DELIVERED IN THE
FIRST REFORMED PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH, NEW-YORK,
ON SACRAMENT MONDAY, MARCH 15TH, 1852.
PASTOR OF THE REFORMED PRESBYTERIAN CONGREGATION
OF COLDENHAM, NEW-YORK.
“The habitation of thy house, Lord, I have loved well.”
VAN NORDEN & AMERMAN, PRINTERS,
No. 60 William-Street.
ATTACHMENT TO ZION.
“If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning.”
“If I do not remember thee, let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth; if I prefer not Jerusalem above my chief joy.”—Psalm 137:5,6.
Without some acquaintance with the condition of Jerusalem, and the circumstances of those who spoke of her in these words, their warmth and earnestness will not be appreciated.
Israel was at the time in bondage, Judea was desolated, and Jerusalem lay in ruins. The spoiler had entered her palaces, the fire had blackened her walls, utter ruin and desolation everywhere met the eye. A saddening change had been effected! Once she stood there, the gem of oriental greatness. Her magnificence and the fame of her temple. attracted multitudes to her courts to wonder and admire. There the tribes of Israel met for their religious observances; there the priests of the Lord resided, and offered continually; there God himself had taken up his abode. But there is no temple there now, no priests to sacrifice, no Shekinah between the cherubim, to approach. Those who formerly worshipped there are captives now in a foreign land; but neither their distance nor captivity hinder them from thinking of the past; and as it comes up to mind, with all its endearments, they bitterly mourn over the present. In their sorrow, the presence and conduct of their conquerors give them uneasiness; wherefore, retiring from the din and bustle of Babylon, they seek that solitude which is so dear to sorrow, and congregate upon the banks of its rivers. As they sit there, their thoughts are away on the land of their fathers, the home of their birth, and the city of their God. Shall they ever see them more? is repeatedly asked; and, as the improbability presents itself, their tears gush from their ready fountain. Yet their instruments of music have not been forgotten. How languishingly their melancholy eye now rests on them; how their souls yearn over them again, to hear their melody in songs of Zion, and again to join their voices in the praise of God!—and, as the emotion swells within them, their tears flow again. Their grief is great. To what may it be compared? It has no emblem; unless, indeed, it be those unstrung harps that hang there on the willows! But deep as it is, another pang is added to their sorrow. They are followed in their retirement by their exulting conquerors, making sport of their sadness; and, as their mirth grows boisterous, they call on the weeping captives for a song of Zion. Such rude mockery was more than they could silently bear, and striking heavily, their overflowing cup of grief is freed of a portion of its contents, and they are roused to making this curt, but touching reply, “How shall we sing the Lord’s song in a foreign land?” but immediately, their all-subduing love of Jerusalem so rules within them that, regardless of their mocking foes, each says, “If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning. If I do not remember thee, let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth; if I prefer not Jerusalem above my chief joy.”
The greatness and ardency of the love of these captives for Jerusalem, the temple and worship of God, are unmistakeably and most pathetically expressed in these words. Nor is this the only instance of such unfeigned regard. David prized a day in the courts of the house of God more than a thousand elsewhere; and if there was one thing desirable above all others it was, that he might dwell there for ever. Undoubtedly, both the Psalmist. and these captives had good reasons for their attachment; and when the question is asked, is it so still? do the people of God so regard the Church now? does the covenanter so love his Zion? it will be answered in the affirmative; and the object of this discourse is to consider the following reasons for it:
I. BECAUSE SHE IS TO THEM ALL THAT JERUSALEM WAS TO THE SAINTS OF OLD.
II. FOR THE EXCELLENCY OF WHAT THEY FIND WITHIN HER.
III. FOR WHAT SHE IS AND DOES.
I. She is to them all that Jerusalem was to the saints of old.
1. She is endeared to them by the same name. From the common use of this term, it must be plain to all that Jerusalem is still a favorite name for the Church. Nor is it used unwarrantably. She is what the word signifies. The city which bears this name was called Salem at first. In its neighborhood Abraham was directed to offer his son, but was spared the uncommon sacrifice, his faith and obedience being sufficiently tested, by the kindness of God, who provided a ram instead of his son. On account of this merciful interposition, the patriarch called the place Jehovah-Jirah—the Lord will provide or will see. There God looked in pity on the afflicted father, and provided for him. This word “Jirah,” placed before Salem, which signifies peace, forms Jerusalem—vision or possession of peace, or better, where peace shall be seen.
