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A Short Vindication of our Covenanted Reformation.


A Short Vindication of our Covenanted Reformation.

James Dodson

THE Reformation Presbytery, at a meeting held on the 4th of October, 1871, at Northwood, Logan County, Ohio, having taken under serious consideration the duty of our time and place; and having sought direction from Zion’s Lawgiver, were unanimous in the conviction that the present was “a time to speak.” Accordingly the following preamble and resolution were adopted with perfect unanimity.

“WHEREAS, the knowledge and love of a Covenanted Work of Reformation in the British Isles and in these United States, seem to have departed in great measure from the mind and heart of the present generation, and,

WHEREAS, that work, which this court believes to have been and still to be “the cause of God,” has lately received at the hands of some of its professed friends, a deeper wound than any inflicted by its open enemies for a period of more than two hundred years.[1] Therefore,

RESOLVED, that the Moderator and Clerk be, and they hereby are, appointed a committee to prepare a short vindication of that cause, and have the same published at their earliest convenience.”

The edition of the committee’s work having been soon exhausted, and defection progressing with accelerated motion, especially from the impulse which it received by the action at Pittsburgh in 1871; as also, honest persons, “walking in darkness,” earnestly desiring to procure a copy of the work; the Presbytery, at a meeting in Butler Co., Pa., August 26th, 1878, appointed another committee to “republish A Short Vindication, &c., with such revisions and additions as they shall judge necessary.”

In attempting to perform the duty assigned us by the Presbytery, we submit some observations and make some concessions.

Our beneficent Creator, when he made man, in order to enhance the creature’s enjoyment, took Adam into a new relation by covenant; for the creature’s happiness, so far as his interest is contemplated, is the immediate object of all covenant transactions between God and man. This is equally true of the Covenant of Works and of the Covenant of Grace,

Since our fall in Adam, 1 Cor. 15:22, our supreme felicity and highest dignity result from relation to God by our being taken within the bond of the Covenant of Grace; and this is true of individual and social man. So thought the Psalmist; for he says of this covenant, “It is all my salvation and all my desire.” 2 Sam. 22:5. And the same is true of nations, “Happy is that people whose God is the Lord.” Ps. 144:15.

It is competent to collective bodies of people as well as individuals to “take hold of God’s covenant,” Is. 56:4. A family, church or nation, being a moral person, has a warrant from God to enter into his covenant. Deut. 29:12. And all individuals, families, churches or nations that refuse to do so, he expressly disowns. They are Lo-ammi, “not my people.” Hos. 1:9. They are “aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise.” Eph. 2:12. And since this is true of all who reject the offer of the gospel, “They are not my people;” how great is the guilt of those who violate the covenant! By the infidelity of a wife to her husband, our gracious God often teaches us how to estimate breach of covenant with him.

Moreover, God has endowed man with power to “bind his soul with a bond.” Num. 30:2; and more, to bind others. Deut. 5:2, 8; and he commands us to exercise this power; for the first precept of the moral law “requires us to know and acknowledge the Lord (Jehovah) to be the true God and our God.” Provision has been made in our social and moral nature for the use of this divine ordinance. All nations, barbarous or civilized, for confirmation, resort to oaths, vows, lots, and covenants. “Men verily swear,” not Jews and Christians only; and we read of “a man’s covenant.” Heb. 6:16, Gal. 3:15. Indeed the formation, as well as the continuance of human society, depends upon the right use of these securities. They are the cords and bands which the one Lawgiver has ordained to secure his own glory and the welfare of mankind.

All the foregoing principles, and others allied to them, pervade the Holy Scriptures as abstract truth: but that our hearts may be impressed and our lives influenced by them, they are largely exemplified in the history of God’s people throughout the Bible. We are thus compassed about with a great cloud of witnesses, many of whom have been martyrs all along, from righteous Abel till the present time. Heb. 11, Rev. 2:18. Abstract principles, inspired truth without application, avails nothing to change the character of fallen man. Sinners must “see the good works” of believers to be influenced for their spiritual advantage. “I will shew thee my faith by my works.” Matt. 5:16, Jas. 2:18.

All reformations, by which true religion and liberty have been recovered and secured among mankind, have resulted from “taking hold of God’s Covenant of Grace.” The history of continental and insular Europe demonstrates the truth of this statement. But in no nation since the time of the apostles have any people in the symbols of their faith and life, attained so near to the Supreme Standard, the Bible, as the church and kingdom of Scotland. Their Covenants, National and Solemn League, are standing monuments of the erudition that framed them, and of the piety, integrity and patriotism of those who swore and subscribed them. Nevertheless, from a view of the imperfection still attaching to the people of God in this life, we readily make the following concessions:—

