. We, like yourselves, have lost a worthy and exemplary Elder; and the old and tried Societies of Galloway (Scotland) are losing, time after time, their members by death. Churches which were thought but lately to be faithful to a Covenanted testimony have so changed their sentiments and conduct that yon, can scarcely credit it. They appear to be so bent on Union that truth seems to be fallen in the streets. And the rulers of the nation seem prepared to go any length in supporting and encouraging the Man of Sin, the Son of Perdition. The Word of God does not leave us in the dark as to what must follow such conduct. On the Continent of Europe, we know not what a day may bring forth—peace or war. It seems as if the last great judgments are about to be poured out on the Antichristian system, and on despotism in Church and State. Let us encourage each other in the maintenance and carrying forward of a precious but despised (testimony for) truth. Let us sow the seed which shall yield a plenteous harvest in the millennial period.
“Trusting and praying that we may have grace from on high, enabling us to stand fast, and rejoicing that the exalted Mediator reigneth, that He is King of kings and Lord of lords, that to Him every knee must bow and tongue confess, that He must reign till all His enemies be made His footstool; we would close these few and disjointed statements in the words of the Apostle Paul to the Corinthians, ‘'Finally, brethren, farewell. Be perfect, be of good comfort, be of one mind; and the God of love and peace shall be with you.’
“By order of the Congregation,
“(Signed) ALEX. CHRISTIE, Preses,”
“At the house of Mrs. James M’Quaker, Newton Stewart, April 16, 1866. The meeting having been opened with prayer, the Societies of the Old Dissenting Presbyterians of Wigtonshire, contemplating the proposed visit of Dr. Cunningham to America,—unanimously Resolve—
“That they are glad of the opportunity hereby furnished to give expression to their feelings of sympathy with the members of the Reformed Presbytery in the United States, and the people under their charge, in all their trials for the truth's sake; and of their love and esteem for them as faithful Covenant brethren, and earnest desire for their success in maintaining the Lord’s cause in their land; that their heart is with them. When they heard of them, they thanked God and took courage. They received great encouragement when they found that they sought to honour the crown upon the head of the Divine Redeemer, rather than to see it set upon the head of a mortal. That they were greatly delighted and honoured by the visit of the Rev. Mr. Steele and his lady, and rejoiced that the brethren whom he represented had taken up the testimony which others had begun to disown; that his labours among them were reviving, and comforting, and edifying. They feel grateful to the Presbytery for allowing him to come to their quarter, and to him for proposing to visit them in their lonely situation, allowing them to enjoy the ordinance of the Lord's Supper, which they had longed for, and might not have enjoyed at the time without him. Finally, that although their dear brethren may be held of small account by the wealthy and powerful around them, yet they trust these will be honoured by their Lord and Master, to continue faithful witnesses for His truth. The meeting was concluded with prayer.
“H. HUMPHREYS, Preses.”
“Dear Friends and Brethren,—Our hearts have been cheered by former tokens of your sympathy and co-operation, but still more by this fresh and renewed assurance of your continued confidence in us, as one with you in the bonds of our solemn covenants.
“For their faithful adherence and unswerving devotion to the visible symbols of a Scriptural testimony—the Covenant's National and Solemn League—many of our common ancestors suffered the loss of all things—property, liberty, and life. We came into the world under the perpetual bond of these Scriptural deeds, and also under the additional obligation arising from the legitimate and organic Renovations of them by our more recent ancestors. While through grace we would cherish an abiding sense of these obligations, we cannot consent to the removal of the Auchensaugh Bond from before the eyes of the present generation, and the consigning of it to a remote and obscure local situation in history, as attempted in 1822 by the Synod of Scotland, and recently by the Synod of Ireland.
“This is not the place, however, for entering into argument on this or other collateral questions, now undergoing discussion by Several parties laying claim to the position of Covenanted witnesses.
“The disposition, noticed by you, to disregard conventional regulations in the social state, civil and ecclesiastical, prevalent in the British Isles, we regret to say, is equally prevalent in this land. In such a time, introductory, or at least preparatory, as we hope, to the moral renovation of society and the rebuilding of our New Testament Jerusalam, it becomes imperatively incumbent on such as would be witnesses for Christ, to hold fast the profession of their faith without wavering,—to encourage and comfort each other in going forth unto Christ without the camp, bearing His reproach.
“Like yourselves, dear brethren, we are surrounded by snares and temptations, with little to encourage us presented to an eye of sense. In such circumstances we would endeavour, with the Psalmist, to encourage ourselves in the Lord our God, taking comfort from the assurance that He will have a seed to serve Him while sun and moon endure. Be assured, dear brethren, of our active sympathy with you and others of your fellowship elsewhere in the British Empire, in all the reproach and tribulation which you endure in striving together for the faith of the Gospel and the crown-rights of our common Lord, the Prince of the kings of the earth.