What this name signifies, the Church has always been. She is a refuge from the storms that so frequently sweep over and devastate the world. Firmly and in peace she stands, while kingdoms have been shaken, thrones demolished, and empires have fallen into ruin. God has established her a strong city, making her walls salvation and her gates praise; He himself resides within her as the God of peace. Inscribed on her banner is the joy-inspiring motto, “Peace on earth and good will to man.” Her King and Head is the Prince of Peace, and dispenses peace within her, to all his subjects—peace, not such as the powerful arm and skilful legislation of earthly princes confer; but peace of conscience, peace with all mankind, peace with angels and peace with God; peace, that shall reign in the soul while here, and be enjoyed in inconceivable fulness hereafter.
But the meaning of the word is not the only reason for calling her Jerusalem. It is not sufficient even to say that Jerusalem was a pattern of the Church now. They are more nearly related than even the type and anti-type—they are the same thing under different dispensations. The one was the Church in her youth, surrounded by the typical materiality which was suited to her juvenility; the other, the Church in her earthly maturity of form, and in a spirituality that likens her to heaven. The Church now is the Jerusalem of which the apostle speaks, Gal. 4th, and contrasts with the Jerusalem which was then in bondage with her children; the same Jerusalem of which Isaiah prophesied and said, “For Zion’s sake will I not hold my peace, and for Jerusalem’s sake will I not rest, till the righteousness thereof go forth as brightness, and the salvation thereof as a lamp that burneth.” Is. 62:1.
2. God, the object of worship, and the means of approaching him, are in her now as in Jerusalem of old. The chief design in the choice of worshippers, and appointment of means of worship, was the honor of God. This honor is proportionate to the revelation and apprehension of the nature and excellency of those attributes, which appear most prominently in the scheme of salvation. Of these, mercy, truth and justice evidently appear, and were early taught his chosen people. The substitution of beasts, in sacrifice, showed mercy and compassion for man—the shedding of their blood and burning of their flesh, taught the price justice demanded for sin; the various ceremonies of washing, sprinkling and anointing, bespoke the necessity of holiness. From sin, the worshipper must be cleansed, from the hand of justice freed, and by blood-shedding, come to the presence of God. Thus the whole plan of salvation was revealed in the sacrificial economy. It is the same God we now approach, and compliance with his appointments, for the advancement of his glory, is due now, as it was under the former dispensation.
But while the object of worship is the same, the degrees of revelation and means of approach differ. The clearness in which those attributes now appear, and the simplicity of the means of grace, are peculiar to the present dispensation. The fullness of the Spirit’s teaching concerning the nature of God, the persons of the Godhead, and their economical relations in the work of redemption, so far exceeds what it was, that it may be said, life and immortality are brought to light by the gospel. From ceremony, we have come, through Christ, to what was intended by it—from the shadow to the substance—from the type to the anti-type from sacrifices, that could not in themselves profit, to that which purifies from an evil conscience, washes as in pure water, and by which we come, not to the symbolical presence of God, but into the very presence itself.
3d. The fellowship of the saints, and preparation for glory are in the Church now as of old. There can be no doubt, but that a considerable portion of the joy of Old Testament saints arose from joining with their fellow-worshippers in the courts of the Temple. As the time arrived when their tribes should assemble there, and the call was made upon them to go up to Jerusalem, they were glad. That call, as it reverberated among the hills of Palestine, and was responded to by the distant villagers, thrilled the hearts of the worshippers, and he could say, “I was glad when they said unto me, Let us go into the house of the Lord.” When they met there and raised their voices in the songs of Zion, or sent up their petitions while the high priest was before the ark, or heard with reverence and deep attention the law read by the Levitical officiator, they enjoyed a fellowship elsewhere unknown. This fellowship is in the Church still, and it is by experience found to be an interesting portion of the believer’s privileges.