No symbols of faith and order framed by uninspired men are faultless—much less infallible, either in substance or form: otherwise they would not be subordinate. Divine truth is the sole ground of saving faith, and is not to be confounded with Terms of Communion, as ignorance and presumption commonly do. Again, the testimony of Christ’s witnesses, in all its integral parts, is always and necessarily progressive until it shall have been finished. Even their statements of doctrine, their abstract and distinctive principles may, and often must be restated in diversified language, to meet the evershifting position and subtle sophisms of adversaries. Also, our Covenants, National and Solemn League, may and ought to be renewed—not that they have become old, as many say; but that they are to be owned as obligatory upon us, and a sense of their permanent obligation deepened upon our own souls, and exhibited to others by the solemnity of an oath. Ps. 119:106. It follows, of course, that neither we nor the Reformed Presbytery, while humbly aiming at fidelity to our Covenanted Cause, lay claim to that perfection peremptorily denied to all others. (See West. Con. of Faith, Ch. 31: Sec. 4.)

In consistency with the foregoing concessions, however, we recognize the paramount obligation of the injunction of Zion’s Lawgiver upon His disciples, and especially upon those who bear office, that the stewards in his house be found faithful in vindicating his rights when assailed. Rev. 2:10, 18. But there are so many parties—and still increasing, who lay claim not merely to a share in the covenanted inheritance, but to be, and to be accounted exclusive heirs and proprietors, that the task is rendered the more difficult to trace the line of entail with such precision as to be intelligible and directive to sincere but bewildered inquirers. Nevertheless, it is of the utmost importance to the honor of our Captain and our own safety that we be able to identify and interpret the inscriptions on the Banner of the Covenant. The developments of the past seven years, when the first edition of this pamphlet was issued, have tended still further to deface those inscriptions. About that time a note of warning was given—a timely note, and seemingly earnest; that danger was to be apprehended from the displaying of fake colors, and insidious calls to muster under them. We heard from various quarters the cry,—“‘maintain the truth,—stand up for the principles of the Second Reformation:’ and yet many of those who are the most loud in uttering this cry, appear desirous to bury in oblivion those imperishable national and ecclesiastical deeds, by which the church and kingdom of Scotland became ‘married to the Lord.’”[2] It was well-known to the same party in Scotland that the Pittsburgh bond was, in fact, “the substituting of a purely American Covenant for the British Covenants;” and at the same time an earnest hope was expressed that the New American Covenant “would not be made a term of Communion”—“no professed simplification or abbreviation on the terms, it was also hoped, would be attempted.” It appears, however, that the “rambling rhetoric” and worse logic of an American correspondent and other coadjutors, if they have not satisfied honest critics, have so far prevailed as to put to silence all “full and free testimony-bearing” against existing and increasing defection.

Next to our natural depravity, the primary, radical and continued cause of defection and apostasy is in the fundamental and erroneous assumption,—That abstract doctrine is the sole ground of church fellowship. Against this pernicious heresy a most explicit and potent testimony is exhibited in our Solemn League, the principal and declared object of which was to “bring the churches of the three kingdoms to the nearest uniformity.” How is this to be effected?—By the Solemn League simply? No, the framers of that grand document were not simpletons; but they thereby solemnly pledged themselves to carry out its provisions practically by “one Confession of Faith,” &c. They regarded the supreme rule—the Bible.

The baleful heresy to which we have now adverted, first appeared in the religious practice of Cain and Abel. They agreed in the abstract principle that they ought to worship God—and more, that Jehovah is the only object of lawful worship. The brothers, however far they agreed in theory—in abstract principle, differed altogether in practice; yes, even in their practical piety. “Cain’s works were evil”—even his religious services—these emphatically, Gen. 4:5, “and his brother’s righteous.” The brothers had different views of God’s law and covenant, and of the obligation of each; and their practice differed accordingly. The Pharisees agreed with our Lord and afterwards with Paul, that the Old Testament was the word of God; but they differed widely in the application.

Our brethren told us, and often asserted with emphasis in 1832,—“We do not differ in principle, we differ ONLY in the application of principle.”[3] Disruption necessarily followed.

Next to the Public Resolutions of 1650, by which the Act of Classes was annulled and the enemies of the Covenants readmitted to civil and military offices; the New American Covenant tends to overthrow all the monuments and bury all the attainments of the Reformation. These consequences were foreseen by remonstrants. Many of these openly declared that if the new bond should be made a condition of fellowship, they would leave the body. In dread of this threatened revolt, we heard some of the ministers, when the insertion of the bond in the Terms was pressed in Synod, assign as a reason of their opposition to the measure, that if it were done by Synod, “they would lose the best of their people”! By the policy of delay the leaders have succeeded within a period of seven years in “wearing out” the patience and faith of early remonstrants. The opposition at Sharon, Iowa, 1878, to the change in their fourth Term of Communion was feeble, as contrasted with the outcry against the Bond, the adoption of which made the change in their Terms necessary. Yes, the stifling of convictions blunts spiritual sensibilities.

