REFORMED PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH
House of JAMES ANDERSON, NORTH UNION,
BUTLER COUNTY, PA., June 13, 1888.
The Reformed Presbytery, having been dissolved by the death of one of its constituent members, Rev. David Steele, the following persons met, according to previous agreement, to form a General Meeting of the societies that had been under the care of said Presbytery; namely, Messrs. George Alexander, of Allegheny City, Robert Alexander, of Philadelphia, and James Anderson, of North Union.
The meeting having been opened with prayer, James Anderson was chosen Chairman, and James F. Fulton, Clerk. No papers having been presented, the meeting proceeded to consider a statement of some of their reasons for maintaining their separate standing, although in the providence of the Mediator the Reformed Presbytery has been dissolved. During the consideration of this paper the meeting adjourned with prayer, to meet at this place to-morrow, at 9 o’clock, A.M.
SAME PLACE, June 14, 9 o’clock, A.M.
The meeting came to order, and was opened with prayer. Members all present. The minutes were read, amended and adopted.
The consideration of the statement was resumed, and, after several additions had been made, adopted. It is as follows:
A STATEMENT OF OUR REASONS FOR MAINTAINING OUR SEPARATE STANDING, ALTHOUGH, IN THE PROVIDENCE OF THE MEDIATOR, THE REFORMED PRESBYTERY HAS BEEN DISSOLVED.
It is not necessary to state our reasons of dissent from each of the ecclesiastical bodies by which we are surrounded, for those which justify our separation from our former brethren will vindicate our standing aloof from the other flocks of the companions.
We cannot fellowship this body, which styles itself “The Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America,” because it holds fundamental error concerning the nature of that faith by which the terms of communion in the visible Church are received. This radical error may be stated thus: Nothing but what is matter of divine faith should be incorporated with the standards of the Church. Authentic history and sound argument, not being matters of divine faith, cannot, therefore, be incorporated with the symbols of her profession. From this it necessarily follows that as the Confession of Faith, and what they call the Declaratory part of the Testimony, are standards in this body, it must receive them with divine faith. “Certainly,” says a prophet of their own, “because divine truth.”
Now these standards tell us, “That all Synods and councils not only may err, but [many] have erred, and that the scriptures of the Old and New Testament are the only infallible rule of faith and practice.” [cf. Westminster Confession I.10; XXXI.4] We maintain, in consistency with this teaching, that the Bible alone is the object of divine faith, that it is the supreme standard by which all subordinate standards are to be tried.
A didactic statement of doctrine cannot be either the object of divine faith or the formal testimony of the Church, which must consist essentially of facts.
How can we tell what progress the witnesses have made towards completing their testimony but from history? How can the true Church prove her identity with the witnesses, but by demonstrating from history that she is walking in the blood-stained footsteps of the flock of slaughter? It is acknowledged on all hands, we believe, that the 1260 years, mentioned in Rev. 11:3, commenced centuries after the close of the Canon of Scripture. Consequently, there is no way to ascertain our identity with them in faith and practice but by their own history, transmitted by the successive generations of these faithful men. We believe they are called witnesses, not only because they are a competent number to establish the claims of the Mediator in opposition to the usurpations of Antichrist, but also from their moral fitness to transmit to their legitimate successors a faithful history of their own contendings to enable them to go forth by the footsteps of the flock.
This body has departed from these footsteps of the flock in permitting its people to gad about to hear all whom their itching ears incline them. That this practice is destructive to piety has not escaped the notice of some who, in theory, allow it.
We believe we may truly say that those who give evidence of sincere piety, to whatever denomination of professing Christians they belong, do not practice it to any extent, the new nature within them struggling against it. Show us a man who is noted for his indulgence in this practice, and we will show you one who is regarded as very unreliable, even by his own brethren.
There is no reason why those who can wait on each other’s ministrations should remain organically separate. If we may hear one sermon we may hear a hundred, and may become stated hearers. If we can commune in word, why not in sacrament? Union will infallibly take place among those who wait upon each other’s ministrations, either by “absorption” or by the party which makes the sounder profession, agreeing to a basis of union which attempts to conceal their perfidy.
We are commanded to withdraw from every brother that walketh disorderly. Much more from every society of brethren who walk disorderly. Whenever we wait upon their ministry, we nullify our testimony against their disorder. A minister does not stand in the pulpit simply as a minister of Jesus Christ, but as the public authorized advocate of all the errors maintained, and of all the disorders practiced by the ecclesiastical body to which he belongs.