In like manner, there is a preparation for glory. That Old Testament saints went to heaven prepared by their means of grace for its enjoyment, there can be no doubt. Should it ever be a question, the reflection, that it was God’s design from the first appointment of ordinances, to bring men from a state of nature to a state of grace here, and in that state, to prepare them for a state of glory hereafter, would suffice; but further, this being the case, his wisdom must have been engaged in devising the means of accomplishment; and where the wisdom of God is granted to be the originator of the means, there is no room to question their adequacy. But, apart from this, the translation of Enoch and Elijah, and the resurrection of some at the death of Christ, or even the fact, that at his death, angels carried Lazarus into the bosom of Abraham, would be enough.
The design of the present appointments is the same, and there can be no doubt, but that they are suited to their end. The public profession of the name of Christ, marks the starting point in the Christian’s public pilgrimage—the Spirit, by the word of God, renews, strengthens and comforts the soul; the blood of Christ purifies from all sin, his righteousness frees from all condemnation, and the garment of his merit covers gracefully all the defects of believers. The Spirit, too, works effectually in the restoration of the image of God to the soul, breathes within it a disposition to cry Abba Father; and by his exhibition of the joys beyond the grave, begets a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better.
II. For the excellency of what they find within her.
1. The principles she maintains and on which she is based. That some principles plainly understood and publicly acknowledged should form the basis of every association of man, is necessary, as it is evident from the fact that every association has some such principles, either expressed or understood. This necessity for a doctrinal foundation, arises from the appointment of God and his exemplification of the appointment in his Church; the great model social structure, into which it is designed to bring men of all nations, kindreds and tongues. He being the builder of this universal social edifice, the foundation on which it is erected is of course divine. To man, or class of men, or doctrines originating with men, could be a fit foundation for such a structure. She is built upon the foundation of the Apostles and Prophets, Jesus Christ being the chief corner stone. The doctrines which the Prophets and Apostles taught, and are revealed by his Spirit to the soul when he shows it, the things of Christ are the foundation principles of the Church. The Bible, then, is the standard of her belief and practice—”to the law and to the testimony; if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.” Since, however, men differ so widely in their interpretation of Scripture, and are so directly opposed to each other in their belief and practice, that synagogues of Satan are erected, claiming the Scriptures for their foundation, it is necessary that a constitution, founded on and agreeable to the word of God, should be drawn up by man. When this is done, the fact that it is so drafted, does not make it human. The material of which it is composed is divine—the arrangement only, or form of presentation, is human. The doctrines of the Westminster Confession of Faith, are the doctrines of the Bible, as will appear to every impartial examiner. Should it be asked, If its doctrines are scriptural, what is the use of presenting them in any other form than God himself gave them? We reply, the fact we have just noticed—the fact that men seem to consider themselves licensed to interpret the word of God to suit their own fancies, until we have almost as many different denominations professing to take the Bible for their foundation, as we have men of original genius in the ecclesiastical world; and so opposite to it are some of them, that their originators, it would seem, must have been inspired by such spirits as Micaiah saw take possession of Ahab’s prophets, when they persuaded him to go up to Ramoth Gilead. If human phraseology of divine truth will prevent such differences, and presenting it in a form about which those properly enlightened will agree, and thus secure unity in profession and practice, it must be every way profitable. There is evidently, in the present state of things, a necessity for it; and when such a platform as the Westminster Confession is obtained, it should be joyfully embraced and carefully preserved by every lover of truth.
It is on it with the catechisms [Larger and Shorter], form of Church government, and manner of worship; and her act and testimony, that the Reformed Presbyterian Church is built. These are her standards. In exhibiting their doctrines she has raised her flag-staff, and let out her banner to the breeze; and as it floats there majestically, her members glory in it. They believe, when tried by the word of God, it will eclipse in beauty and excellency all other flags, numerous as they are, that claim attention in the religious community.
