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Review of A.M. Milligan’s Politics.

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Review of A.M. Milligan’s Politics.

James Dodson

[from The Original Covenanter, Vol. II., No. 1, March 1877]


Mr. Editor,—In the Number of Our Banner for November, 1876, appears a historical sketch on the “Political Position of the Reformed Church,” by Rev. A.M. Milligan, D.D.” The Doctor’s sketch seems to me to be the most public exposure of his mother’s nakedness and his own shame, that I have seen exhibited by any minister calling himself a Reformed Presbyterian. Although “born out of due time,” in the Presbyterian church, Ireland, I embraced the Testimony of the Reformed Presbyterian church with my whole heart; and I adhere to it as truly now, as when it was adopted as my own. I never thought of changing it for any substitute; and if the church to which Dr. Milligan belongs is the Reformed Presbyterian church, I must be a schismatic; but I will not own that until the learned Doctor or his Synod proves me such. To notice a few things in the Doctor’s “Sketch” is all that is now intended; and these shall be tried by the Standards of the church, supreme and subordinate.

1. The Doctor says, “With the Declaration of Independence they” (Reformed Presbyterians) “were in entire sympathy.” To this it is objected that no Reformed Presbyterian could adopt that Declaration entire, without violating the Scriptures and his own Testimony. That document assigns rights—“inalienable rights to all men from the Creator”—in direct opposition to the covenant of grace, and in the face of the whole teaching of the Bible. It also assumes and asserts the right of the people to “institute their own government.” Now, to institute government is the prerogative of God alone; and surely the Doctor knows this better than I do; but he designed to prepare his readers for fellowship with this infidel republic. Everyone knows that the Declaration of Independence is the foundation of the godless Constitution founded thereon. The Testimony of the Reformed Presbyterian church says, “God Almighty, the sovereign Lord of all… for his own glory and the public good, authorized and instituted in his word the office and ordinance of civil government,” page 193. Deut. 17:14, 15. Here is the institution of civil government by God himself. Which does Dr. Milligan accept—the will of God himself revealed in his word, or the will of man in opposition thereto, as manifested in the Declaration of Independence? If this is not rebellion against God, I confess I do not know what would constitute rebellion—yet the Doctor teaches that “Reformed Presbyterians were in entire sympathy with it!” What a pity that the blood of Covenanters was shed to set up or perpetuate such a government.

2. The Doctor and other D.D.’s try further to deceive by introducing that covenant-breaker, Mr. Craighead, as the one who “inspired the Mecklenburg Declaration.” His activity in the renovation of the Covenants at Octorara, Pennsylvania, “points to him as the leading spirit in preparing that document!” So says Dr. Milligan. Does he mean to teach that Mr. Craighead was then a Covenanter? or to teach that there is a consistency between the Covenants and the government of this country? Now the deception here attempted may be detected by his own Reformation Principles Exhibited. Mr. Craighead’s renovation of the Covenants at Octorara, was about the year 1743. He left his profession and vows, and turned to the flocks of his former companions. The societies which he had forsaken were thus left without a pastor for eight years, until Mr. Cuthbertson came from Scotland in 1752. So you see the character of this man. Was he a Reformed Presbyterian minister when he “inspired the Mecklenburg Declaration?” Will the Doctor or some others, who have tried to make capital out of this renegade, please to answer this question?

3. The Doctor says moreover, “The Covenanters bore an honourable part in the war of Independence.” How? by breach of covenant violation of their own Testimony? But the Doctor found this perversion of history necessary to cover his own sin. Why, the Head of the church manifested his displeasure at their sin, by leaving their leaders with a number of the members to do as Mr. Craighead had done, so that the Reformed Presbytery was dissolved, showing that Covenanting principles and American politics are two different things. This was the second time the church in this country was supplied with a ministry from the mother church of Scotland, when Covenanters had lost their position by attempting to conform to the anti-scriptural republic of America, which ignores national religion.

4. Again, Dr. Milligan refers to the action of the Reformed Presbyterian church in the war of 1812. He takes the same view of it as the New Lights did in 1833. The oath prepared by Synod in that time of trial, did not place Covenanters squarely in the attitude of citizens; because it is not the province of the Synod to frame laws of naturalization. This is the prerogative of civil government; and then only in conformity to the law of God. Here we have another proof of the Mediator’s displeasure in the disruption of 1833. But the Doctor seems to be ready for reunion with former brethren, having endorsed their principles. It would be well for him, however, to bear in mind the requisition of the ninth commandment, when he goes about to write and publish history.

5. The Doctor lays peculiar stress on what he calls, the “final conflict,” in which he says Covenanters “freely staked their fortunes and their lives in the struggle.” What does he mean here? Are the wounds made on the body by this finishing stroke too green to be touched? Would he not have told us plainly, that his Synod in 1863 framed a military oath, whereby her members would be “placed squarely in the attitude of citizenship?” That this was the design of the leaders in the body very soon became manifest, since one of their ministers, now a D.D., not only taught that it was lawful for Covenanters to fight for the support of this government; but blasphemously pronounced the curse of Meroz against those who would not volunteer, thus sowing discord among brethren, and scattering the sheep which the Chief Shepherd had committed to his care. Now I maintain, that by the adopting of that oath, the Synod at once abjured our Covenants, and ceased to be the Reformed Presbyterian church. Indeed the late Rev. Wm. Milroy has left it on record, that “the moment this is thoroughly accomplished, the witnessing church here is virtually no more.” This is proved, moreover, by the action of the Synod in 1871, adopting a new American covenant, thereby dividing the fellowship and scattering Christ’s sheep; so that everyone can teach and publish what he pleases—the mother tongue being lost and almost forgotten.

In Reformed Principles Exhibited Synod invites “candid discussion.” (p. 6.) What reply has she made to Rev. J.W. Shaw’s Hephzibah Beulah? Has he been censured for error, when exposing the Synod’s unfaithfulness? What reply has been made to the Associate Presbyterian (vol. 14, No. 4.), when it tells the Old Lights plainly, that “they have fairly come over in principle to the position always occupied by the Secession church?” What has Dr. Milligan to say to this? yet he would have us believe that he is a Reformed Presbyterian! When the Synod or any of her doctors answer these inquiries, together with the following testimonies against her American covenant, I may acknowledge her to be the Reformed Presbyterian church, but not till then. First. The Call to Repentance. What has she to say to it? Second. The Supplement added to the Original Testimony by the Reformed Presbytery in Philadelphia, 1876. Third. A Short Vindication of our Covenanted Reformation, October 1871. These, together with the published Protests of Rev. J. M’Auley, and elder J. Campbell, and their reasons assigned, are all witnesses against the Doctor’s false and preposterous claims.

Now I ask former brethren, who know as well as I do, that they are a-deceiving by an “assembly of treacherous men,” Jer. 9:2, to examine these documents as I have done, and they will see for themselves; but especially let them try to spirits by these texts of the alone Infallible rule,—Rev. 3:3; 2:5, 9. Rom. 16:17. Phil. 3:16. 2 Thess. 3:6. Is it come to this, that Reformed Presbyterians will not “search the Scriptures” for themselves?

Now I maintain, that there is not in being a body professing and holding the principles and practice of the Reformed Presbyterian church, except the Reformed Presbytery. Therefore, I declined majority rule, and voluntarily associated myself with it as a faithful minority.

                                                                                                      ROBERT CLYDE, SEN.