This body, notwithstanding the faithful testimony of Christ’s witnesses against it, the many proofs of its evil tendency, given in the providence of the Mediator, continues to unite with men of all religions, and no religion to accomplish moral reform mingling with the heathen, learning their ways, and losing sight of the paramount importance of the testimony of the Church.
Its disregard of the law of the house in introducing continuous singing, repealing the law concerning the proclamation of Bans [of marriage], and the way it has been winking at the exercise of the elective franchise [i.e., voting] among them, evince that it belongs to the outer court worshipers. We can affix no other meaning to treading the outer court under foot than that it is the wilful disregard of the law and covenanted order of the Church.
We refuse to fellowship this body, because it permits its youth to form societies or “prayer-meetings” separate from those of their parents. We believe all such meetings originate in the enmity of the carnal mind to the law of God, which requires youth in all the social duties of religion, to act under the inspection of their parents, and of those who are over them in the Lord. Further, we believe the developments of Divine providence have justified our testimony against the new covenant entered into by this body in 1871. The acknowledgment of some of themselves, “That their practice is not what it was,” and the talk about “union to prevent absorption,” prove the defects charged against that covenant.
After the adoption of this paper the meeting took a recess until 1 o’clock.
1 P.M. Recess having expired, the meeting came to order and proceeded to consider causes of fasting and thanksgiving. While these were under consideration the meeting adjourned, by prayer, to meet on the 18th inst at 2 o’clock, P.M.
SAME PLACE, June 18, 1888, 2 o’clock, P.M.
The meeting was called to order and opened with prayer. In addition to the members formerly enrolled, there were present Messrs. David A. Renfrew, who had been detained away from his home by urgent business, and George Love.
The meeting not being able, for want of time, to finish the causes of fasting and thanksgiving, appointed James F. Fulton, David A. Renfrew and James Anderson a committee to complete them, and to attend to any matter pertaining to the public interest of the Church until the next general meeting.
Messrs. George Alexander and H.M. Hartzell, who had been appointed by the Reformed Presbytery as its agents to manage Miss Jane Young’s donation, said Presbytery having been dissolved by the death of one of its constituent members, Rev. David Steele, reported to this meeting, which, according to the known and established usage of this Church, attends to its public interests when it is deprived of a Presbytery. The report was accepted and approved, and they were continued as the agents of this meeting to manage said donation.
The following resolutions were adopted:
WHEREAS, It has pleased God, in his adorable providence, to remove from us, by death, his faithful servant, Rev. David Steele; therefore,
Resolved, 1. That while we deeply feel the loss of his wise counsels in managing a testimony for all divine truth, we desire to thank our covenant God for the eminent gifts bestowed on him, and that he was so long permitted to exercise them among a despised and scattered remnant.
2. That we express our unwavering conviction of his fidelity to principle, his self-denial and devotion to the cause of God, for which he sold all those prospects of worldly honor and wealth which his talents fitted him to acquire.
3. That we express our admiration of him as an able minister of the New Testament, as a workman that needed not to be ashamed, an expounder of scripture that had few if any equals in his day.
4. That we are highly gratified that his aged widow, who for more than half a century shared with him the privations incident to a life spent in contending for Christ’s cause, has been able to be present with us, and to enjoy another opportunity of commemorating the Saviour’s dying love. Our prayer is that she may be sustained in her lonely condition, and that she may realize that her covenant God is the widow’s husband.
The meeting then adjourned to meet at North Union, Butler county, Pa. the second Tuesday of June. 1889. Closed with prayer.
The last Thursday of November, 1888, was appointed as a day of Thanksgiving, and the last Thursday of February, 1889 as a day of Fasting.
JAMES ANDERSON, Chairman.
JAMES F. FULTON, Clerk.
CAUSES OF FASTING AND THANKSGIVING.
1. We lament the low state of religion among the professed followers of Jesus Christ—that there is so little of the life and power of godliness manifested among them. We confess our own sin in this respect, that we have not mourned over it, that we have not confessed our faults one to another, and to God; for it is written that if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive our sins.
2. We bewail the prevalence of Atheism, practical and speculative, Infidelity, Socinianism, Pelagianism, Arminianism, and the innumerable errors by which God is dishonored and the souls of men destroyed.
3. The sovereignty of God is denied by his professed people rejecting his law, and forgetting like Israel of old, that he is a jealous God, who will not give his glory to another, nor his praise to graven images. We consider the singing of hymns of human composition, in the worship of God, “Sunday schools,” and whatever is brought into the Church without the authority of his word, as being assaults on that glorious attribute of divine nature.
4. Profanity abounds in all parts of the land among young and old. Many professors of religion are guilty of this heaven-daring sin. If there were no other sins to bring desolating judgments on the land, this alone would be sufficient.