It may be said over some of her ecclesiastical neighbors she has nothing to boast; do not the Presbyterian and Associate Reformed Churches occupy the same platform? No; they have long ago dissolved partnership with her in adhering to the Westminster Confession. They have narrowed the platform by removing some of its planks; they have lowered the flag-staff, and cut out what they deemed objectionable parts of the banner. What patriot would admit of such dealing with the flag of his country; and who will say, that its mutilation tended to its perfecting? Then there is the Associate Church; she has not cut out any thing, but professes to take the Confession entire. It is but a short time, however, since she ceased to find it necessary to add footnotes explanatory of her views of some parts of it; and how much better was it to retain the text and explain it away, than to cut it out and have done with! But the foot-notes are not in the present editions. That is true; when they were supposed to have answered their purpose, and shown that the Confession in some things is not to be understood as it reads, they were removed; and their removal intimates that, in espousing it in her connection, exceptions are admissible. But how call she be accused in this matter when her published testimony and open practice are so plain? If there are plain contradictions existing between them and the Confession, it must be admitted, that she refuses to embrace it as a whole, and it is for the excellency of its entireness we plead.
But leaving the constitutions of these branches of the Church, the foundation principles of present voluntary and civil associations may be considered., In doing so, those of less importance may be passed, and the most noted examined. The much lauded Constitution of the United States, is worthy of attention. Its prominent principles are, “that all men are born free and equal, the people are the source of legislative and executive power, and to choose their rulers is the inalienable right of freemen.” These, it holds up for the admiration and adoption of the world. But are they the only principles of the Constitution, and are they all it ought to have? While it establishes the rights of man, what does it do with the rights of God? It has no God. What! a Constitution the boast of the learned and wise of the nineteenth century, and has no God? Did ever a nation exist before without the recognition of a Supreme Being? If so, it is a fit companion for the United States—if not, their Constitution is an anomaly. But is it not a specimen of the wisdom of its originators, so to frame it, that, in its spreading greatness, it might embrace all gods, and equally protect all forms of worship? It is, indeed, a specimen of wisdom above any that God has revealed—it is a stroke of policy that sets on an equality, God and an idol Christ and Antichrist—the Bible, the Koran, and the fancies of Jo[seph] Smith [i.e., Mormonism]; and equally encourages and respects their followers! But, can fault be found with it as it relates to the rights of man? What right of the black man does it maintain?—is he not enslaved by it; and even should he escape from bondage and find his way to a free land over which it has control, does it not vigilantly hunt him up, ruthlessly seize him, and drag him back to slavery?
But, then, it works well, and is universally lauded. So, possibly, have many Constitutions, of whom, and of the nations governed by them, nothing now remain but scraps of history. Some have risen rapidly to greatness: but, with equal rapidity, rushed to their ruin. May it not be so with ours! May the Ruler of nations so leaven it with the doctrines of the Bible, that his claims may be owned, his laws observed, and his enemies opposed! Then will it escape the doom of the nations that forget God—then will its Constitution, in part, rank in excellency with the principles of the Reformation; and instead of being decked with showy tinsel, it will be a gem in the crown of nations. But till then, its principles cannot compare, in fullness and excellency, with those of the Church and of the Scriptures.
The character of her members. To present their comparative excellency, we need not go back to Bible times, and speak of Abraham, Samuel or David; nor even to reforming times, and notice Luther, Calvin or Knox. It is not necessary even to notice particularly the members of the Assembly at Westminster, and compare Goodwyn and Nye, Lightfoot and Selden, with divines of any other age and connection—or point out Alexander Henderson, or George Gillespie, with whom Reformed Presbyterians claim special relationship. They will compare favorably with the learned and pious of any age. But as the Church has been always a persecuted society, we might compare the sufferers under the house of Stuart with those of a more recent date—even with the sufferers and patriots of any nation—with the heroes of the American Revolution. Will it be admitted, by any political American, that those who died at the Grass Market, Bothwell Bridge, and Airsmoss, were patriots; or any thing but religious fanatics? Their history will show what ought to be admitted. It will appear, indeed, that they were eminent for piety; but their piety and patriotism were kindred feelings. They were not a class of men that delighted in insurrection and practised revolt. They did not take up arms, even in self-defence, till they had suffered repeated infringements on both their civil and religious rights; but, when forced to take the field, they acted nobly, and, as true patriots, periled their lives in defence of civil and religious liberty. As they marched to the field of battle, “God and our country” was the motto inscribed on their banner; “God and our country” was the watchword that echoed through their ranks in the struggle of the light; “God and our country” was the sentiment that governed their actions [Dr. W. Symington’s Discourses, p. 84.] and dictated their declarations; and those of Sanquhar and Lanark will, as specimens of patriotism, compare with the declaration of American Independence.