The church guides have not furnished her children with the documents necessary to an intelligent and faithful adherence to the Covenants and Testimony of their fathers. Hence most of the professed members, elders, and ministers of the Reformed Presbyterian Church, so called, are shamefully ignorant of her distinctive principles and order. Consequently many, if not a majority of those who swore the American Covenant thought they were in very deed renewing the British Covenants. The framers of that perfidious bond employed such ambiguous language as to admit of two or more interpretations. The illiterate and confiding members were thus induced unwittingly to act in implicit faith—to “believe as the church believes.” We know this to be a matter of fact.

Now we would ask any honest person to ponder such questions as these:—Did the minister mean to renew the Covenants who would “not name the National Covenant of Scotland (in the New Bond) any more than a Covenant of Germany”?[4] Did he own the covenants who “would cut loose from them”?[5] Was he “as much attached to the covenants of his ancestors as any,” who said, “The covenants are not the link uniting us with the Church of the Reformation”?[6] Could he swear the Bond “in judgment” to whom “much of the old Covenants was incomprehensible”? or, did he wish them renewed, while wishing them “buried with the body of Moses”?[7] Was he intending to renew the Covenants, who, as chairman of a committee to consider objections to the American Covenant, when informed that “eleven Sessions had voted against its adoption—opposed any amendments”?[8] Did the ruling elder intend to renew the Covenants who dreaded “stumbling American applicants for membership by the fellowship of a foreign element, connected with the governments of the old world”?[9] These are samples, and only samples, of the sentiments expressed and the feelings of detestation and disgust in other ways visibly manifested towards those Covenants, which were said to be renewed in their Bond!

In view of such facts—such sentiments publicly uttered—such ignorance displayed by some, and obloquy poured upon our Covenants by others is it credible that a Synod which could tolerate and sanction all this, intended to renew them?[10] No, it is utterly incredible. The very opposite intention was clearly and forcibly expressed by wishing, “as much as possible to consign them to oblivion”! But hitherto this object has been impossible. And now that the Synods in Scotland and Ireland have for years practically endorsed the transactions at Pittsburgh, 1871, the sacrilegious attempt to bury our Covenants becomes more formidable, and by some may yet be considered possible. Yet we firmly believe that, though “Gebal and Ammon, &c., conspire to help the children of Lot,” their enterprise shall prove abortive, Ps. 83:7-8. The co-operation of Prelates, Arians, Universalists, &c., on a common public platform for effecting national and other reforms, is not the Lord’s way, nor likely to be crowned with success. “The Egyptians shall help in vain, and to no purpose: therefore have I cried concerning this, Their strength is to sit still.” Is. 30:7.

All who are capable of intelligently estimating the provisions of the New American Covenant, and of comparing it with the National and Solemn League, will readily discover, that so far from being in harmony, they are in some of their articles, and these the most important, not only inconsistent, but positively antagonistic. Whereas our Covenants are founded upon God’s law and covenant, the Pittsburgh Bond offers violence to both. Since the “Serpent beguiled Eve through his subtlety,” neither error nor sin is advocated under these names. Some truth must be mingled with error to give the latter currency. All systems of false religion and worship, Popery, Prelacy, &c, are exemplifications of this mode of deception. Both literal and spiritual harlotry have been, and still are, perpetrated under the guise of piety. Prov. 7:10, 14. The sound principles contained in the Pittsburgh Bond cannot sanctify its intentional omissions or gross error. Prelacy, “which is but another name for Popery,” is not so much as named among the organized systems of hostility to Christ and his witnesses. Nor is the great principle of national covenanting inculcated. These we notice as samples of “some cardinal principles” pressed for recognition by some members at the time, but rejected by an “overwhelming majority.” That majority did not desire a “civil sanction of the true religion.” Earth’s politics, in the light of the nineteenth century, demands that nations shall not discriminate, that all religions shall be “equal before the law,” Christ and Barabbas, Christ and Belial! 2 Cor. 6:15. This is part of the new divinity embodied in the “New American Covenant,” negatively.

But again, positively, This document takes the jurant bound to “maintain Christian friendship with pious men of every name, and to feel and act as one with them.” This is in direct opposition to the sixth article of the Solemn League, which they were ostensibly and, in the view of simple ones, actually renewing. It is more—it is in direct conflict with divine prohibition. (Exod. 34:12). We anticipate the objection that “Pious men” are different from idolaters. Very true, but where is the test of piety? The only test conceivable is to be found in the system professed by those pious men, which system these people are supposed to reject because of its errors. By this provision of the Bond, therefore, the leaders commit a three-fold iniquity: they violate the divine law, and Solemn League, as also deceive and mislead the honest and unwary.