“Finally, brethren, farewell. May grace and peace be multiplied unto you. On behalf of the Presbytery.
“(Signed) JAMES J. PEOPLES.”
Adjourned by prayer to meet here to-morrow, at 10 o’clock a.m.
Same place, June 14, 10 o’clock a.m.
Presbytery met, and was constituted by prayer. All the members were present. The Minutes were read and approved.
The committee to whom was referred the paper, No. 2, from Miami Session, reported. The report was accepted and adopted, and it is as follows:—
“Your committee on paper 3 would respectfully recommend that the spirit of the petition from Miami Session, as anxious that the act of the Presbytery respecting those who have contributed money to clear townships and precincts of draft, be approved; the Presbytery being desirous that their own act be respected as lawful.
The committee on the “Signs of the Times” reported the following Causes of Fasting and Thanksgiving, which were approved:—
“CAUSES OF FASTING.”
“1. Ignorance of God as revealed in the Holy Scriptures. Multitudes evince by their lives, and even some among ourselves, that ‘there is no fear of God before their eyes.’ Even among those who make a public profession of Christianity too many are disposed to deal with the Most High in His absolute character, practically disregarding the mediation of Jesus Christ. Unitarianism is theoretically avowed by many nominal Christians, even ‘denying the Lord that bought them;’ while many more practically disregard the Saviour’s declaration, ‘No man cometh unto the Father but by me.’
“2. The worship of God is greatly corrupted both in the matter and forms, sanctioned by churches which glory in their descent from a Reformed ancestry. Uninspired hymns, choirs, organs, and other appliances, devised to captivate the senses of worldly people, have prevailed to such extent as to render the sanctuary a place of carnal amusement hardly distinguishable from the theatre. Christians now worship God almost in every way except that which ‘He hath appointed.’
“3. The name of God is greatly profaned by cursing and swearing among the ignorant and wicked; but especially by the unnecessary multiplying of oaths, often administered officially by those who do not fear an oath. An awful example of this sin has been exhibited to the world in the conduct of the instigators of the late civil war.
“4. The Lord’s day continues to be greatly desecrated by those high in place, in the capital of the nation; but especially by the recent impious ‘Anniversary of the Christian Commission,’ on that holy day, and in that conspicuous place: thus ‘bringing more wrath upon Israel by profaning the sabbath.’
“5. The hedge is taken away from the Lord’s vineyard, by the sinful instrumentality of those to whom it is given in charge. This often appears in the facility with which office-bearers and members of the Church change their fellowships. They pass from one communion to another, without any apparent regard to distinctive principle, thus breaking covenant, and assuming new and contradictory vows, without scruple of conscience. Surely, when such licentious conduct is prevalent, ‘truth is fallen in the streets—the foundations are out of course.’
“6. The seals of the Covenant are profaned by applying them to persons who betray culpable ignorance of the provisions of the Covenant, and the import of its seals. Ministers are importuned to baptize children by parents who view this ordinance either as a mere ceremony, or as essential to salvation. And, instead of humbly seeking instruction, such parents are filled with resentment against a minister who refuses to foster such ignorance by profaning this Divine ordinance.
“7. Unions without agreement in Divine truth are still zealously advocated by many, who are loud in professions and commendations of personal piety, and ‘Christian liberality,’ whose agency and activity are equivalent to ‘a conspiracy against truth;’ while these same agitators are generally such as have violated covenant with God and their brethren—who ‘cannot be taken with cords.’
“8. Neither national nor ecclesiastical communities manifest a willingness to render practical submission to the Mediator. The efforts made by some to obtain a public recognition of God, His Son, and His law, in the constitution of the United States, are strenuously resisted by Gospel ministers (!) in concert with infidel Jews and politicians.
“9. It is to be deplored, that in the British Isles, where a Scriptural Reformation from popery and prelacy was sealed by the precious blood of the martyrs of Jesus in the seventeenth century, many of their descendants have become weary of wearing sackcloth, and have compromised important parts of our Covenanted cause. The Synod of Ireland, by recently changing the last clause of the fourth Term of Communion, from a concrete to an abstract form, have thus entered upon the course exemplified by the Scottish Synod in the year 1822, which issued in the disruption of 1863.
“CAUSES OF THANKSGIVING.”
“1. Notwithstanding the rapid progress of latitudinarian principle in ecclesiastical communities in this and other lands, there are still a few whose testimony, though feeble and despised, operates as a brake upon the downward course which unprincipled majorities would otherwise pursue.
“2. By the good hand of our God upon us, we are once more enabled to exhibit our principles to the world through the public press—to vindicate the cause of injured truth; and to expose the double-dealing and the misrepresentation of those who took advantage of our supposed inability to defend ourselves and the integrity of our Covenanted cause from their disingenuous and unbrotherly assaults upon both.