Of their valor, too, much might be said; and although in few instances does it appear conspicuously in the victor’s crown, yet it is no less evident. True heroism is not so evident in the soldier, who, in the boiling blood and frenzy of the battle-field, rushes to the cannon’s mouth or on the point of the bayonet, as when, in the absence of confusion and strife, persons are required to brave danger in cool blood, and face death under contumely and reproach. “The Lord knows,” said Cargill, “I go up this ladder with less fear and perturbation of mind than ever I entered a pulpit to preach.” Cameron and Renwick might be named illustrative of the same calmness and fortitude in death. Even young men and women, whom we might expect to find dallying in the lap of love, rather than contending for the cause of Christ, showed a heroism worthy of remembrance. The youthful Hislop refused to be blindfolded, and fearlessly looked his murderers in the face when shot in the field. Marion Harvey and Isabel Allison could sing the twenty-third psalm, when on the scaffold, in a voice so full and clear as to astonish the spectators, and drown the voice of the officiating popish priest.
It is not, however, for learning patriotism and valor only, that her members are worthy of esteem. There is an honest industry and characteristic sobriety of life associated with, her members, wherever they are found, that are calculated to elicit approbation—a punctuality and devotedness in religious duties associated with her members, that must be regarded as worthy of imitation. So much is this the case, that if uprightness and piety are any where expected, they will be from the members of the Reformed Presbyterian Church.
3. Her deeds for the promotion and security of civil and religious liberty. That she has been aggressive, is evident from inroads repeatedly made on the kingdom of Satan; and that she has been wise to secure her acquisitions, and promote the interests of her Head, will appear from her deeds and covenants. Since the times of Jehoida, or Hezekiah, or even the older periods of Jewish prosperity, no deeds are on record more worthy of attention than the National and Solemn League and Covenant. The first originated in the introduction into the Scottish Church, by prelatic bishops, of a book of Canons and a Liturgy. In it the wisest and most noted of Scottish statesmen and clergy pledged themselves to God, and to one another, to peril all, and if necessary, sacrifice all that is held most dear in life, in the maintenance of religious liberty. The Solemn League and Covenant was entered into with the design of securing unity in religious principle and practice in Scotland, England and Ireland. It was drawn up by Alexander Henderson, sanctioned by the Assembly of the Church of Scotland, and passed unanimously the Convention of Estates. It was then transmitted to the British parliament and Westminster Assembly, which agreed with parliament that it should be publicly sworn on September 25, 1643.
These covenants are endeared to Reformed Presbyterians for the attainments in civil and religious liberty; they are designed to secure the place they occupy in the history of Presbyterianism, and the precious blood that has been shed in their defence. From the least acquaintance with their history, it will appear, that they were not originally obscure documents, hastily got up, and sworn to in a corner. It is evident from themselves, that they are not designed to bind together a low fanatical religionists, occupying an obscure position in the world. They have already bound, and in their nature are calculated to bind, societies, churches and kingdoms; and their principles may yet bind, and bind justly and profitably, all the nations of the world to one another—to religion, to liberty and to God. Were they deeds comparatively obscure, drafted and sworn by men comparatively illiterate and unknown, there might be room for some degree of timidity in openly speaking of and adhering to them; but when it is known that they obtained the sanction of the churches of Great Britain—that the solemn league is the offspring of the united wisdom of English and Scottish lords and bishops—that it is the deed of the three kingdoms, the people, the assemblies and the king having sworn it, no ordinary degree of importance will be attached to it. When we understand that the blessing of the Most High has remarkably accompanied the taking of it, and the sufferers for it, there is sin in being ashamed of it; and if the martyr Guthrie’s dying declaration was prophetic, when on the scaffold he lifted the covering from his eyes, and looking around cried, “The covenants, the covenants will yet be the reviving of Scotland,” it may be we keep back an element that shall prove reviving, not only to Scotland, but to the world. Certain it is that nations shall yet be in covenant with God. Certain it is the Church shall be called Hephzibah, and the land she occupies Beulah; for it shall be married to the Lord; and when Egypt, Assyria and Israel shall be united, [Isa. 19:24.] and the kingdoms of this world shall become the kingdoms of our Lord and of his Christ, national covenanting shall not be unknown. Then, it may be, that as the example of the Church of old was followed by our fathers, in the national and solemn league and covenant, their example will in turn be deemed worthy of imitation.