Moreover, this impious and perfidious Bond militates against the perfection of the moral law. These New Covenanters bind themselves “to regulate all their civil relations” not by the law of God, but by their undefined “loyalty to the Lord.” Even the Reformed Presbyterian Witness noticed the ambiguity—the “want of sufficient point” in the Bond. “To one form of expression he strongly objected, viz.: recognizing ALL THAT IS MORAL in the Covenants.” And he forcibly adds, “Why, with such a qualifying expression, we might recognize any Covenant.” Yes, the Koran of Mahomet or the Book of Mormon, for both contain not a few sound principles. Perhaps, however, the most deceitful as well as equivocal language in the New Covenant is where, in the third article, they “pledge themselves to support whatever is for the good of the commonwealth, and to pursue this object in all things not forbidden by the law of God.”[11] It is questionable if the archives of Jesuitism itself contain a concatenation of words more ambiguous, more deceitful, sophistical and impious, or which are calculated (we do not say intended) to aim obliquely a fatal stab at the perfection and authority of the law of God, which law these same words are used seemingly to conserve. Like Elymas, the sorcerer, they are words “full of all subtlety and all mischief.”

Preparatory to covenanting with God, publicly and socially, the scriptural examples of Moses, Joshua, Nehemiah and others were followed by our reforming progenitors, in making a free confession of sins, and especially laying emphasis on the breaches of covenant. Now, in this important part of the “solemn work” we look in vain for specifications of covenant violation. A general confession of “their forgetfulness of the obligations laid upon them by the covenants of their fathers” is made, and the uncomfortable topic at once dismissed. They talk glibly of the “accepted manuals of the faith of the church—accepted in substance and outline” only; for it is notorious that among them these manuals have gone into desuetude. These formularies framed at Westminster were adopted by the General Assembly of Scotland, with this explanation: “That this shall be no prejudice to the order and practice of this kirk, in such particulars as are appointed by the books of discipline.” Such as a fast before the Lord’s Supper, the using of tokens, etc. But, indeed, these New Covenanters have ceased to regard the aforesaid manuals either in substance or outline. Were their church-guides “careful to keep the oath of God,” the oath of the Covenants, which some affected to renew? Had they observed the Rule on Occasional Hearing, the Proclamation of Banns,[12] the Burial of the Dead, the Manner of Public Praise? No; these and other practical traits of the witnessing church have been buried by an “overwhelming majority.” Did the New Covenanters repudiate their “Oath of Fidelity” framed at Sharon, Iowa, 1863, which they said was “not an oath of allegiance?” Did they make confession to the Lord God of Israel of their manifold sins and breaches of covenant by concurrence of ministers and members in the late civil war? On the contrary, many of them were eager to display their loyalty by volunteering to “enforce a Constitution and execute laws” against the immorality of which they had solemnly protested.[13]

Without farther specification of covenant violation and violence done to the divine law by these former brethren, we simply ask, “Is it creditable that a party guilty of so many flagrant transgressions of their own solemn vows were sincerely intending to renew them? If any additional evidence were needed of “deep dissimulation” on the part of the leaders in the “solemn work,” (?) at Pittsburg, May 27th, 1871, it becomes cumulative in procuring a Civil Charter, by the stipulations of which, as a Synod, (quoad civilia) they pledge themselves not to give “any instructions to their trustees repugnant to the Constitution and laws of the United States,” &c. In this impious, because voluntary, surrender of the intrinsic liberty of the church to Erastian control by the state, there is also a surrender on the one side, and an invasion on the other of the Mediator’s rights. A thoughtful and conscientious person would naturally ask,—What temptation impelled to such complicated iniquity? Well, the answer is disclosed in the historic fact, “But Jeshurun waxed fat, and kicked.” Deut. 32:15. By many years of temporizing policy and worldly conformity this party had increased in numbers and wealth. Anticipating the possibility, and even the probability, of opposition arising among themselves against defection, they cunningly placed the whole body, as a civil corporation, under both state and national authority, for the sole purpose of securing the property, especially that which had been donated by real Covenanters.[14] And now, as a consequence, the members of that degenerated body find themselves, as it were, bound hand and foot; so that if they are constrained by conscience to a separation it must be at a sacrifice of “all things devoted.” Therefore we sometimes hear that the only tie among them as a term of communion, especially in cities, is “the brick and mortar!”

We are well aware that in each of the three Synods of Scotland, Ireland and America there is, as heretofore, a reclaiming minority both of officers and members who do not actively “consent to the counsel and deed” of the majority; but as they all fraternize, and as we know that Zion’s Lawgiver dispenses rewards and penalties to moral persons according to the character of majorities, we cannot, in faithfulness to Christ and backsliders, exempt our Scottish and Irish brethren from complicity in the sin and guilt of their trans-Atlantic associates.

Our work as a committee of the Reformed Presbytery is very similar to that of our fathers, transmitted to us in the “Informatory Vindication.” It is a matter of historical fact—a fact calculated to stir us up to emulation—that if dates and names of persons and places were changed, our moral identity might be ascertained. We aim, as they did, at informing the ignorant, repelling false imputations, and defending our covenanted reformation. The three greatest enemies to truth and godliness, we are assured by divine testimony, are the devil, the world and the flesh; and Christ’s witnesses are assailed by them all. It has been truly said, “The world is a great enemy to religion.”

