and Judicial Declarations
The following supplement, having been a competent length of time before the church in overture, was adopted in Logan county, Ohio, May, 1850. And, although without the formality of a judicial sanction, we trust it will not be found destitute of divine authority. The design of it is to show the application of the principles of our Testimony to society, as organized in the United States. For although conventional regulations, civil and ecclesiastical, in this land, are very different from the condition of society in Great Britain, where our Testimony was first emitted, yet the corruptions of human nature: embodied in the combinations of society, are not less visible in this than in other lands, nor less hostile to the supreme authority of the Lord and his Anointed. "The beast and the false prophet" continue to be the objects of popular devotion: Rev. 19:20.
Cincinnati, Nov. 12th: 1850.
SUPPLEMENT TO PART III,
Containing an application of the principles of our Covenanted Testimony to the existing condition of society in these United States.
The controversy which arose between the Associate and Reformed churches, on the doctrine of civil magistracy, was the occasion of greater divergency between them, on collateral subjects.· From false: principles, consistent reasoning must produce erroneous conclusions. Assuming that the Son of God, as Mediator, has nothing to do with the concerns of God’s moral government beyond the precincts of the visible church, it would follow, that church members, as citizens of the "kingdoms of this world," neither owe him allegiance nor are bound to thank him for "common benefits." The assumption is, however, obviously erroneous, because, as Mediator, he is "head over all things to the church:" Eph. 1:22, consequently, all people, nations and languages, are bound to obey and serve him: in this office capacity: and to thank him for his mercies.
While this controversy was keenly managed by the respective parties in the British isles, the Lord Christ interposed between the disputants, as it were, to decide the chief point in debate. By the rise of the British colonies west of the Atlantic, against the parent country, and their successful struggle to gain a national independence; a dear commentary was furnished on the long-contested principle, that, in some cases, it is lawful to resist existing civil powers. Seceders, forgetting, for the time, their favorite theory, joined their fellow colonists in casting off the yoke of British rule. Those who vehemently opposed Reformed Presbyterians, for disowning the British government, joined cheerfully in its overthrow. How fickle and inconsistent is man! During the revolutionary struggle might be witnessed the singular spectacle—humbling to the pride of human reason, revolting to the sensibilities of the exercised christian—brethren of the same communion, on opposite sides of the Atlantic, pleading with the God of justice to give success to the respective armies! East of the ocean the petition would be, "Lord, prosper the British arms;" on the west, "Lord, favor the patriots of these oppressed colonies!" Such are the consequences natively resulting from a theory alike unscriptural and absurd—a principle deep-laid in that system of opposition to the Lord and his Anointed, emphatically styled "The Antichrist."
Great national revolutions are special trials of the faith and patience of the saints. No firmness of character will be proof against popular opinion and example at such a time, without special aid from on high. Reformed Presbyterians in the colonies rejoiced in the success of the revolution, issuing in the independence of the United States. Their expectation of immediate advantage to the reformation cause was too sanguine. A new frame of civil polity was to be devised by the colonies, now that they were independent of the British crown. This state of things called forth the exercise of human intellect, in more than ordinary measure, to meet the emergency. Frames of national policy are apt to warp the judgment of good men. Even christian ministers are prone to substitute the maxims of human prudence for the precepts of inspiration, Many divines conceived the idea of conforming the visible church to the model of the American republic. The plan was projected and advocated, of bringing all evangelical denominations into one confederated unity, while the integral parts should continue independent of each other. This plan would have defeated its own object, the unity of the visible church, and subverted that form of government established by Zion’s King. Upon trial by some of the New England Independents and Presbyterians, the plan has proved utterly abortive.
Prior to the Revolutionary war, a Presbytery had been constituted in America, upon the footing of the covenanted reformation. The exciting scenes and active sympathies, attendant on the Revolutionary war, added to a hereditary love of liberty, carried many covenanters away from their distinctive principles. The Reformed Presbytery was dissolved, and three ministers who belonged to it, joining some ministers of the Associate Church, formed that society, since known by the name of the Associate Reformed Church. The union was completed in the year 1782, after having been five years in agitation.
These ministers professed, as the basis of union, the Westminster standards; but the abstract of principles, which they adopted as the more immediate bond of coalescence, discovered, to discerning spectators, that the individuals forming the combination, were by no means unanimous in their views of the doctrines taught in those standards. Indeed, there were certain sections of the Confession reserved for future discussion, which, in process of time, were wholly rejected. This attack upon a document, venerable not so much for its age as its scriptural character: gave rise to zealous opposition by some in the body, and ultimately resulted in a rupture. Two ministers dissented from the majority, left their communion, and proceeded to erect a new organization, styled "The Reformed Dissenting Presbytery." This was in the year 1801. At this date, there were four denominations, in the United States, claiming to be the legitimate successors of the British reformers, viz., the Associate, Reformed, Associate Reformed, and Reformed Dissenting Presbyterians. Three of these professedly appear under the banner of a standing judicial testimony, which they severally emitted to the public. The Associate Reformed Church, by judicial declaration and uniform practice, is opposed to this method of testimony-bearing.
The Reformed Presbytery, which had been dissolved by the defection of the ministry, during the Revolutionary war, was reorganized toward the close of the eighteenth century. The troubles in Ireland, when the inhabitants united for the purpose of gaining independence of the British crown, were the occasion of bringing strength to the church in America. Reformed Presbyterians, feeling sensibly with others the arm of British tyranny, joined interests hastily with Papists and others, in one sworn association, for the purpose of overturning the existing government by force of arms. The enterprise, as might have been expected, was unsuccessful; Isa. 8:11,12; Obadiah 7; 2 Cor. 6:17. Many fled to the asylum which God had provided, shortly before, in America. Among the refugees were some of the Covenanters, by which the church was strengthened in her ministry and membership.
