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James Dodson

I heard the defaming of many.—JEREMIAH * * * * * Did the contempt of families terrify me that I kept silence?—JOB. * * * A time to keep silence, and a time to speak.—SOLOMON.

When an esteemed correspondent desires that “some things which appeared in the O. C. [Original Covenanter magazine] be answered,” and when others equally interested are liable to be misled, or bewildered, by those things, it seems “a time to speak.” The devout and attentive reader of God’s Word will have noticed that persons distinguished for their virtues have been often charged with the opposite vices. Job, “a perfect and an upright man,” was charged with oppression. Moses, the meekest of men, with usurpation. Among many such instances, the two following examples are here adduced, being apposite to the present purpose. Samuel and Paul in their respective times were subjected to the scourge of the tongue. Samuel was accused of bribery and injustice in the State; Paul, of avarice and mercenary conduct in the Church. Each repelled his accusers, “putting to silence the ignorance of foolish men.” Among other things in self-defense, Samuel said, “Behold, here I am; witness against me. Whose ox have I taken? Or, whom have I defrauded? Or, of whose hand have I received any bribe to blind mine eyes therewith?” Paul said, “Did I make a gain of you? Did Titus make a gain of you?” “Nay, I robbed other churches to do you service, taking wages of them”—not of you, O, ye ungrateful calumniators!

For the style adopted in part of this paper sufficient warrant may be found in Job’s discussion with his Three Friends; in Elijah’s address on Mount Carmel; or, in Paul’s defense against the slanders of false brethren at Corinth.

In view of brevity and clearness in what follows, I here designate the correlates, teacher and student, by the initials S.[teele] and C.[lyde].

For a time, C. “felt safe when he had Mr. S. (to stand or go) before him.” But “when he ceased to be an echo,” with surprising rapidity, he developed into a “little prelate.” For ages Diotrephes has had a succession of aspiring imitators. He “loved to have the pre-eminence,” and because the apostles stood in his way, though giving him no provocation, he “prated against them with malicious words.” “Therefore, it is no great thing,” if the followers of the apostles be in like manner traduced by the ambitious followers of Diotrephes.

Prelacy in its embryotic stage and inchoate form began to appear in C. at an early period in his public career. Immediately after the lifting of the hands of the Presbytery from his head, and before the members separated, he intimated that he was now the “equal” of his seniors. This remark might have come with propriety from any of his seniors, but coming from him, it was ominous of the future.

Having obtained control of the Original Covenanter, in the first issue (March, 1885), he at once falsified its title, and lowered its literature by vulgar terms and phrases, and by the introduction of inconsequential reasoning and vain jangling, styled “Casuistry.” This he did in contravention of the repeated and unanimous counsel of his Presbytery (see Minutes of 1868 and 1884); and this contumacious act gave occasion for issuing a second card by S. modifying an expression in a former one of confidence in the young editor, and requesting its insertion in the next issue of “his pamphlet.” C. personally requested S. to withdraw his card. S. said it was optional with C. either to publish it or suppress it. He then resorted to threats—that if it were published, “it would be the worst thing that ever befell or happened to S.” This was a farther development of the prelatic spirit. He published the card, and followed it with a commentary replete with misrepresentation, invective, and abuse of S. especially as his teacher. All his insinuations and specific charges against S. may be comprised in two generals—extortion and neglect. He complains that he “bought his own books.” This was hard on the part of S. But worse still, he “paid for every lesson he received,” confessedly, “some long lessons.” Candor and honesty would have prompted him to say, many, instead of “some long lessons.”

S. never sought students in the classics. They sought him. He never fixed a price of tuition. His students fixed that for themselves. For a time they gave “twenty-five cents a lesson.” At length, one said to his fellows in presence of S., “I think we don’t sufficiently remunerate Mr. S. for his labor. I propose that hereafter we give fifty cents.” All agreed; and, of course, S. acquiesced in this surprising advance of one hundred per cent. The student who proposed this advance knew well—and, doubtless, C. also knew—that in Philadelphia the usual charge for instructing a single student in classical literature is “a dollar an hour.” After this advance C. volunteered as a student, and was never limited to an hour in recitation. The charge of extortion, therefore, consists in this, that Mr. S. accepted from C.—did not charge him less than half price for his literary course.

But if C. suffered by extortion in preparatory studies, according to his veracious statements, he suffered still worse by neglect in his theological course. In this he was instructed in almost nothing but “Casuistry.” And, truly, if one may judge from his published effort in that department of ethics, with the aid of two assistants; it must be confessed that teacher, student and assistants were all pitiable failures. But S. never taught him—nor any other person—that sort of casuistry, the sophistries of which had been many times refuted and exposed by Covenanters, both in the British Isles and in the United States. And as the propagators of error are commonly zealous and persistent, it may become the duty of Covenanters again to refute and expose the same or similar anti-Scriptural teaching and illogical reasoning. C. complains, moreover, that he was not instructed in Hermeneutics or Homiletics. Why did C., in displaying his learned Graeco-Anglican nomenclature, stop at Homiletics? Ah! his modesty forbade him to proceed; and prelatic modesty is known to be a rare virtue. [1]

Or, perhaps, he hesitated to overwhelm and confound the unlearned by a farther display of his profound erudition. Or, most probably, he feared to betray his ignorance to the learned by the addition of Ethnologics, Psychologics, Anthropologics, Eskatologics, etc., lest they should expose and ridicule his vain pretensions to superior culture in literature.

