PROCEEDINGS OF THE REFORMED PRESBYTERY.
Massies Creek meeting house, Oct. 5th, 1842.
The Reformed Presbytery met according to adjournment and was constituted by prayer.—Members present, Rev. Robert Lusk, Moderator, Rev. David Steele; messrs. William McKinly and Thomas Steele ruling elders.
On motion, Rev. R. Lusk was continued Moderator and Matthew Mitchell Clerk. The minutes of the former meeting of Presbytery were read and approved. Papers being called for there were presented the following,—No. 1, a petition for supplies and remarks on the terms of communion from the people in Mercer county, Pa.—No. 2, a petition for supplies from Walnut [Creek, Ohio]. No. 3, a similar petition from Greenfield [Harrison County, Ohio].—On motion the above named papers were laid on the table for the present. The committee appointed at the last meeting to visit the people of Mercer, reported. The report was accepted and on motion was taken under consideration by paragraphs for adoption. The whole was adopted, and is as follows:
The committee appointed by the Reformed Presbytery at their meeting in April last, to comply with the prayer of the petitioners resident in Mercer county Pennsylvania, respectfully report their proceedings as follows,—
The instructions given to your committee were, that they “repair to these people, so soon as circumstances will admit; ascertain their standing, and dispense the ordinances which pertain to the house of God, as the condition, circumstances and necessities of the people may require.”—
The members of the committee met in the town of Mercer, on the 19th May last, and constituted a session,—the people having assembled agreeably to previous notice.
Mr. Joseph McElroy, ruling elder, had been subjected to discipline while in conne[ct]ion with the O.[ld] L.[ight] Synod (so called.) He had been charged with “countenancing members, following divisive courses.” The divisive courses, it appeared, consisted in his permitting Messrs. William Thompson and others, against whom there was no charge to enjoy privilege in the fellowship meetings. Mr. McElroy’s character was fully certified as moral and regular, by two competent witnesses in the communion of the Associate Church. He was then invited to a seat in session, which he accepted accordingly.
Individuals against whom there was no charge in their former conne[ct]ions; upon assigning satisfactory reasons influencing them to desire fellowship in subjection to the Reformed Presbytery, were then recognized and enrolled in our communion.
Such as had been subjected to discipline, or otherwise deemed irregular, while in fellowship with said Synod were allowed to lay their cases before session.
Mr. Joseph Humphrey presented a paper, duly authenticated to be a true copy of libel, preferred against him in another session, at the instance of Robert A. Dunn. Mr. McElroy requested to be exempted from judging in this case, as he had been a member of session where this matter had been previously investigated and issued. This request was granted. Two of the original witnesses in support of the matter charged were present. Their testimony was fully heard,—affirming moreover, that no testimony against the accused when previously under trial, was stronger or more direct than their own. These witnesses were of the Associate Church. Hence the session deemed it unnecessary to trouble by citation, any more of the original witnesses. Questions were put to the witnesses by the court and the accused; whereupon the session judged that the charges were not proved. Mr. Humphrey was of course recognized as regular and entitled to church privileges.
The case of Messrs. William and James Thompson was considered. It appeared in evidence that Mr. Wm. Thompson had asked from session, a certificate and dismissal for himself, his wife and son James, at a time when all three were in regular standing. This demand was made matter of charge against Messrs. Thompson, and they were forthwith suspended from privileges. While Mr. James Humphrey having made a similar demand, at the same time, had not been censured! The judgment of your committee was,—That inasmuch as there was no relevancy in the charge, nor consequent validity in the act of suspension of Messrs. Wm. and James Thompson, they are necessarily viewed as regular.
Mr. John Dodds, an applicant for admission, from the United Secession body in Ireland, was, on examination received into communion; together with his wife, who had been heretofore in the fellowship of the O.[ld] L.[ight] Synod.
Session agreed that a candidate for the office of ruling elder be now elected; and that the sacrament of the Lord’s supper be dispensed on the last Sabbath of May. Mr. Hugh Rainey was unanimously chosen, and on the 27th of May, (the day of humiliation preparatory to the sacramental solemnity) he was examined, approved and publicly set apart to the office of ruling elder.
On the 28th of the same month the session again met, augmented by the co-operation of Mr. Rainey.
Mr. John McKee, formerly in conne[ct]ion with the aforesaid Synod, presented his case for investigation and decision. It appeared that having entertained some scruples relative to the doctrine of ‘Reformation Principles,’ chap. ii. sec. 2, on the subject of ‘free agency;’ after personal interview with his minister, Rev. James Blackwood, he addressed to him a letter for advice and counsel,—giving his own views of said doctrine in his own way. This letter was made the basis of subsequent against Mr. McKee by session. The letter was read and a document purporting to be a libel was also presented. This latter instrument was taken up. It bore internal evidence to its own authenticity. The judgment of session on the whole case was,—that whereas the libel (so called) is wholly illegal and also informal on inspection; it cannot be entertained by this court. The paper was of course dismissed. After lengthy and mutual explanation, Mr. McKee’s doctrinal difficulty was removed, and he was accordingly received to privileges.
Respectfully reported by your
On motion a committee of three were appointed, to review and report on the terms of communion in overture. The Moderator appointed the Rev. D. Steele, William McKinly and Thomas Steele that committee. So much of the communication from Mercer, as relates to the terms, was referred to said committee. On motion the court adjourned to meet at the house of Matthew Mitchell tomorrow at 3 o’clock P.M. Closed with prayer.
Thursday, 3 o’clock, P.M.