Early in the nineteenth century, measures were taken by the Reformed Presbytery, in the United States, for re-exhibiting the principles of a covenanted reformation, in a judicial way. Accordingly, in the year 1806, the Presbytery published, as adopted, a work entitled "Reformation Principles Exhibited"—a book which has ever since been popularly called the American Testimony. The familiar designation, Testimony, the general complexion of the book, the orthodox aspect of terms, and even most of the leading sentiments of the work, gave it currency, and rendered it generally acceptable to pious and intelligent Covenanters. And however it seemed to the unsuspecting to sustain, it eventually and effectually supplanted the Scottish Testimony. The men who had the principal hand in giving shape and direction to the principles and practice of Covenanters in the United States, at that time, were located in some of the most populous and commercial cities on the Atlantic coast, where temptations to conform to this world were many and pressing. A disposition to temporize was manifested in these localities, soon after their principles had been judicially exhibited. The last war between the United States and England, subjected Covenanters to new trials in America. As aliens, they were deemed unsafe residents at the seaboard, and were ordered, by the government, to retire a certain distance to the interior (much like the course pursued by Claudius Caesar toward the Jews, Acts 18:2). To meet the exigency, a deputation of the church was appointed to repair to Washington, in 1812, and offer a pledge that they would defend the integrity of the country against all enemies. This measure was, however, never carried out.
The church increased in numbers and influence, and began to be noticed with respect and professions of esteem among surrounding denominations. Some of her members had ventured to act in the capacity of citizens of the United States, by serving on juries. This was of course managed for a time clandestinely. At length, waxing confident by success, they began to act more openly. This gave rise to a petition addressed to the supreme judicatory of the church. The petitioners were answered by instructing them to apply for direction to the inferior judicatories—thus shunning the duty of applying their own acknowledged principles. This was in the year 1823. This course did not satisfy the petitioners, and application was again made to Synod in 1825, to explain the import of their former act. The reply was—"This Synod never understood any act of theirs, relative to their members sitting on juries, or contravening the old common law of the church on that subject;" a response obviously as equivocal as the preceding. As early as 1823, a motion was made in the Synod to open a correspondence with the judicatories of other denominations. This motion was resisted, and for the time proved abortive. At next meeting of Synod, however, the measure was brought before that body, by a proposal from the General Assembly to correspond by delegation. This proposal found many, and some of them able, advocates in the Reformed P. Synod. The measure was, however, again defeated; but immediately after the failure, a number of ministers forsook the Reformation ranks and consorted with the General Assembly. In the year 1828, the Synod gave its sanction and lent its patronage to the Colonization Society, which was continued till the year 1836, when its patronage was transferred to the cause of Abolition. The spirit of declension became manifest at the session of Synod in 1831, when some of the most prominent and practical principles of the Reformed Church were openly thrown into debate, in the pages of a monthly periodical, udder the head of "Free Discussion." Through the pernicious influence of that perfidious journal, sustained by the patronage of ministers of eminent standing in the church, a large proportion—nearly one half—of the ministry were prepared, by the next meeting of Synod in 1833, to renounce the peculiar principles and long known usages of the Reformed Covenanted Church. Organizing themselves as a separate body, yet claiming their former ecclesiastical name, they deliberately incorporated with the government of the United States, and some of the senior ministers, more fully to testify their loyality, in their old age, took the oath of naturalization!—thus breaking down the carved work which they had for many years assiduously labored to erect.
It was hoped that the severe trial to which the professing witnesses of Christ were subjected at that time, would have taught them a lesson not soon to be forgotten. It was thought by many that the church was now purged from the leaven which had almost leavened the whole ]ump. The Synod met in 1834, when a perverse spirit was evident in the midst of its members. The Colonization and Abolition Societies, with other associations—the exfoliations of Antichrist—had evidently gained an ascendency in the affections of many of the members. The altercation and bitterness with which the claims of these societies were discussed, evidenced to such as were free from their infection, that some of those present viewed these popular movements as transcending in importance, the covenanted testimony of the church. As the practice of occasional hearing was on the increase in some sections of the church, Synod was memorialized on that subject, but refused to declare the law of the church. The old spirit of conformity to the world was still more manifest in 1836, when Synod was importuned by her children, from the eastern and western extremes of the church, by petition, memorial, protest and appeal—growing out of the practice then generally prevalent of incorporating with the voluntary associations of the age. The response of the supreme judicatory was in this case as ambiguous as on any former occasion. The backsliding course of the factions majority was but feebly counteracted by dissent from only two members of Synod; a respectable minority having been outwitted by the carnal wisdom of those who were prompt in applying the technicalities of law. Hope was, however, cherished, that this check so publicly given, together with the practical workings of the system of moral amalgamation, would induce even reckless innovators to pause—to consider their ways and their doings. This hope, however rational and sanguine, was totally disappointed in 1838, when the table of the supreme judicatory might be said to be crowded with petitions, letters, remonstrances, memorials, protests and appeals. The just grievances of the children of witnessing and martyred fathers, were treated with contempt—"laid on the table," "returned," with the cry "let them be kicked under the table," &c. And when some attempted to urge their right to be heard, they were called to order, treated with personal insult, or subjected to open violence. A few of these, having thus experienced the tyranny and abuse of the ruling faction, declined the authority and communion of Synod, and established a separate fellowship.
When the Synod again met in 1840, the same measures which had been carried by mob violence at the preceding meeting, were pressed as before; but with less tumult—leaders having learned caution from the consequences following their former outrageous conduct. Matters had now come to a crisis, when a reclaiming minority were reduced to this dilemma—either to acquiesce in the almost total subversion of the covenanted constitution of the church; or by separating from an irreclaimable majority, attempt, by an independent organization, to make up the breach. It is easy to see which alternative was duty, not only from the nature of the case, but from the well defined footsteps of the flock. Reformation has been effected in the church of God in all ages, by the protestation and separation of a virtuous minority. At this juncture a paper was laid upon the table of Synod, of which the following is a true copy:
"PREAMBLE AND RESOLUTIONS."
"WHEREAS, It is the province and indispensable duty of this Synod; when society is in a state of agitation as at present, to know the signs of the times and what Israel ought to do: and whereas it is also the duty of this Synod, to testify in behalf of truth, to condemn sin and testify against those who commit it; to acquaint our people with their danger, and search into the causes of God’s controversy with them and with us: and whereas it is the duty of Synod further, to point out to the people of God the course to be pursued, that divine judgments may be averted or removed—therefore,
"1. Resolved, That uniting with, or inducing to fellowship, by the members of the Reformed Presbyterian Church, in the voluntary and irresponsible associations of the day—composed of persons of all religious professions and of no profession—be condemned, as unwarranted by the word of God, the subordinate Standards of the church, and the practice of our covenant fathers.