Again, he affirms that he was not taught “sermon-building.” Where did C. get that composite, learned and rare word? Not from Webster. He must have obtained it from one, or other, of his assistants in casuistry. “Most undoubtedly” from one of the two, for any one might have learned it from him without a dictionary, years before C. was born.

C. complains, lastly, that no lectures were read to him by S. To what purpose read lectures to a student who was competent to write lectures—actually “wrote his own lectures!” How preposterous! He thus dignifies his fragmentary essays by the pompous title of “Lectures.” Fragmentary, because he was told from the beginning that Aristotle—the father of logic—had formulated a rule, ever since recognized by the learned, that every discourse should have three parts—“a Beginning, a Middle, and an End.” According to rule, did C. ever bring to S. for review, a completed essay? No, not one. The third part was always wanting—either wholly or partially—and when repeatedly, but mildly, censured for these delinquencies, his excuse was ready—Want of time—or, “he had spent hours in fruitless attempts to study.” Did he then—like George Gillespie, and others—apply for aid to the Father of Lights?—Doubtful—alas! very doubtful.

C. states, moreover, that “except what is peculiar to the Reformed Presbyterian Church,” he could have had his theology without charge from any seminary in the United States. He leaves the obvious inference to the reader—therefore, no thanks to S. He states a truth, but not the whole truth; and half a truth may be equivalent to a double falsehood. He could not find a professor in any of those seminaries who would devote his time and labor for years to a class, much less to a single student, without remuneration.

S., when a student in theology, made ample compensation to his professor—yet never received from him a tithe of the time and instruction gratuitously bestowed upon C. It has been truly said, “When conscience speaks, it must be heard;” and even C. could not finish his tirade against S. without some foreboding that his readers would suspect him of ingratitude. His foreboding has been verified.

S. has had the pleasure of instructing many students in classic literature. Most of them have become ministers in different denominations. Some have been distinguished by the title, D.D., A.M., or M.D. They have all been his personal friends, and from them he has received verbally, and by letter, expressions not only of friendship but of gratitude. Here is a short sample: “To you, sir, under God, I owe all that I am.” Among all those students C. is the first and only known complainant.

When only a little prelate—as if he might some day occupy the highest seat in the prelatic hierarchy, C. began to boast great things—to speak great words, even threatenings and slaughter. As a preliminary experiment, he privately circulated among our people encyclical letters, containing premonitory specimens of (brutum fulmen) “mimic, harmless thunder.” In one of those letters he threatened thus: “The thin edge being entered—(by his essay in casuistry)—a wedge will be driven which may shiver the Presbytery.” It had been a partly open secret that C. would “seek a quarrel with the Presbytery,” as a pretext for his elopement to some more popular body.[2] He did execute his threat; and as the maul in the hands of him who wields it, drove the wedge to the utmost of his small ability—not, indeed, to the shivering of the Presbytery, but to the severing from it, both of himself and his zealous accomplices. After this achievement may not C. begin to hope for a cardinal’s hat? And a cardinal occupying that round in the prelatic ladder nearest to the top—one round more—and may, not C., hereafter, become Pontifex Maximus? (Pope); when, like another, Jupiter Tonans (Thundering Jove), may he not hurl from the Vatican his thunder bolts for the shivering of Presbyterianism itself?—were that possible. Who can tell? Very unlikely things sometimes happen.

Before Presbytery last met, C. assured S. personally that “all our people were on his side,” having approved his casuistry, “except three men,—S., of course, being one of the three. This was said, doubtless, to alarm and terrify S. But alarmists are known to draw largely on their own imagination; and, afterward, to make exaggerated statements. Soon after Presbytery, one who is not of the three wrote, “The (the Separatists) have not among them so much as one regularly constituted session, let alone a Presbytery.” Another—not of the three—wrote, “I did not think the Clydes were such dunces” (in church order). Others have since written in a similar strain; not only from many points within this imaginary diocese of C., but also from “a land whose mountains are flowered with martyrs.”