“3. Although, by reason of our multiplied sins in individual and social life, the Most High has been provoked to send upon us His three sore judgments of sword, famine, and pestilence, yet, during the late civil war, we as a people were wonderfully preserved from its ravages, and from the enemies of a Covenanted Reformation, on the right hand and on the left. And although the Lord has laid His band upon the fruits of the earth, it has been in measure, so that there has been sufficient for the supply of man and beast, and the pestilence has yet been stayed from entering our borders.
“4. “We rejoice that the necessity of a national acknowledgment of the authority of the Mediator is still pressed upon the attention of men. And while we believe that such a recognition of His righteous claims as is at present advocated by some would only be an insult to Him who is Prince of the kings of the earth, we trust that some will be led to investigate these claims, and to see their bearings on man in every relation of life.”
The third Thursday of November next was appointed to be observed as a day of thanksgiving, and the third Thursday of February as a day of fasting, by all under the care of Presbytery. The order of the day was called for, when Dr. Cunningham proceeded to address the court in a speech at once instructive, interesting, eloquent, and affectionate, to which the Presbytery responded in the following terms:—
“The presence of Dr. Cunningham in this court is hailed with profound thankfulness to God: and on the present occasion the Presbytery express their high esteem of him as a faithful minister of the Gospel—their high appreciation of his eminent scientific and literary attainments: but especially confidence in him as professing those Scriptural and Covenant qualifications, deemed essential to the character of a public witness for Christ in times of reformation. These qualifications have been long stereotyped, as it were, in the historical vocabulary of our martyred ancestry. They are worthy of continuous repetition, especially in the ears of a backsliding generation, viz., ‘known integrity, approved fidelity, and good affection to the cause of God.’ Preserved on his journey amidst perils by sea and land, through the providence of Him who commands the winds and the seas; the Presbytery extend to the Doctor a cordial welcome, in view of his personal worth, and also as the representative of brethren heretofore recognized as in the same Covenanted fellowship with ourselves. And while it is matter of lamentation that the Doctor stands alone in the British Isles, as a public witness for the WHOLE of our Covenanted Reformation, deserted by former brethren since the year 1859; and while in the sovereign providence of our common Lord, he cannot present credentials from any ecclesiastical judicatory; the Presbytery hereby publicly and solemnly declare their belief that Dr. Cunningham’s reputation is not only without, but above reproach—needing no ‘epistles of commendation.’ He is honoured by this Court, and, as they sincerely believe, honoured by his Divine Master, as the representative—and the only legitimate ministerial representative, of a more numerous and honourable constituency than that of any other man in the British empire, viz., ‘the great cloud of witnesses who loved not their lives unto the death,’ together with their posterity in the bonds of the same covenants.
“While the Presbytery cordially invite the Doctor to a participation in all judicial, ministerial, and other fellowships with them, assisting in deliberations and conclusions with his mature judgment and experienced counsel: they do also recommend him to the confidence, the hearts, and homes, of our brethren during the period of his sojourning in this land. And when he shall have accomplished the objects of his visit to this continent, the Presbytery desire that he be the bearer of their affectionate salutations to all beloved fellow members in London, the South of Scotland, and elsewhere in the British Isles: also, that he may be sustained, directed, and abundantly comforted in his ‘work of faith, and labour of love, and patience of hope,’ while displaying a banner for Christ’s Crown and Covenant, whether among the natural or spiritual seed of Abraham.
“The Presbytery do further recommend THE LONDON-SCOTTISH REFORMED PRESBYTERIAN MAGAZINE to the confidence and generous patronage of all under their charge, as a vehicle through which the integrity of our Covenanted Reformation may be maintained against the insidious sophistry and violent assaults of those who have become recreant to their solemn vows.”
Adjourned by prayer, to meet here to-morrow at 10 o’clock a.m.
Same place, June 15th, 10 o’clock a.m.
Court met, and was constituted by prayer. The members were all present. The Minutes were read and approved. The time of next stated meeting of Presbytery was appointed on the last Monday of May, 1867, in Hill Prairie, Randolph Co., Illinois.
Adjourned by prayer, to meet here at half-past 7 o’clock this evening, for the purpose of organizing the Congregation.
Same day and place, half-past 7 o’clock p.m.: The Court having met and constituted with prayer, and all the members being present, proceeded to ascertain the standing of persons desiring to be organised into a Congregation. This being done, three of their number were then chosen as candidates for the office of Ruling Elder. It being found inconvenient for the Presbytery to continue their sessions, a commission was appointed, consisting of Dr. Cunningham, J. F. Fulton, and D. Steele, with instructions to complete the organization, and, should the way be clear, to dispense the ordinances of Baptism and the Lord’s Sapper in the new Congregation.
The minutes having been read and approved, the Court finally adjourned to meet at the time and place appointed.
Closed with prayer.
JAMES F. FULTON, Moderator.
DAVID STEELE, Clerk.