"2. That an inquiry be instituted, in order to ascertain the grounds of God’s controversy with us, in the sins of omission and commission, wherewith we are chargeable in our ecclesiastical relations.
"3. That the sins thus ascertained, be confessed, mourned over and forsaken, and our engagement to the contrary duties renewed; that the Lord may return, be entreated of his people and leave a blessing behind him."
This paper was instantly "laid on the table;" and when, at a subsequent session of the court, it was regularly called up for action, it was again and finally "laid on the table!" Ever since that transaction, this paper has been diligently misrepresented, as consisting only of one resolution, and that the first, contrary to its own evidence.
After the final adjournment of Synod, those individuals who, as a minority, had opposed the innovations and backslidings of their brethren, embraced an opportunity for consultation. It appeared that without preconcert, they were unanimous that all legal means having failed to reclaim their backsliding brethren, who constituted a large majority of Synod; both duty and necessity required them to assume a position independent of former organizations, that they might, untrammeled, carry out practically their testimony. Accordingly two ministers and three ruling elders proceeded to constitute a Presbytery on constitutional ground, declaring in the deed of constitution, adherence to all reformation attainments. This transaction took place in the city of Allegheny, June 24th, 1840. The declining majority continued their course of backsliding, following those who had relinquished their fellowship with slanderous imputations and pretended censure, as is usual in such cases. Since that time, there are no evidences given by them either of repentance or reformation.
The Synod of Scotland has for many years been in a course of declension, in many respects very similar to that of America. As early as the year 1815, some ministers of that body began to betray a disposition to accommodate their profession to the taste of the world. The judicial testimony emitted by their fathers was represented as too elaborate and learned to be read and understood by the common reader, and too severe in its strictures upon the principles and practice of other christian denominations. The abstract of terms of communion was viewed as too strict and uncharitable, especially the Auchensaugh Covenant became particularly obnoxious. By a persevering importunity for a series of years this degenerating party prevailed so far in the Synod as to have the Auchensaugh Deed expunged from the symbols of their profession. This was accomplished in 1822; and, taken in connection with other movements indicating a prevailing spirit of worldly conformity, this outrage upon the constitution of the Reformed Presbyterian Church, gave rise to a secession from the body, by the oldest minister in the connection, and a considerable number of others, elders and members. At the above date, the Rev. James Reid declined the fellowship of the Scottish Synod; and he maintained the integrity of the covenanted standards in a separate communion till his death: declaring at his latter end, that "he could not have laid his head upon a dying pillow in peace, if he had not acted as he did in that matter."
Deaf to the remonstrances of this aged and faithful minister, his former brethren pursued their perverse and downward course, until their new position became apparent by the adoption of a Testimony and Terms of Communion adapted to their taste. Their Testimony was adopted in 1837. This document ostensibly consists of two parts, historical and doctrinal; but really only of the latter as authoritative. This will appear from the preface to the history, as also that it is without the formal sanction of the Synod, which appears prefixed to the doctrinal part of the book. A considerable time before they ventured to obtrude this new Testimony on the church; they had prepared the way for its introduction, by supplanting the authoritative "Rules of Society," framed and adopted by their fathers. This was done by issuing what they called a "Guide to Social Worship," which the Scottish Synod sent forth under an ambiguous recommendation, and the spurious production was republished by order of Synod, in America, 1826, with the like equivocal expression of approbation.
What has been just related of the Ref. Pres. Church in Scotland, will apply substantially to that section of the same body in Ireland. On the doctrine of the magistrate’s power circa sacra, however, there was a controversy of several years’ continuance and managed with much asperity, in which Rev. Messrs. John Paul, D.D., and Thomas Houston were the most distinguished disputatants. Their contendings issued in breach of organic fellowship in 1840. Indeed the sisterhood which had subsisted for many years among the Synods east and west of the Atlantic ocean, was violated in 1833; when the rupture took place in the Synod of America, by the elopement of the declining party, who are since known by alliance with the civil institutions of the United States. Among these five Synods, the principle called elective affinity has been strikingly exemplified; while what the Scripture denominates schism, has been as visibly rampant as perhaps at any period under the christian dispensation.
This brief historical sketch may serve to show the outlines of the courses respectively pursued by the several parties in the British Isles and America, who have made professions of attachment to that work in the kingdom of Scotland especially, which has been called the Second Reformation. But the duty of fidelity to Zion’s King, and even the duty of charity to these backsliding brethren; together with the informing of the present and succeeding generations, require, that we notice more formally some of the more prominent measures of these ecclesiastical bodies and so manifest more fully our relation to them. It is not to be expected however, that we are about to condescend upon all the erroneous sentiments or steps of defection, supplied by the history of these communities. To direct the honest inquiries of the Lord’s people, and assist them in that process of reasoning by which facts are compared with acknowledged Standards, supreme and subordinate, that their moral character may be tested, is all that is proposed in the following sections.
SECTION I. The Secession from the Revolution Church of Scotland in that country assumed a position in relation to the civil institutions of Great Britain, which their posterity continue to occupy until the present time in the United States without material alteration.
1. They cooperate practically with all classes in the civil community, in maintaining national rebellion against the Lord and his Anointed. They give their suffrages toward the elevation of vile persons to the highest places of civil dignity in the American confederacy—knowing the candidates to be strangers or enemies to Immanuel. And although they have recently lifted a testimony against that system of robbery called slavery, which is so far right; yet this fact only goes to render their professed loyalty to an unscriptural frame of civil government, as manifestly inconsistent as it is impious.
2. The have all along in the United States renounced the civil part of the British Covenants, declaring that they "neither have nor ever had anything to do with them." Truth is not local, nor does the obligation of the second table of the moral law, on which that part of our covenants is plainly founded, depend on the permanency of our residence in a particular portion of the world. "The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof." It follows, that however solemnly or frequently they profess to renew their fathers’ covenants; the whole transaction displays their unfaithfulness to the Lord, who is a party in the covenants; and is calculated to mislead the unwary,
3. Their unsteadfastness is further evidenced, by conforming to other ecclesiastical communities in the loose practice of occasional or indiscriminate hearing; and even in some instances of ministerial intercommunion—the law of their church on that matter having become obsolete. Against these courses, in some of which that body has obstinately persevered for more than a hundred years, we deem it incumbent on us to continue an uncompromising testimony. Many comments the Moral Governor of the nations has furnished in his providence within the last century, making still more intelligible the righteous claims of his word: but Seceders seem to have their moral vision obscured by a vail of hereditary prejudice. We trust the Lord is on his way to destroy the face of the covering cast over all people, and the vail that is spread over all nations; Is. 25:7.