While journeying among our people, C. made the mortifying discovery that his eloquence was not appreciated as he desired, not being recognized even as an “echo.” Instead of being humbled, this discovery only stimulated his ambition; for, on returning from his circuit he expressed a desire to S. “that Presbytery would send him to some first-class seminary, where he might learn elocution, gesticulation, etc., and so be qualified, as professor, for the training of our future ministry.” He must have had his eye on the Presbytery’s little fund, for he knew perfectly that his ambitious desire could not be gratified otherwise than by drawing upon it to its probable and speedy exhaustion. He had previously, June, 1884, received from the accrued interest a much larger dividend than any of his seniors—as seventy to thirty, or to twenty. But what are two thousand dollars to any young American entering a first-class seminary to acquire the equipments and accomplishments requisite to a future professorship?—only as “a drop in the bucket.” Paul and C. differ widely in estimating the advantage of histrionic arts to a minister. Paul thinks they tend to “make the cross of Christ of none effect.” C. thinks such arts would make it more effective. C. may be permitted to squander the whole—principal and interest. “The tabernacles of robbers prosper into whose hands God bringeth abundantly.” “For such a time as this,” how needful, seasonable and consolatory the divine counsel and warning,

For, evil-doers, fret thou not
Thyself unquietly;
Nor do thou envy bear to those
That work iniquity. * * * * *
Rest in the Lord, and patiently
Wait for Him: Do not fret
For him, who, prosp’ring in his way,
Success, in sin, doth get.

C. boasts, moreover, of some mysterious power, or gift by which “he can see through men.” In one of his encyclicals he assured an elder that he saw through S. better than that elder could, “because he had a much longer opportunity of studying Mr. S.,” than said elder enjoyed. And what did he discover? Why, that S. was merely a sort of “honest simpleton,” who never could see through men—until they “kythed [manifested] in their true colors.” Our whole General Assembly could not see through James Sharpe—their trusted Commissioner to London—until “he betrayed the cause of God for a Bishop’s mitre.” Nor in the time of “the illustrious James Renwick,” could the wasted remnant see through Linning and Boyd, when their deep poverty abounded unto the riches of their liberality in sending those men to Holland to be educated for the ministry, only to betray the same cause after their return home, by joining the Erastian Established Church of Scotland. Even the great and godly Alexander Shields—author of “Hind Let Loose”—was carried away with their dissimulation. History does repeat itself. (Facilis descensus, etc.—Virgil.) When one remarked to C., “Well, you have got Mr. [James] Peoples.” He replied, “Yes, and I don’t know what to do with him.”

Having had longer opportunity for studying Mr. P[eoples], he began to see through him better than at first, and subsequent interviews. When, going to meet with him, his “way was perverse before the angel of the Lord.”

And, now, when “the once-glorious work of a Covenanted Reformation” is almost unknown and forgotten, even by many who still glory in the name, Reformed Presbyterians—when God is dishonored, and His cause grievously wronged by the ignorance, obstinacy, sinful passion, and gross disorder, of professed stewards in His house—and, when public funds, sacredly devoted, are surreptitiously obtained and treacherously alienated from the objects intended by their generous and confiding donor—surely it is “a time to speak.”

Time makes wonderful revelations of character–-and it may, hereafter, discover those really chargeable with “cupidity, avarice, temerity and plotting.”

“It is not expedient for me, doubtless, to glory”—yet, since many glory after the flesh, I will glory also. They will bear with me a little in my folly; for they suffer fools gladly—seeing they themselves are wise.

Within the last fifty-four years, I have had the privilege of membership in the Reformed Presbyterian Church, supreme and subordinate, within the United States. I have never uttered a word, in court, intended to insult, or irritate a brother; therefore, I have never been “called to order” by any Moderator, or members, of those courts. From this long and varied experience I might be credited, in the judgment of charity, with some knowledge of ecclesiastical order and judicatory practice.

Within the same period, in defense of our Covenanted Reformation, in it Scriptural and historical integrity, I have sacrificed, at a moderate estimate, more than one hundred thousand dollars. This tempting offer has been several times, within easy reach, had I been ready to barter the crown rights of Him who is the “Prince of the Kings of the earth,” and to sell my birthright for filthy lucre—for such “savory meat”—”a mess of pottage.”

Moreover, by three successive contracts, solemnly sanctioned by Presbyterial authority, at low rates of salary (twice at four hundred dollars; once at six hundred dollars a year), there is now owing to me a debt of several thousand dollars—the payment of which I have never asked from any individual, society or congregation—much less resorted, for its recovery, to any court, ecclesiastical or civil.

And, finally, for the present, in the language of Robert McWard, one of Christ’s banished ministers from Scotland to Holland, and author of “Earnest Contendings,” I will say, “Let my name rot above ground,” if His name, “which is above every name,” may be, thereby, in any degree, exalted—or, the crown upon His glorious head made to flourish with increasing lustre.

His name, forever, shall endure;
Last like the sun, it shall;
Men shall be bless’d in Him, and bless’d,
All nations shall Him call. Amen.

Sic Subscribitur.


N.B. In the short “Outline,” published by last Presbytery, two omissions have been discovered, which are here supplied, as follows: Messrs. Fulton and Renfew were appointed a Commission till next meeting of Presbytery. * * * * * The Court then, finally, adjourned, with prayer, to meet at the call of the Moderator.

Now, forsaken by more than one Demas, are there not still among us some Elkanahs and Hannahs willing to lend their Samuels to the Lord for the work of the ministry?



[1] See Calderwood’s “Pastor and Prelate.”

[2]Perhaps one of his friends, a former renegade, could give more definite information on this point.