To indicate some instances of worldly conformity and mark some steps of defection from our “covenanted unity and uniformity,” it is necessary to take a retrospect of our history for many years: for we did not all at once reach our present condition of sinful ignorance and manifold apostasy. Towards the end of the last century some of our fathers fell into that snare framed by United Irishmen,[15] and within our own time sons of the Covenant have identified with the Evangelical Alliance,[16] and the Pan-Presbyterian Council.[17] The Christmas-tree has been placed in the house of worship by the cooperation of a professed Covenanted pastor;[18] another “attended one of the Sabbath evening services of a priest,” (and published the fact!) “and was impressed with the belief that Christ was truly worshipped in rites that were Roman in form, but Scriptural in substance:”[19] and yet another[20] placed a cross in the basement of the church, and in such conspicuous position as to arrest the attention of the children of the Sabbath school on entering the apartment. And when a member of the congregation on entering, moved with righteous indignation, asked the pastor why he had brought a cross into that place? the answer was such that the member rejoined—“Why, there is not a Romish priest in the city, who would not give the same, or a similar answer!” Now we solemnly ask, Is this the way to fulfil the obligations of the National Covenant? Are these the means by which those pledged to the Pittsburg Bond, “endeavor to extirpate Popery” according to the Solemn League? And since such superstitious and idolatrous actions and practices are tolerated if not justified by that ambiguous and perfidious Bond, how can any person believe that it harmonizes with our Covenants? or that those who took it intended to renew them? The very idea is preposterous. As well attempt to combine darkness and light.

Who would have thought, half a century ago, that the Reformed Presbyterian Church could have degenerated to her present condition? torn, as she is, by her temporizing leaders into disgraceful fragments. Ambitions to appear in the front rank of demagogues in church and state, who loudly advocate reform; when once confederated with these ephemeral actions, they have lost sight themselves, and led others to forget many of the Scriptural landmarks which the fathers had set. Had they continued united on the broad and firm basis of our Covenants; O, what an influence for good their combined power might have exerted in the British Isles and the United States! But this honor they have forfeited.

While in Scotland the ministry were permitting their Testimony (such as it then was,) to “fall into abeyance,” they were at the same time, solemnly pledging themselves by vote to “endeavor to bring the practice into agreement with the Testimony!”[21] The majority afterwards threw off the mask, which no longer concealed their hypocrisy, and went into the Free Church in 1876. In the United States the minority had also departed from the church’s covenanted constitution in 1833, after years of dissimulation as in Scotland. But whereas the majority in Scotland pretended to “bring the practice into agreement with the Testimony,” the minority of 1833 insisted on bringing the Testimony into harmony with their practice. They said to the majority, “We differ not in principle, but only in the application of principle. There is no relinquishment of any principle for which the martyrs bled and died.” But who may not perceive the fallacy, the deception involved? Is a principle of any use, however sound, unless it is applied? and as a condition of fellowship, the mode of application be mutually recognized? Our Covenanted Reformation contemplated equally the church and the state: or in the words of our ancestors—“a gospel ministry and a scriptural magistracy.” When Christ’s witnesses are seduced to coalesce with a corrupt church or state, in overt acts defined and specified, their testimony is destroyed; and their declared adherence to abstract truth, such as the Lordship of Christ only aggravates their guilt. To such, He Himself says, “Ye call me Master and Lord: and ye say well; for so I am . . . . . And why call ye me Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?” John 13:13. Luke 6:46. Oh, that covenant-breakers would consider how they shall answer, ere it be too late!

But fidelity to this Lord, and charity towards some who once were zealous vindicators of his rights, constrain us to remind them of their former position and published sentiments, not that there is comfortable hope of their return to that honorable position; but that a view of their inconstancy may tend to the stability of others.

In December, 1830, under the caption, “Sketch of a Covenanter,” Rev. (now Dr.) Thomas Houston described that personage thus: “Instead of every man having a right to worship God according to the dictates of his conscience, he” (the said Covenanter) “believes that no man has a right to make his conscience the rule in such a case. . . . there can be no such thing as a right to do wrong”—sound doctrine. In July, 1833, he sanctioned the following statement, “McMillan and his compeers. . . . nobly sealed their attachment to reformation principles by the renovation of the covenants at Auchinsaugh,” and in the next month’s issue of the Covenanter, in an “Exposure of Gross Misrepresentation,” he assures the public, “That every minister and member of the Reformed Church is required to adhere strictly to every article contained in our standards.” Alas! where are those ministers and members now? It was a matter of just complaint at that date, that in other bodies “grievous error and corrupt practices were covered with the mask of an orthodox profession,” and what was as bad, if not worse in Mr. Houston’s estimation—“The vague and general declarations of public bodies seemed designed by their framers to embrace persons of very different religious sentiments and practice in the same communion.” “On the very same ground,” said he, “any thing may be adopted by the Church—the creed of Papists or Unitarians, or the Koran of Mahomet.” This is correct reasoning and obviously applicable to the New American Covenant, which in the opinion even of those who framed and swore it, admits, nay, requires to be “supplemented.”