SEC. II. Our testimony against the unfaithfulness of the Associate Reformed Church, continues also without material change since the rise of that body. The following among others may here be noticed, as constituting just grounds of opposition in a way of testimony-bearing, by all who would be found faithful to the Lord, and their covenant engagements.
1. Their very origin was unwarranted by scripture. All the scriptural attainments to which they profess to adhere, were already incorporated in the standards of the organic bodies, from whose fellowship they seceded. They did therefore make a breach without a definite object, and multiply divisions in the visible body of Christ without necessity. Thus they did violence to the royal law of love; for while under a profession of charity they invited to their new fellowship their former brethren; the nature of the case evinces a disposition to unmitigated tyranny. This state of things we think has not been generally understood. We shall here endeavor to render it intelligible. The fact of organizing that church (the Associate Reformed) said to both Covenanters and Seceders—"It is your duty to dissolve your respective organizations, and join us." This is undeniable. The Covenanter or Seceder replies by asking—"What iniquity have you or your fathers found in us, that you forsook our communion?" &c. "Not any," replies the Associate Reformed Church; "only some trifling opinions peculiar to you severally which we deem unworthy of contending about. Only join our church, and we will never quarrel with you, relative to your singularities." "Ah," replies the other party, "the matters about which we differ, are trifling in your account; how then could they be of such magnitude as to warrant your breaking fellowship with us? What you call trifles, peculiarities,& c., we cannot but still judge important principles, sealed by the precious blood of martyrs: must we deny these or bury them in silence, to gain membership in your new church? Is this the nature and amount of your professed charity? This is not that heaven-born principle that ‘rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth.’ You break fellowship for what you esteem mere trifles—you propose to us a new term of communion, with which it is morally impossible that we should comply, without doing violence to our consciences. Is this charity or tyranny?"
2. Although covenanting was declared by this body at their origin, to be an "important duty," they never recognized the solemn deeds of their fathers as binding on them; nor have they ever attempted the acknowledged duty in a way supposed to be competent to themselves. Nay, the obligation of the British covenants has been denied both openly and frequently from the pulpit and the press; and even attempts have been made, not seldom, by profane ridicule, to bring them into contempt. The very duty of public, social covenanting, either in a national or ecclesiastical capacity, has been often opposed in the polemic writings of the ministers of this body, however often inculcated and exemplified in the word of God! The moral nature of the duty taken in connection with prophetic declarations, to be fulfilled only under the christian dispensation, demonstrates the permanency of this divine ordinance until the end of the world.
3. This church set out with unsound views of church fellowship, as has been already in part made appear. But when their position came to be more pointedly defined, they made the novel distinction between fixed and occasional communion. The practical tendency of this unscriptural experiment was necessarily to catholic communion, which theory was soon advocated by some of the most prominent of the ministry; and accordingly eventuated in the merging of a large number of her ministry and membership, in the communion of the General Assembly.
4. On the doctrine of the divine ordinance of civil government, this church has all along been unsound; as is fully evidenced in the practice of her members, which has been similar to that of Seceders. Our testimony against the latter is, in this particular, equally directed against the former.
5. This church has appeared as the advocate of a boundless toleration, confirming her views and policy in a most servile manner to the infidel model presented in the civil constitutions of republican America. It would seem, indeed, that this body aimed at conforming their ecclesiastical polity to that standard, from the fact that the very symbol of their profession as a corporate body, is designated the "Constitution of the Associate Reformed Church"—a designation which might be considered as militating against the supremacy of the Holy Scriptures. In this Constitution a sphere is assigned to conscience, which is incompatible with due subjection to the Supreme Lawgiver. As well might the will, or any other faculty of the soul of man, be invested with this impious supremacy, and immunity from control, by any authority instituted on earth by the only Lord of conscience. Jehovah will rule the consciences of his creatures, as well as their judgments and wills, by his holy law, in the civil commonwealth, in the church and in the family.
6. The unfaithfulness of this body appears further, in shunning to declare the divine right and unalterableness of Presbyterial Church Government. She testifies not against Prelacy or Independency. If this church is Presbyterial in practice, it is on no better looting than that of the Revolution Church of Scotland.
7. The purity of divine worship is not guarded by the terms of fellowship in this church. It is true, "No Hymns merely of human composure, are allowed in her churches." But what mean these guarded terms and phrases, "merely;" "churches?" The best interpretation of these cunningly contrived expressions is supplied by the practice of those ministers of the body, who scruple not to offer unto God "hymns merely of human composure" when occupying pulpits of other denominations, or sojourning for a night in families where these hymns are statedly used. It is known that this part of the order of public worship has been submitted in some instances, to the voice of the congregation by their pastor; thus manifesting in the same act, latitudinarianism in regard both to the government and worship of the house of God.
Lastly, to specify no further—Laxity of discipline is observable in this church. She was always admitted to her fellowship, and to a participation in her special privileges (the seals of the covenants), persons who openly deny the divine warrant for a fast in connection with the celebration of the Lord’s Supper; yea, who ridicule that part of the solemnity as superstitious! The same privileges are granted in this church to such as habitually neglect the worship of God in the family. Nor does this church inculcate or enjoin, as a part of christian practice, fellowship meetings for prayer and conference We must, as witnesses for the cause of Christ: solemnly protest against these sentiments and correspondent practices, as inconsistent with the scripture and the reformation attainments of our covenant fathers.
SEC. III. The Reformed Dissenting Church embraced more of the peculiar principles of the covenanted reformation than either of the two preceding. On the doctrines of magistracy and toleration, abstractly considered, they have manifested commendable fidelity. Nevertheless, in the practical application of these doctrines and in other respects, we are constrained to continue a testimony against them.
1. What has been remarked of the origin of the Associate Reformed body, is partly true also of the party which dissented from them: their organization was uncalled for, there being no scriptural attainment embraced by them, which was not already exhibited under a judicial banner. Those who erected the Reformed Dissenting Presbytery may have been harshly treated by ministers of the Reformed Presbytery, when attempting negotiations for union, as public fame has often rumored: yet supposing this to have been the case, multiplying separate fellowships was not a happy expedient for effecting union in the truth.