Presbytery met according to adjournment, and was constituted by prayer.—Members all present. No. 4, a petition from Massie's Creek for a continuance of supplies was handed in, read and laid on the table for the present. The committee on the terms of communion reported.—The report was, on motion, accepted, and taken under consideration by paragraphs for adoption. It was adopted, and is as follows:
The committee appointed to review and report upon the Terms of Communion issued in overture at last meeting, offer the following:
Assuming the propriety and necessity of terms of ministerial and christian communion in the visible church; they ought to be few, comprehensive and intelligible:—containing a summary of the church's doctrines and order, and embracing all her attainments,—To “hold fast the form of sound words, and whereunto she has already attained, to walk by the same rule and mind the same thing,” are duties plainly enjoined upon her in the Holy Scriptures. The testimony of the church, as a visible community in covenant with God, is necessarily progressive. Divine truth is unalterable; yet it is the province and duty of the church to declare the bearing of the word of God, both upon herself and upon surrounding communities. The true church of Christ, in her militant state, though separate in organization from all other fellowships on earth; does nevertheless sustain relations to these, by which her interests have been and still are, liable to be extensively affected. This state of things furnishes opportunity for testing very frequently her fidelity to her Lord. She may dwell for a time with the daughter of Babylon; again she may experience the fostering care of nursing-fathers &c. according to the promise. The bearing of her testimony is thus liable to be variously directed in correspondence with the change of relations. When in divine providence the church has directed her testimony publicly and judicially in defence of scriptural doctrines and order, and in opposition to all encroachments upon these; she may not, without the sin of incipient apostacy, “decline from that pointed testimony to one which is more loose and general.”
In the days of our fathers’ contendings in the British Isles, advances were made from the first to the second reformation. After the revolution settlement effected in 1688; the witnesses, finding their relations to have undergone a material change, were obliged in duty to themselves, to others and to their Master, to give the principles of their profession a new bearing against the communities both civil and ecclesiastical with which they found themselves surrounded. This they did in variety of forms, previous to the renovation of their solemn covenants at Auchensaugh. The transaction took place about half a century before the Reformed Presbytery emitted a judicial testimony. The said Presbytery did approve of that renovation, and incorporate it with their testimony, as an attainment. The Societies, and afterwards the Reformed Presbytery, had terms of communion prior to the emission of the judicial testimony. Now it is manifest that the last edition of the formula of terms adopted by said Presbytery, must have been different in both verbiage and matter from the formula in use before that time. They did not drop former attainments, but they did add to the formula an explicit recognition of the judicial testimony. Thus we may see the principle carried out in the faithful and consistent practice of our fathers,—That all real attainments must be incorporated in the church’s profession.
The main question to be settled on this subject, in the opinion of your committee is this;—Is the Reformed P.[resbyterian] Church in possession of any attainments, subsequent to the adoption of the Scottish formula of terms, and worthy of being contemplated in such a formula? The deciding of this question will settle others of minor importance, such as, whether the “Scottish formula be adapted to the exigencies of the Reformed Church in our day and land?”
Your committee are aware that the formula of terms adopted in America 1807, is an exemplification of practice directly opposite to that of our British ancestors. The Scottish reformers ‘bound up the testimony,’—those of America cast loose the same, by dropping some of the church’s attainments. Yet in the formula adopted in America, we think there are some provisions, which, while they will in no sense compensate or be a substitute for, those dropped at the time; yet cannot be relinquished by us, without just liability to the charge of unfaithfulness. We do heartily adopt the language of your former committee,—that the “Scottish terms were faithful and adapted to the time” and circumstances of the Reformed Church when they were adopted; yet we are apprised of the important fact that both ministers and people adhering to those terms did for many years, countenance and live, some of them, in the practice of the great and gross sin of slavery. The American Testimony does give the principles of the Reformed Church, a pointed bearing against the immoralities of the U.[nited] States’ Constitution, in its neglecting or refusing to recognize the Ruler of the universe, his law, his Son the Mediator; its patronizing slavery, and as a necessary consequence, the explicit violation of the principle of fair representation essential to civil liberty. These are applications of principles explicitly, judicially and righteously made, in and by the American Testimony and terms of communion, from which we may not recede without the risk of a fearful penalty. And although it may be said that the Scottish Standards contain principles which strike against all these moral evils; (which is readily admitted) yet their bearing was never declared judicially and unequivocally, as has been done in this land.
On the same ground that the application of principles by the church in this land, may be relinquished; so may the Auchensaugh renovation, yea the Covenants themselves and all our other attainments.
Your committee are of opinion, that inasmuch as the intention of this court, in framing and issuing a formula in overture, is misunderstood by some well meaning and honest persons, as though the Presbytery were about to change or innovate on the terms of communion; it would be proper to postpone any farther action on this overture till next meeting.
As regards the number of the terms in the overture being seven, whereas they were formerly but six; we deem this a mere circumstance, not at all affecting the substance. No person could, on principle object to uniting the fifth and sixth as they stand in the Scottish formula. This can be easily done in the publication of a ratified copy.
In conclusion, your committee would recommend that all under your presbyterial inspection be cautioned against insidious attempts of the adversary to misrepresent the former proceedings of the court in this matter; and advised to examine the matter of the overture and forward their remarks thereon at next meeting.
D. STEELE, Ch’n.
The petitions for supplies were taken up; Nos. 1, 2, and 3, were granted as far as practicable. On motion the petition, No. 4, was granted. The court appointed the last Friday of November next, to be observed as a day of thanksgiving, by all the people under its care. On motion the court adjourned to meet at Greenfield, Harrison county, Ohio, on the second Monday of October 1843, at 11 o’clock, A.M. Closed with prayer.
R. LUSK, Mod’r.
M. MITCHELL, C’k.