On a subsequent occasion (1837) when Dr. John Paul, amongst other departures from covenanted truth, urged in the Irish Synod the removal of the Auchensaugh Bond from the Terms of Communion,[22] Mr. Houston stood forth in opposition to the Doctor, using sound arguments against the proposed change. He viewed the Bond as one of the “landmarks erected by the fathers. The objections to it were old ones that had been often urged and often refuted. To erase it from the Terms would inflict an incalculable injury upon posterity. To be consistent they should at once give up with the binding obligation of the Covenants, and say, like those in America, who boast of superior light—not that we recognize the obligation of the Covenants, but that we highly appreciate the federal deeds of our fathers. With all his might he would oppose the amendment, (of Dr. Paul). He would ever resist any alteration in respect of the Auchensaugh Bond, regarding the objection laid against it, as in reality, aimed at the Covenants themselves!” Time has confirmed the truth of Mr. Houston’s reasoning, and demonstrated his own inconsistency. Witness the sequel of “Dervock Renovation”!

We now produce a few extracts from the speech of Rev. (now Dr.) James Dick delivered in Synod at the same time, 1837. He began by candidly stating that in Scotland, “the discussion (of this question) had been carried on for years. It was characterized by painful excitement and agitation.” This admission by Mr. Dick, we here remark, shows there was then some remaining vitality in the body. This was made manifest by the faithful conduct of “the most aged minister, a venerable man,” said the speaker, “who considered the Synod guilty of a breach of faith, and a departure from former covenanted attainments. The consequence was that he separated from the Synod, and still maintained a separate standing.”[23] Mr. Dick said, moreover, “If there be reason for treating the Auchensaugh Deed with indignity; then it is a reason why the Act and Testimony, the Confession of Faith and the Larger Catechism, should be treated with indignity too, and all reference to them omitted in our Terms of Communion.—If we are to loose a bound up law and testimony: then it is better at once to give away our Standards than to fasten on the Auchensaugh Deed, and through it assail their integrity.”

These are potent arguments—“sound speech that cannot be condemned,”—uttered by two ministers yet living [in 1879], who nobly stood in the breach in a time of “painful excitement and agitation” when they were both in the prime of life and well knew whereof they affirmed. Doubtless at that date any suggestion from any quarter that a time might arrive when they in their declining years would practically renounce these Scriptural and conclusive arguments, they would have resented the insinuation with the indignant thought of one who said, “But what, is thy servant a dog, that he should do this great thing?” 2 Kings 8:13. Mr. Houston would “ever resist any alteration.” Did he remember this public, solemn and emphatic assertion and promise, when he consented to the mutilation of the fourth Term by removing said Bond? And did Mr. Dick “assail the integrity of the Standards” when co-operating in that unfaithful act of mutilation? These questions involve their own answers to the conviction of any intelligent reader. Hazael considered that if he ever acted as Elisha predicted he would, he ought to be viewed, if not treated, as a dog. Far be it from us to view or treat those now gray-headed doctors of divinity with injustice or undue severity; but we may be allowed to remind the reader that Isaiah compares unfaithful prophets to dogs—“dumb dogs that cannot bark.” Paul, also, when counseling gospel ministers, forewarns of danger, not only from “grievous wolves,” but that “of their own selves would men arise, speaking perverse things.” Acts 20:29. Nor did Brown, McWard and even the “amiable Renwick” think it inconsistent with charity to apply such inspired characteristics to the Indulged and other ministers who “shunned to declare all the counsel of God.” They believed, as we do, that “Faithful are the wounds of a friend; but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.” Prov. 27:6.

To let the reader see with his own eyes that breaches of covenant and mutilation of the subordinate standards of our Covenanted Reformation are not peculiar to professed Covenanters in the British Isles, we solicit his attention to contemporary and similar courses of defection in these United States. Besides the disruption in Philadelphia, August 7th, 1833, which was the natural result of changing the Judicial Testimony and Terms of Communion in 1806-7; the majority, still cleaving to these same mutilated symbols of faith and practice, continued to degenerate, and, as time elapsed, with accelerating motion.

Mingling with the heathen corrupted God’s people in the antediluvian world (Gen. 6:2), and the inspired history assures us that the same woeful effects proceeded from the same cause ever afterwards. The intimate—the inseparable connection between cause and effect in this case is so evident that even a heathen writer (Menander) embodied it in an aphorism: “Evil communications corrupt good manners.” We are all so morally depraved since the fall of Adam that even heathens acknowledge the need of reformation; and this necessity is more clearly perceived in the light of Revelation. Yet, even with the Bible in our hands, we are inclined to methods of reform devised by ourselves, rather than to those devised by infinite wisdom and mercy. This sinful propensity has developed itself among the members of God’s covenant society in all ages. To counteract its operation, any serious reader of the Scriptures will discover, to have been the chief labor of the prophets and apostles; “Come out from among them” is a familiar cry.