From examination it will also appear, that these covenants will compare favorably with any specimen of human confederation that exists. Compare the articles of federal alliance which nationally bind these United States, and will the Church’s specimen suffer by the contrast? It is true, there is a dazzling splendor haloing around the galaxy of thirty-one states [this was written in 1852; ED.], that it is no easy matter to obtain an impartial examination; but let the candid compare, let the lover of righteousness judge, and the Church’s specimen, in the exhibition and maintenance of the rights of God and man, will far outshine the specimen of confederation which these states afford.
III.—For what she is and does.
1. She is imbued with, and maintains all divine truth.—That the principles she maintains are true, all acquainted with them will, in almost every case, admit. Few, however, know them. The most give themselves no trouble to investigate, but taking up the popular notion, chime in with the vulgar cant. For them, however, she covets careful examination, confidently believing that where it is obtained they will triumph. Even as it is, those who knew them best but do not entirely agree with them, admit, that in theory they are right, but in application for the present impracticable. They will undoubtedly prevail in the Millennium, it is said, but to practice them now would work confusion if not destruction in the state. We believe that a good rule should always be applied, and that it is good for nothing unless it is; that the doctrines which shall prevail in the Millennium are doctrines that should be taught and practiced now.
It is not the doctrines of Scriptural magistracy alone which she advocates, and with which she is imbued. All the doctrines of grace are maintained by her. There is no error or heresy condemned and opposed by any orthodox denomination that she does not condemn and oppose; no principle related to salvation maintained by any other that she does not maintain, and maintain as distinctly as any. Why, then, were her doctrines known, should any seek communion in other churches in preference to seeking it in her? There can be no reason, so far as the doctrines of grace are concerned. Or, why should any abandon her fellowship for Christian privileges elsewhere? Not for want of heavenly aliment for the nourishment of their souls, or purity of principles and punctuality in observances. No reason can be assigned unless a disinclination to be strictly bound to duty—unless reproach for truth’s sake is found to be insupportable—unless that whiffs of popularity are so gratifying and stimulating, that persons will not be satisfied till they have fathomed its fascinating depths or sealed its giddy heights. It cannot be her want of energy and promptness in acting. Has she not been the pioneer to most denominations in movements that occasionally become popular? Did she not move effectually within her own limits almost fifty years ago on the subject of slavery? Has she not ever plead the claims of the Higher Law? [see editorial note] In relation to these, other churches and societies are but slowly following in her track. On the subject of missions and Bible circulation, she may not have accomplished as much as some, but she mourns over it, and would call out her best energies to do more.
2. She deals plainly and conscientiously with all.—If there is any thing that appears objectionable in her principles, she does not cover it up or smooth it over, that it may not hinder the scrupulous from entering her communion. No; her most unpopular principles are those she advocates with the greatest zeal, and earnestly courts for them investigation. She occupies the stand of a witness for truth and against error, and directs the attention of all to every immorality in Church or State. Not that she covets singularity or notoriety. This plain dealing, she is aware, incurs the displeasure of men; it has already cost her the influence and blood of her best and noblest sons; but she does not, on that account, falter in her course. No, she stands in the presence of God and the world the sworn testifier against the abominations of men, and the pledged maintainer of the truths of the Gospel and Headship of Jesus Christ. Wo to her should she prove false! Should she ever cease conscientiously to warn men, expostulate with them, and testify against ungodliness, blood might be found in her skirts.