2. This body of christians have been all along unfaithful in applying their own avowed principles relative to magistracy. Their innovation in this respect would seem to have been a carnal expedient to reach a two-fold object: the one, to retaliate on the Reformed Church for supposed indignities offered; the other, to render themselves more popular in the eyes of other communities. They admit that a constitution of civil government may be so immoral, that it cannot be considered as God’s ordinance; that in such a case "no christian can, without sinning against God, accept any office supreme or subordinate, where an oath to support such a constitution is made essential to his office." These admissions are equally just and important; yet these concessions are wholly neutralized in practice by these people, for they claim it as their privilege to choose others to fill those offices, which they say, they themselves cannot fill "without sinning against God." We must continue our earnest testimony against this attempt to separate in law, between the representative and his constituents, involving as it does, if consistently carried out, the total overthrow of the covenants of works and grace, and ultimately of God’s moral government by his annointed Son! The effort made to sustain their practice in this matter, from the examples of the marquis of Argyle and lord Warriston, is very disingenuous; simply because the church of Scotland had not at the date referred to, reached the measure of her attainments on that head. Indeed, the whole drift of their argument goes to justify the position, that in some cases, it is expedient to do evil that good may come.
3. On the doctrine of faith this church has, we think, darkened counsel, by words without knowledge. Their distinctions and caveats relative to assurance, are calculated rather to bewilder than enlighten the mind of the general reader. "Receiving and resting on Christ as offered in the gospel;" amounts to "appropriation, certainty, assurance," &c. There is evidence of a tendency to "vain jangling" here, against which, even suppose there be no error couched in the terms, we ought to testify.
4. This church evinces a disposition to intercommunion, in the practice both of ministers and members, wholly inconsistent with steadfastness, and at war with her own declared views of toleration. Occupying pulpits in common with more corrupt communities, doing this in connection with the celebration of the Lord’s Supper, and attendance and co-operation with others in conventional proceedings among those who style themselves "Reformed Churches," are practices among these people, on which we feel constrained to animadvert with decided disapprobation. As also their violation of the form of Presbyterian church government by one minister with ruling elders presuming to set apart candidates to the office of the holy ministry.
SEC. IV. To speak thus publicly against those who may be the precious sons of Zion, is a painful duty. That charity, however, which rejoiceth in the truth, requires of Christ’s witnesses that they censure and rebuke, in a way competent to them, those of the household of faith whom they see and know to be in a course of error or of sin; Is. 58:l; Tit. 1:13.
Many of those with whom we were wont to take pleasure in displaying a banner jointly, and in a judicial capacity, are now, alas! arrayed against us. To the real friend of Jesus: and the truth as it is in Jesus, there cannot be a more lamentable spectacle than the professed witnesses of the Lamb disposed in rank under hostile colors as the company—not of two, but of many armies, ready to engage in mutual destruction! And indeed those who bite and devour one another, are in danger of being consumed one of another. The Lord is righteous in all that is come upon us; for we have sinned against him—both we and our fathers. We know not how to avert more wrath from the Lord, reclaim backsliders, confirm the wavering, direct sincere inquirers, apprise the unsuspecting of their danger, and exonerate our own consciences, otherwise than by giving open, candid and honest testimony for Christ and truth, against those, even once brethren by covenant bonds, who have dishonored him: and caused the way of truth to be evil spoken of.
Against those who separated from us in Philadelphia, 1833, erecting a rival judicatory, and dishonestly claiming the name Reformed Presbyterian Church, we bear our feeble testimony for the following among other reasons:
1. They did then openly enter on a course subversive of our whole covenanted system of doctrine and order, by withdrawing their dissent from the civil institutions of the United States, and incorporating with the National Society—knowing the same to be, by the terms of the national compact, opposed in many respects, both to godliness and honesty.
2. This party had, in a clandestine way, exerted their influence to seduce and draw away disciples after them for a series of years. This is evident from the petitions addressed to Synod on the jury law, issuing from those who are known to have been in correspondence with some of the leaders in that defection.
3. This party are chargeable with mutilating the Judicial Testimony emitted in Scotland, 1761; and also with changing the terms of communion, and obtruding a mutilated formula upon an unsuspecting people, contrary to due order.
History and argument are excluded from the terms of Church Fellowship, on the very face of "Reformation Principles Exhibited;" and the Auchensaugh Covenant expunged from the formula of terms of communion, without submitting them in overture to the people for inspection. We say these steps of defection and apostasy are chargeable to the account of those who made the breach in 1833: First, Because the senior and leading ministers in that separation were the men who framed the American Testimony and Terms of Communion; and so had many years before laid the platform and projected the course on which they violently entered at that date. Second, These separatists, in the edition of these symbols of their profession lately published, have consistently left out of the volume, the Historical Part, and also remodeled the formula of Terms of Communion.
4. This body continues to wax worse and worse, against all remonstrance from their former connections and others, as also in the face of providential rebukes;—losing, because forfeiting, the confidence of conscientious and honorable men, exemplified in the frequent meetings, and to them, disastrous results of the Convention of, so called, Reformed Churches.
SEC.V. With the foregoing party may be classed those different and conflicting fellowships in Scotland and Ireland. whose recent Terms of Communion and Judicial Testimony, substantially identify with those mentioned in the preceding section.
1. Public fame charges the Eastern Synod of Ireland, and the Synod of Scotland, with connivance at the members and officers under their inspection, in co-operating with the immoral and antichristian government of Great Britain. They are therefore guilty of giving their power and strength to that powerful and blood-thirsty horn of the beast. We are inclined to give more credit to public fame in this than we would in many other cases, because:
2. These Synods have opened a door in their new Testimony for such sinful confederacies. "What!" will the simple and uninitiated reader of the Testimony ask, "does not that Testimony declare, often and often, that the British constitution is antichristian?" We answer, the book declares so; but we caution the reader to be on his guard, lest he judge and take for granted, without a careful examination, that the book and the Testimony are the same thing. Let the honest inquirer consult the preface to the Historical part of the book, and then the preface to the Doctrinal part: the latter, he will find, on due examination, to constitute the Testimony. True, in page 8 of the preface to the volume, it is said, "the Testimony, as now published, consists of two parts, the one Historical and the other Doctrinal." This sounds orthodox; but, in the same page, when these two parts come to be defined, it is said, "when the church requires of those admitted into her fellowship, an acknowledgement of a work like the present, the approbation expressed has a reference to the principles embodied in it, and the proper application of them." &c. "So they wrap it up"—better than our fathers succeeded in a similar enterprise in America. The truth is. what they call the historical part is largely argumentative; and both these parts are carefully and covertly excluded from the terms of fellowship! We shall have occasion to recur to this subject, as there are many others likeminded with these innovators.