Subsequent to our woeful division of 1833, to which “mingling with the heathen” naturally conduced, it soon became manifest that the majority were not free from this contamination. Many of the ministers had become identified in combination with a party known as the Colonization Society. Indeed, this Society had received the endorsement of the whole General Synod in 1828. Most of the ministers, however, had transferred their patronage to its rival, the Abolition Society, within the six years preceding; and when the Old Light Synod met in Pittsburg, 1834, only one minister, Rev. John Cannon, continued to advocate the older society. The unbrotherly feeling displayed at that time disclosed the strong hold which these rival associations had taken upon the affections of opposing parties. Both seemed to have lost sight of the great objects for which the Synod had met—to reexhibit the church’s Testimony in its integrity, and strengthen the ties of brotherhood which had been so violently disrupted the preceding year. Besides the two parties in factious opposition, there was a minority in Synod who could not sympathize with either party. These considered that both the Scriptures and our solemn vows prohibit our association for reform with the “known enemies of truth and godliness” to which class many Abolitionists belonged. This minority desired Synod to hear and answer the complaints of memorialists against the growing disorder of occasional hearing: for there were still some of acknowledged “inflexibility of character,” who conscientiously opposed that “inconsistent” and suicidal practice. One member [i.e., Thomas Sproull] distinguished himself by expressing the hope that the court would leave this matter to be regulated by the Sessions, “and to him they agreed.” A very respectful and argumentative paper on the question was “returned” to the commissioner by whom it had been presented and unsuccessfully advocated. Thus the Synod implicitly licensed infraction of long existing law. Indeed, the recent introduction of the Sabbath school in some places had prepared the way for the removal of the church’s previous regulation.

The popular excitement on the question of slavery continued to increase. Covenanters were, from principle, opposed to slavery. Only one minister’s position, so far as was known, could be questioned, and he soon left the body.[24] Some others, carried away on the surging waves of popular commotion, had caused much dissatisfaction by attending conventions over the country in the interest of emancipation, to the neglect of pastoral duties, especially to the sick and dying.[25] At next meeting of Synod (1836), in Allegheny, a large majority desired the patronage formerly pledged to Colonization transferred to the “Abolition Society.” This object was opposed by the minority, who judged the tacking of the church to the tail of any voluntary association “composed of persons of all religions and of no religion” as derogatory to Synod’s dignity,[26] as well as a violation of our solemn Covenants. Yielding to the pressure of the minority, which, at that date, was considerable, the majority consented to change the phrase “Abolition Society” to “Cause of Abolition.” As the meetings of the supreme judicatory were biennial the Synod next met October, 1838, in New York city. The seething pot of party politics continued to boil with greater violence, and the circulating waves of the maelstrom, instead of repelling or frightening Christ’s professing witnesses, were attracting some of the ministers through their sympathy with political parties. Grieved by the palpable aberrations of their official guides, many of the people gave expression to both their sentiments and feelings in documents laid before Synod. We had never before seen the table of the highest court of the church so crowded with documents from ministers, elders and members. The captions of those papers covered almost the entire vocabulary of documents on discipline—protests, appeals, complaints, remonstrances, memorials, &c. We naturally speak strongly when we feel deeply. Some of those documents, while perfectly respectful to Synod, emphasized the sentiments of their authors. This fact roused the passions of leaders in defection to such degree that some of them resorted to physical violence against the persons of more than one of the complainants! Such treatment of the minority in the persons of some of their number led to the conclusion that reformation in the body had become hopeless; yet, as the minority had not hitherto used all the means supplied by Presbyterian law for reclaiming backsliding brethren, with desponding hearts they resolved to continue in that fellowship until next synodic meeting, that they might bring all matters at issue before the supreme judicatory in the most concise and comprehensive form. Accordingly, when Synod next met, in Allegheny, June 1840, a preamble and three resolutions were submitted to the court near the close of the proceedings. These proceedings were, indeed, conducted with less violence and personal abuse than in New York at the previous meeting; but with no less determination of the majority to “go on frowardly in the way of their heart.” This purpose was at once disclosed by a motion—disorderly offered, but instantly passed,—to lay the “firebrand on the table”! This action, of course, put an end to contending by the minority in that irreclaimable body. Seven years’ contendings they deemed sufficient.

Acting on this deliberate judgment, after some consultation by members of the minority, whose homes were hundreds of miles apart, two ministers and three elders agreed to constitute a presbytery on original and independent ground. This they did, June 24th, 1840, assuming the historic name—Reformed Presbytery.

As soon as the fact of this presbytery’s organization became publicly known, its members were denounced from pulpit and press as guilty of “schism”—not in the Scriptural, but in the stereotyped sense of Antichrist. Their characters were assailed (as usual in like cases,) as “troublers of the church,” “following devisive courses,” “leaving Synod in a disorderly manner;” “without paying their tavern bills,” etc., etc. And as if chargeable with these and other sins and crimes, the two ministers were pursued with censure—the sentence of suspension; an act which we thought then, and believe still, not one minister then living considered either just or valid! Such is our charitable and firm conviction.