But is she not fanatical in her testimony, bearing and conscientious dealing?—does she not grasp at superiority?—and, had she the power, would she not persecute? Her members will not become citizens of any state that is not, in principle, covenanter; they vote for none to civil office because they are not covenanters, and all for conscience sake! If in these respects they act conscientiously, the United States should be the last country in which their conscientiousness would be evil spoken of. Is not the doctrine of liberty of conscience the widest spread, most firmly believed, and universally acted on, of any other, in this land of boasted liberty? Is it true that covenanters, for acting conscientiously, will be reproached even here? But whence came the idea that they were a persecuting people? Was it from agreeing with Luther, that “the Church ought not to force persons to believe, nor animadvert capitally on those who follow a different religion?”—or with Zuingle, “It is at once contrary to the gospel and to reason, to employ violent measures to extort a confession of faith contrary to conscience; reason and persuasion are the arms that a Christian ought to employ.” Even Calvin and Knox, terrible as their names are to some, and associated as they are with the essence of intolerance, repeatedly expressed similar sentiments. [Hetherington’s His. Westminster Assem. p. 286.] Where, then, is the evidence that she would persecute, or has ever persecuted? Has she, at no time, had the power? How was it when Presbyterianism was established in Scotland, when the inhabitants of the three kingdoms were covenanters?—and in what instance, even after suffering persecution and regaining power, did she use it in persecuting her enemies? In no instance was it so. She is, neither in principle nor by practice, a persecutor. She advocates the right, and would establish it; not because it is hers, but because she would be faithful to God, and deal conscientiously with all men.
3. She opens the portals of salvation to all, and urges all to enter them.—She is not limited, in her mission, to any people or country. She claims the entire world as her field, and all men as the objects for whoso well-being she exists. In the prosecution of her mission she offers equally to all the Gospel of Christ—points them to the heavenly kingdom that awaits the enjoyment of the redeemed, and directs them to the door of the heavenly fold, by which, if any man enter, he shall find rest for his soul. Can she, then, be called exclusive? If she is not, it may be said, why does she use terms of communion to which she requires adherence at every sacrament? Is she not so particular; that every communicant must carry with him a token of a right to partake, to the Lord’s table? And why this debarring, before immediate admission to the table, if she is not exclusive? It is because of the sacredness of the ordinance; because, in accordance with the appointment of God, she would have communicants examine themselves; she would prevent, if possible, persons from eating and drinking judgment to themselves: for she is aware that it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God;—and when she carefully fences the table of the Lord, it is because “without are dogs, and sorcerers, and whoremongers, and murderers, and idolaters, and whosoever loveth and maketh a lie.” Her care of souls and the honor of God, does not merit the name exclusive.
But she will not allow her members to commune with others, or even hear occasionally, which says as much as that she only is right. Did not her members say as much when they joined her? Do not the members of every denomination, in pledging themselves to adhere to and maintain its principles, say, practically, that the denomination of their choice is, in their judgment, the best? If not, they act differently in this matter from what they do in others—choose a worse, while a better is as easily got. But having made a choice, and believing, as a reasonable choice indicates, all others are, in some respects, either deficient or erroneous, is it not proper to adhere to it? Will not going here and there show want of sincerity in making a profession, and of steadfastness in adhering to it? Will it not endanger the strongest denominational attachment, and soon destroy that which is comparatively weak? Members of the Church should, according to the appointment of God, endeavor to procure and maintain gospel ordinances. With these, regularly administered, they ought to be satisfied. They will find their Sabbath evenings afford not more than sufficient time to meditate on the Word of God, and water by prayers the seed sown in their heart; and if occasionally they are without stated ordinances, to meet in social meetings, for prayer, is the next appointment on which they may expect the divine blessing. Even young people and children, when taken to these, will be profited;—but alas! for the parents who neglect to secure the company of their offspring in religious observances, or are careless in reminding them of their baptismal engagements!—and thrice alas! for the youth that early claim independency of their parents, and, with loose rein and unsettled principles, turn a deaf ear to the counsel of Wisdom, when she says, “Cease, my son, to hear the instruction that causeth to err from the words of Knowledge;” [Prov. 19:27.] or the earnest pleading of the Apostle, when he says, “I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have received, and avoid them;” [Rom. 16:17.] but happy those who, in their attachment to Zion, drink waters out of their own cistern, and running waters out of their own well, and shall be found so doing when God shall come to take them to himself. Such shall resemble the tree planted by the rivers of water, whose fruit is produced in its season, and whose leaf is ever green.