3. These people are also deeply involved in the popular, so called, benevolent associations of the world, Sunday Schools, Bible Societies, Temperance Reforms, Missionary Enterprise. &c. evidencing a wide departure from our covenanted uniformity, based upon our covenanted Testimony.
SEC. VI. Those who in 1838, on account of sensible tyranny, growing out of defection on the part of the majority, declined the authority of Synod, have shared all along in our sympathies; and it has been our desire that they and we could see eye to eye in the doctrines and order of the house of God.
Although this party promised fair for a time, and apparently contended for "all the attainments of a covenanted reformation," in process of time it became apparent that they possessed not intelligence sufficient to manage a consistent testimony for that cause. They seem to have been under the influence of temporary impulse, arising from the experience of maladministration rather than to have discovered any constitutional detection in the body from which they separated. This is apparent indeed, if we have access to any credible source of information relative to the principles they profess, and their christian practice. More particularly.
1. Although that paper which they designate "Safety League," has the sound of orthodoxy; yet, as originated, and since interpreted by them, there is a lamentable falling off from the attainments and footsteps of the flock. First, so far as we can ascertain, that instrument had a clandestine origin, being framed and subscribed by those who were yet in fellowship with the Synod! This might be earnest, but, we think, not honorable contending for the truth. Second: when this paper comes to be interpreted by its framers and signers, it seems to cover only the American Testimony and Terms, as remodeled by breach of presbyterial order. At other times, it will conveniently extend to the Scottish Testimony, 1761, and the Auchensaugh Deed, 1712! From which we infer that these people have no settled standards.
2. We testify against these people for unwarrantable separation from us. One of their elders co-operated in organizing the Reformed Presbytery, in 1840; this in official, and, as then distinctly understood, representative capacity. Yet, some time afterward, he and his brethren withdrew from said Presbytery, without assigning justifiable reasons.
3. Efforts are known to have been made, by some then in their fellowship, to have social corresponding meetings established among them, but without success; in opposition to the well-defined example of our witnessing fathers, whose example they affect to imitate.
Lastly, these quondam brethren are not, to this day, distinguishable, in the symbols of their profession, from any party who have more evidently and practically abandoned the distinctive principles and order of a covenanted ancestry. There is no constitutional barrier in the way of their coalescence with any party, whom interest or caprice may select.
SEC. VII. Against that party usually, but improperly, styled the Old Lights, are we obliged to testify more pointedly than against any other party now claiming to be Reformed Presbyterians. First, because we believe there are among them still, real Covenanters; and, in proportion to the whole body, a greater number of such than in any other fellowship. These we would undeceive, if the Lord will; for we .earnestly desire renewed fellowship with all such on original ground. Second, because the leaders among these make the fairest show in the flesh, and, calculating on spiritual sloth and the force of confirmed habit, hope to lead honest people insensibly after them back into Egypt. Third; because they are more numerous, and, from habit, more exemplary than other parties; and therefore more likely to influence honest christians unwittingly to dishonor Christ, and gainsay his precious truth.
1. These former brethren acted, in 1833, very similar to the policy of the Revolution Church of Scotland in 1689. Instead of repairing the breaches made, and going on to fortify our New Testament Jerusalem, against the assaults of enemies in future, they rested in their present position providing only for a new edition of Reformation Principles Exhibited, with a continuance of the history to that date. It was urged, at the time, that the argumentative part of our Testimony should be hastened to completion, but without effect. As the apostate Assembly of Scotland, 1689, admitted unsound ministers, curates, &c., to seats in court; so, with the like politic design, members were admitted to seats in Synod, 1833, who claimed "a right to withdraw to another party, if they should see cause"—yea, one of these was called to the moderator’s chair!
2. At next meeting, 1834, when the continuation of the historical part of the Testimony was read, and referred to a committee for publication in the forthcoming edition of Reformation Principles Exhibited, it was directed that the terms of communion should be inserted, supplying the deficiency in the first term, in these words: "and the alone infallible rule of faith and manners." In the new edition these important words were omitted, as before! Several ministers seemed to be influenced in social relations, at that time, more by public opinion, than by the infallible rule. No further progress was made with the argumentative part of the Testimony, and a petition from Greenfield, to have Synod’s mind relative to occasional hearing, was returned. Against these steps of unfaithfulness we lift our protest.
3. Against the tyranny manifested at the next meeting, there were some to stand up at the time; but the spirit of the world prevailed in all the important transactions. We testify against those who refused to permit petitions, memorials, and other papers addressed to that court, to be read. Especially do we protest against that satanical spirit evidenced in. misrepresenting certain respectful and argumentative papers, as being "abusive," "insulting," &c.: also the unrighteous attempt, by some guilty members of that court, to stop the mouth of petitioners; and we condemn the reason assigned for so doing, viz., "They had no right to petition, because they were under suspension"! This reason is worthy of double condemnation, as coming from the mouth of him who, in this instance, acted the ecclesiastical tyrant, and who would come down from Zion’s walls to the plains of Ono, mingle in political strife, that he might open his mouth for the dumb; and because a brother in covenant bonds would demur, censure him, and then make the fact of censure a reason why he should not be heard when petitioning for relief from such tyranny! "Revolters are profound to make slaughter."
4. As papers were numerous on the table of Synod in 1838, so they furnished occasion for displays of character and conduct, humiliating to all lovers of Zion. who witnessed the transactions of that meeting of the supreme judicatory.