5. The Sabbath is profaned in every conceivable form. Members of the Church are chief in the trespass, in making it a mere holiday, by visiting, worldly conversation, making journeys on that holy day, neglecting to visit the sick on the six working days, and doing so on the Sabbath, many times to the discomfort of the sick themselves.
6. The want of Christian training in the family is the origin of many of the disorders in society. Heads of families do not rule their families well. Those who try to do so often meet with great opposition from their neighbors, who encourage children in their disobedience by giving them shelter when they leave home to carry out their rebellion. Let all such remember that those who are partakers with others in their sins will partake also in their punishment. We lament that the teaching of the Bible is denied in permitting women to preach, to be officers in the Church, and to exercise the elective franchise. It plainly asserts that the man is the head of the woman, therefore, to suffer a woman to teach, or to usurp authority over the man, is to subvert that order God has established in the world, and its results will be destructive to the best interests of society.
7. Few seem to understand the criminality of carelessness by which so many lives are lost every year. The man who, under the Old Testament dispensation, slew his neighbor unwittingly, was compelled to remain in the city of refuge until the death of the high priest. This was done to teach us that there is a criminality in the accidental killing of a man, that could only be expiated by the death of our Great High Priest. Wilful murders abound, and the murderers too often escape the just penalty of the law, especially if they have the means to employ able and unprincipled counsel. Thus is the land defiled with blood.
8. We believe that uncleanness, in all its polluting and debasing forms, is increasing. We fear that many, who are members of the Church, employ means to prevent offspring, using the marriage bed to gratify their lusts, destroying their own lives, and bringing on themselves the wrath of a holy God.
9. Thefts, robberies, and every violation of the Eighth Commandment are matters of daily occurrence. Idleness, the fruitful source of every crime, is tolerated by the State, and seldom, if ever, taken notice of by the Church. She is warranted by the word of God to censure and to exclude from her fellowship all who do not provide for their own households.
10. Lying, slander and perjury abound. By swearing, and lying, and killing, and stealing, and committing adultery, they break out, and blood toucheth blood. Therefore, shall the land mourn and every one that dwelleth therein shall languish.
11. Covetousness, which is idolatry and excludes from the kingdom of Heaven, extensively prevails. This sin, which consists in placing that love, delight and confidence in riches which is due to God alone, is manifested in murmuring and repining at our own condition, and is expressly forbidden in the Tenth Commandment, Col. 3:5.
CAUSES OF THANKGIVING.
1. Though the country, during the past year, was visited in many parts with severe drought, cutting short the crops, yet the earth yielded enough for man and beast.
2. There has been external peace in all our borders. We have been kept safe from the ravages of war, and from the noisome pestilence. Wicked and seditious combinations of men have not been able to carry out their evil designs. Anarchy has received a cheek by the execution, at Chicago, of the men who instigated the Haymarket murders.
3. We rejoice that men are raised up to advocate the perfection of the Book of Psalms as a manual of praise in the Church, that it is fully adapted to express all the exercises of the child of God, either in days of prosperity or adversity.
4. That the practice of raising money for Church purposes by festivals, lotteries, etc. has been rebuked by a civil judge, which seems to have influenced one of the ecclesiastical bodies to condemn all such shameful methods of obtaining money for the service of God.
5. We desire to express our thankfulness to God that we have once more been permitted to commemorate the dying love of our Saviour and to renew our vows at his table.
6. There are still some in this place, and a few scattered here and there, who endeavor to hold fast the truth. Recent events also encourage us to hope that there are many in Israel who are unwilling to sell the entire heritage of their fathers.
The statement made in the Reformed Presbyterian and Covenanter, page 327, September number, 1887, that Mr. Steele left his charge at Brush Creek, O[hio], and remained unsettled till the end of his life, is not true. He did not leave his charge irregularly, as the words seem to imply. He was regularly released by the Reformed Presbytery in the spring of 1859. He was installed over a congregation in Philadelphia in 1866, from which he was also released by the same Presbytery in 1884, with the title of Pastor Emeritus.
Mr. Steele did not take suddenly ill while preaching, as has been stated. On the first Sabbath of June, 1887, he explained a part of the second psalm, and remained in his chair while James F. Fulton preached. He was able on the following Sabbath, June 12, to sit on his chair while James F. Fulton explained a portion of a psalm and preached. On the 19th, he lay on a lounge and conversed with friends. Although he had been indisposed, it was after the 19th he took his final illness, which terminated the 29th by his being translated, as we firmly believe, from the church militant to the church triumphant.