These waters the Church offers to all, and earnestly urges all to come and taste, and see that God is good.
1. From these considerations it will appear that we, too, have reason to love Jerusalem. The Church affords us all that Zion, in her best times, afforded the tribes of Israel. Yes, more than she afforded them; for while we have the same God that they had, and means of approach as they had, we have a clearer revelation and nearer access than they had. Their sacrifices and rites were complicate and burdensome, ours simplicity itself and easiness; theirs but dimly shadowed the great atoning sacrifice, ours is that sacrifice itself, already offered and accepted. With them, we have in her the fellowship of the saints, and preparation for heaven. The Messiah, to whom they looked forward through type and prophecy, we have seen coming in the flesh—tabernacling with man—suffering, dying and ascending triumphantly to the right hand of God. There he remains our priest for ever; there he is invested with universal authority, and there he will remain till all his enemies are made his footstool. He is Zion’s only head and king. Under him she displays her glorious banner; the advocacy of his headship crowns the reformation attainments which she has embodied in her standards; the blood of martyrs mark her testimony, and the rights of God and man are still the objects of her earnest advocacy. She would place the Word of God in the hands of all; she would carry the Gospel offer to every land, and proclaim its promises in every ear. She would win the hearts of all for Jesus Christ, and, as King of kings and Lord of lords, place him on the throne of the nations. She affords ready access to the bread of life, the store-house of grace and the presence of God. Preparation is in her for the trials of life, victory over death, and the endless enjoyments of the heavenly kingdom.
2. Let us stand by her cause and defend it. She has ever been the object of assault; is even now reproached, and other attacks may be expected. But as we love her, as we value her principles, as we would honor God and obtain the national acknowledgment of Prince Messiah, we will stand by her and defend her. She needs it; opposition to her principles demands it, and better blood than ours has already been spilt in her warfare—hearts more leal than ours have burned in her service, and clung to her persecuted cause. In our warmest affection for her, and best maintenance of her doctrines, we will but feebly follow in the footsteps of numerous worthy predecessors, who form a cloud of witnesses, hovering, as it were, over the arena of present conflict, anxiously looking down at our conduct in the strife. The eye of God is on us the honor of Jesus is associated with our behavior; yea, our own eternal interests are at stake. Let us, then, by the grace of God, stand by the truth, and earnestly contend for the faith once delivered to the saints, and see to it that no man take our crown.
3. With our prayers and endeavors let us join our pledges to God and one another, for her constant remembrance. She is worthy of it; her sufferings require it, and what she has already accomplished should ensure it. Much has she done, in the presentation and advocacy of truth, in opening the portals of salvation, and in furnishing provision and encouragement to the Christian pilgrim. Much has she done in kindling the fire of enlightened zeal on many denominational altars, and even in contributing to the flame that burns on the altar of civil liberty. Much have we ourselves enjoyed, and yet hope to enjoy, within her. In her we come to God’s holy place; in her are the thrones of our New Testament, David’s house; and when we find that a day in her is better than a thousand elsewhere—while we sit by and drink of the river of God, gladdening and fertilizing as it passes, and in her ordinances have Pisgah views of the land that is far off, we will not forget her. Whatever outward reproach we may suffer for her sake, we will pledge ourselves, in the words of the text, “If we forget thee, O Jerusalem, let our right hand forget her cunning; if we do not remember thee, let our tongue cleave to the roof of our mouth—if we prefer not Jerusalem above our chief joy.”
EDITORIAL NOTE: Here Shaw pens the following line: “And has she not, for years past, excluded from her communion the manufacturers of, and dealers in, distilled liquors for intoxicating purposes?” This line indicates the increasing influence of the temperance [re: total abstinence] movement in the Reformed Presbyterian Church, at that time. Those who declined the judicatories of the RPCNA, in 1840, warned against the evils of “voluntary associations” with the various moral and political reform movements. Shaw gives evidence that the RP church had succumbed to the corrupting influence of her “forbidden alliances.”