This was the first time, so far as we know, when that body was called upon formally to review and rectify, in a way competent to them, some parts, both of the constitutional law and administration of the Reformed Presbyterian Synod and Church in America. For a series of years, and chiefly through the influence of leaders in that faction which separated from the body in 1833, high-handed measures of tyranny had transpired: and some of the subjects of that tyranny were yet writhing under a sense of accumulated wrongs; others had, by death, been released from this species of persecution. Some thought it dutiful to call Synod’s attention to these matters, and a petition was laid before them, from Rev. Robert Lusk, requesting that certain cases of discipline, which the petitioner specified, be reviewed; and especially asking, that "the term testimony be restored to its former ecclesiastical use." As this was, in our deliberate opinion, the most important measure brought under the cognizance of the church representative in America, during the current of the nineteenth century, it was thought the court would take the matter under deliberate consideration. Whether through ignorance of the matter proposed, or that sectional interests engrossed the attention of parties, or that the prevailing majority desired to be untrammeled in their future course, the petition was smuggled through and shuffled by, under the cognomen of a "letter," which a member of Synod answered on behalf of the court, as though it were a matter of the smallest importance imaginable! We solemnly testify against this manner of disposing of a weighty matter at that time, whether through inattention or design. We protest also against the violent conduct of those ministers, and others on the same occasion, who made the place of solemn worship and judicial deliberation, a scene of confusion, by vociferations, gesticulations and physical force, in violation of God’s law, ordination vows, and the first principle of Presbyterian church government.
5. Here we can advert only to a tithe of the fruits of darkness, which had been increasing in quantity and bitterness, since the meeting of Synod in New York, 1838. To carry out measures of worldly policy, in 1840, diligent electioneering was carried on during the intermediate time, that the court might be what is technically called a packed Synod. That court was chiefly composed of such ministers and elders as were known to favor innovations; and some who were known to be disposed to resist defection, were excluded from seats in court. Against this dishonest, partial and unjust measure, we protest. And here we lift our testimony against this course: as having greatly retarded the Lord’s work for many years before, and as having facilitated the introduction of error, disorder and open tyranny: in manifold instances, during the same period.
6. We testify against the tyranny exercised upon James McKinney, of Coldenham, who was not allowed to read his vindication and justification: when he asked permission to do so: from the published sentiments of some of those who condemned him!!! Also the cruelty practiced toward Miss King, an absent member, whose representation of her case to the Synod, could not so much as be heard. We bear testimony against those who in that Synod would interrupt, call to order—in violation of order—those members who were appearing in defense of injured truth, and who were often silenced by tumult: or the call of order by an obsequious moderator. Especially do we testify against the dishonesty and unfaithfulness of that body, displayed by them in disposing of the paper inserted (see p. 132), calling Synod’s attention to what we firmly believe to be the source of all the error, guilt and distractions incident or attending to that body for many years.
On the practice of confederating with the enemies of God, we testify against this party, not only for the fact of so confederating, but also: and chiefly, for resisting the evidence of God’s word, often adduced in condemnation of the practice—refusing to hear the testimonies, experience, and reasoning of Christ’s witnesses and martyr’s when cited from the Cloud of Witnesses, Informatory Vindication, Gillespie on Confederacies, &c.; and for obstinately going on in this trespass, in the face of manifold convictions from living witnesses and providential rebukes.
As it respects ecclesiastical relations, we testify against these former brethren for having wittingly, perseveringly, and presumptuously fostered schism in the visible church, manifestly for carnal ends, during many years. It is notorious that five Synods are in organic fellowship, while hardly two of them will hold ministerial or sacramental communion! What a picture docs this state of things in the professing church of Christ present to the infidel; how hardening to the self-righteous and the openly profane! And although conventional regulations be lightly looked upon by many, not being based upon express words of scripture; yet when framed and engaged to, according to the general rules of scripture, much sin is the result of violating them, and trampling them under foot as has often been done by this body of people. This has been the case in Presbyteries, subordinate Synods, and especially in the general Synod. Subordinate Synods have been dissolved by the action of the general Synod after they had ceased to be; and without consulting the Presbyteries, who alone were competent to decree or dissolve the delegation form of the general Synod, that court dissolved itself, after having many years trampled upon the law of Presbyteries fixing the ratio of delegation. Against such reckless, disorderly procedure we testify as being the cause or occasion of much sin against Zion’s King, and much suffering to his precious people.
Finally—We solemnly enter our protestation against this church, as having taken the lead of most others in razing the very foundation stone of the covenanted structure. All the evils that have befallen the professed friends of a work of reformation on both sides of the Atlantic are traceable to a setting aside the footsteps of the flock from being terms of ecclesiastical communion. It is now more than ten years since this important matter was expressly submitted to the Old Light Synod’s consideration, and during the subsequent period, in various forms, the same has been pressed, but without effect; except as manifesting more fully their obduracy. They refuse still to return, Ephraim-like, going on frowardly in the way of their own heart.
That uninspired history ought to be incorporated among the terms of communion in the Church of Christ, is a proposition which we firmly believe, on the evidence both of reason and Scripture, although denied, condemned, and rejected by all pretenders to reformation attainments. That history and argument are so rejected by all parties affecting to be reformed churches, will appear from the following citations from their own authoritative judicial declarations: "Authentic history and sound argument are always to be highly valued; but they should not be incorporated with the confession of the Church’s faith." "The Declaratory part is, the Church’s standing Testimony."—Ref. Prin. Exhibited; preface—edition, 1835. Here history and argument are both excluded, not only from the Church’s testimony but also from her confession! This is the declared sentiment of Old and New Light Covenant[er]s, together with the Safety League people—evidencing to all who are free from party influence, that however they differ in practice, on this all important point they perfectly harmonize in principle. East of the Atlantic, among the three Synods professing to follow the footsteps of the flock, the declared sentiment is the same, but then they differ from their brethren in practice—mingling with the heathen and learning their works without scruple. In this respect they are more consistent than the other parties, though more visibly corrupt.
The Reformed Dissenters "prefix a Narrative to their testimony," thus rejecting history from testimony. Some advocates for union in conventions of reformed churches, have plead for a historical introduction to their proposed testimony; but they have carefully assured the public that this introduction shall constitute no term of union or communion. Thus, it is evident, that all the professed followers of the British Reformers around us, have cast off this reformation attainment from the standards of their professions severally. We condemn this church-rending and soul-ruining sentiment, and testify against all who maintain it, for the following reasons:
First, on their part it is inconsistent and self-contradictory. They all say they are following the footsteps and holding the attainments of the Scottish Reformers. But how do they discover these footsteps, or how ascertain these attainments? Are they recorded in the Bible? No: Are they to be found elsewhere but in uninspired history? Certainly no where else. Yet all these parties absurdly reject uninspired history from their bonds of fellowship! and still venture to tell the world, they are holding fast these attainments!! This is solemn trifling, profane mockery. Second. This position is unsound and false in the light of reason. All civilized nations, as well as the Jews, have it written in their laws, "That the testimony of two men is true." The witnesses do not need to be inspired to he credible. "We receive the witness of men," although a "false witness will utter lies." No society can exist without practical recognition of the credibility of human testimony; and this is especially true of the "Church of the living God, which is the pillar and ground of the truth;" for, Third, In the light of Scripture, her members cannot perform some of their most important duties, either to God or to one another if they irrationally and wickedly relinquish this principle. God’s people are charged "not to forget his mighty works;" Isa. 58:7. Are these works all written in the Bible? They are required to confess their fathers’ sins, as well as their own. Since the divine canon was closed, many sins have been, and now are chargeable against professing Christians. Are these recorded in the Scriptures? And thus the reader may ask himself of sin and duty to any extent, in relation to God as a party.
And the same is true of the second table of the moral law. For example: in reference to "the first commandment with promise," should the christian minor be asked as the Jew did his Lord, "Who is your father?" How shall he answer? Is he warranted to appeal to God to manifest his earthly sonship? No; but he is required by God’s law to "honor his father;" and his obedience to this command is grounded on human testimony as to the object to whom this honor is due. Thus consistency, reason and scripture combine, to accuse and fasten guilt—the guilt of apostasy upon all who have renounced that fundamental principle of our glorious covenanted reformation—that history and argument belong to the bond of ecclesiastical fellowship. With any who hold the theory here condemned, however exemplary or even conscientious in morals and religion they may appear, we can have no ecclesiastical fellowship; for, however ardent their attachment or strong their expressions of affection to Confession, Catechisms, Covenants, &c.; they give no guarantee of competent intelligence or probable stability; as alas! we see in the present declining course of many in our day.
We would earnestly and affectionably beseech all well wishers to a covenanted work of reformation: that they would take into their serious consideration whether these things are, or are not connected inseparably with the welfare of Zion. Especially would we expostulate with such as have any regard for the Judicial Testimony adopted at Ploughlandhead, Scotland, in 1761: that they conscientiously compare it with the book called Reformation Principles Exhibited, and also with the new Scottish Testimony , where it is practicable, and all these with the supreme standard, the holy scriptures. They will find on examination, that these are wholly irreconcilable in the very form of testimony-bearing. Particularly, let the reader notice that our fathers in 1761, considered history and argument as constituting their testimony: and did not look upon doctrinal declaration as formal testimony at all. Look at the very title page of their Testimony: where you read, "Act, Declaration and Testimony," plainly distinguishing between declaration and Testimony. Now, all innovators make doctrinal declaration their testimony, reversing our fathers’ order; yea, we would add God’s order, for he distinguishes between his law and testimony; Ps. 78:5-7; 105:42-45. God’s special providences toward his covenanted people constitute his testimony by way of eminence; Exod. 20:l, &c., and their conduct under his providences constitute their testimony, which must consist of history; and by this and the blood of the Lamb, Christ’s witnesses are destined to overcome all antichristian combinations.
In attempting thus to follow the approved example of our covenant fathers, whose practice it was to testify not only against the corruptions of ecclesiastical, but also of civil constitutions, where their lot was cast, we deem it incumbent on us to continue our testimony first published in 1806, against the immoralities incorporated with the government of these United States.
Believing that a nation as such, is a proper subject of God’s government, and that those nations favored with his law as revealed in the holy scriptures, are peculiarly required to regard the authority of the Lord and his Anointed, therein made fully known: it is with deep regret that we feel constrained to designate and testify against evils in the Constitution of this nation. Notwithstanding numerous excellencies embodied in this instrument, there are moral evils contained in it also, of such magnitude, that no christian can consistently give allegiance to the system. There is not contained in it any acknowledgment of the christian religion, or professed submission to the kingdom of Messiah. It gives support to the enemies of the Redeemer, and admits to its honors and emoluments Jews, Mohammedans, Deists and Atheists—it establishes that system of robbery by which men are held in slavery, despoiled of liberty, and property, and protection. It violates the principles of representation, by bestowing upon the domestic tyrant who holds hundreds of his fellow creatures in bondage, an influence in making laws for freemen proportioned to the number of his own slaves. This constitution is, in many instances, inconsistent, oppressive and impious.
Much guilt, and of long standing, is chargeable against this nation, for its cruel treatment of the colored race, in subjecting them ever since 1789 to hopeless bondage; its unjust transactions with the Indian race, and more recently waging an unjust war with a neighboring republic, as would appear, for the wicked purpose of extending the iniquitous system of slavery.
"Arise O God, judge the earth: for thou shalt inherit all nations."
The late Reformed Presbytery: June 2d, 1845, adopted the following doctrinal and practical declarations. They have therefore a judicial sanction: and having been in overture before the people prior to the action of Presbytery, we subjoin them as a suitable supplement.
Cincinnati, Nov. 12th, 1850.
1. Man is a free agent, unconscious of restraint in his volitions by the execution of the immutable decree of God; and it is not possible for him, in any instance, to avoid fulfilling that decree: yet the law of God—not his decree—is the rule of man’s conduct: and the standard of final judgment.
2. It is the duty of a christian to pray for the church of Christ—to inquire diligently into her scriptural character, and to seek covenant blessings in her communion.
3. If the majority should violate the terms upon which church members were united, it is lawful for the minority to testify against the defection, and to walk by the rule of their former attainments. And when any community assuming to be the Church of Christ, imposes sinful terms of communion—when the constitution is antiscriptural—when the administration is corrupt, and attempts at its reformation have proved ineffectual—it is the duty of christians to separate from it: "Come out of her, my people," &c.; Rev. 18:4.
4. No member of the Reformed Presbyterian Church can, without contracting guilt, in the present state of society, take the oath of allegiance to the government of these United States, hold office, exercise the elective franchise, act as a juror, or hold communion in other ecclesiastical bodies, by what is commonly styled occasional hearing; Rev. 11:1-3.