When the Reformed Presbytery stood forth in self-defense through the press, and more especially in vindication of injured truth; persons in connection with the Synod were discharged from reading or circulating our publications under threat of church-censure: and too many honest people, and as sound in principle as ourselves, have been hindered all along from the use of the only evidence by which the charges above specified and others have been shown to be false and slanderous—every one of them.

The foregoing statements are made in order to a right understanding of some of those which follow. Paul says that in his time, and while he was in prison for his unyielding fidelity to Christ, “some preached Christ even of envy and strife, supposing to add affliction to his bonds;” but they failed of their object, for whether “of contention or of love, Christ was preached, and he therein rejoiced.” Phil. 1:15. In like manner the members of the Reformed Presbytery sincerely rejoiced, and continue to rejoice in all the truth preached and printed by former brethren, as they do in its publication by other parties. Perhaps as much with a view to countermine the influence of the Reformed Presbytery among sound Covenanters, as from intelligent attachment to our Covenants, a sermon on this theme was given to the public.[27] It will be noticed that the date of the published discourse is 1841, the very next year after our Presbytery’s organization. From this faithful document we make a few quotations which exhibit the sentiments taught by its author at the above date, and which may be profitably compared or contrasted with those of the same writer in 1871. At the former date he said “By the National Covenant our fathers laid Popery prostrate. By the Solemn League and Covenant they were successful in resisting prelatic encroachments and civil tyranny. By it they were enabled to achieve the Second Reformation. . . . . They were setting up landmarks by which the location and limits of the city of God will be known at the dawn of the millennial day. . . How can they be said to go forth by the footsteps of the flock, who have declined from the attainments, renounced the covenants and contradicted the testimony of ‘the cloud of witnesses’ . . . All the schisms (separations) that disfigure the body mystical of Christ . . . are the legitimate consequences of the abandonment of reformation attainments—the violation of covenant engagements.” This is sound doctrine and historical truth combined. Again our author puts the important question, “Is it not unfaithfulness to reject the obligations of the covenants of former times?” Yes, we think so, when their objects are not yet reached; and moreover, that “Confession of sin, and especially the sins of covenant breaking should always accompany the renewal of our obligations.” This is well said. Was it thought of at Pittsburgh, 1871? To good purpose he adds, “In the renewal of covenants there should be no abridgment of former obligations.”[28] And can this be denied?

Once more we quote,—“The opposition is not so much to covenanting, as it is to the covenants of our fathers, and to the permanence of their obligations.” Then the author says emphatically and somewhat prophetically, “The church never will renew her covenants aright until she embraces in her obligations all the attainments sworn in the covenants, National and Solemn League. This was done in the renovation at Auchensaugh, in Scotland.” Now we submit that no ingenuity can reconcile the sentiments just quoted with the position occupied by their author as leader in the solemnities of May 27th, 1871. Did they renew the Covenants “aright?” Were they renewed at all? or, as they were renewed at Auchensaugh? For the author’s own test of renewing them “aright” was that it be done as exemplified in 1712 at Auchensaugh. That faithful Bond, for more than a hundred and sixty years needed no supplementing; but the Pittsburgh Bond, by the admission of its friends, was defective, ambiguous—needing instant supplementing. And now after seven years of wrangling, Synod has awkwardly combined it with its fourth Term of Communion, which to some is, and to others is not, a condition of fellowship: that is, its place in the terms, as defined by a “resolution” of Synod, renders nugatory all their Subordinate Standards of fellowship.

The change effected in the Testimony and Terms, 1806-7, gave rise to “two manner of people,” among whom schism continued to operate until it issued in the disruption of 1833. After that event, both parties still cleaving to the same mutilated Testimony, of course the schism continued to operate. A like cause produced similar effects in the Synods of Scotland and Ireland.[29] Thus the lamentable fact has become evident that although some of these Synods keep up a sort of “fraternal relation,” and all tenaciously cleave to the honorable historic name Reformed Presbyterian, and even to the still more honorable one of Covenanter: yet it is a well-known fact that they have become so demoralized that among all these parties, their abstract of Terms is practically disregarded. Hence, emigrants from the British Isles, on their arrival in the United States as Old Light Covenanters, readily coalesce with New Lights, United Presbyterians, &c., evidencing their total ignorance of the distinctive principles and usages of the church of their fathers, or an utter neglect to implement their solemn vows.

In the time of the late civil war the conflicting elements among the so-called Old Lights, the continued operation of “schism in the body,” were often rendered manifest, evincing a general ignoring of all Terms of Communion among them. This is indeed a serious charge, but made with due deliberation. The evidence to substantiate it is so abundant and so manifold; and our space in this document so limited, that not even a tithe can be here adduced. We submit only a sample.

To encourage young men to volunteer as soldiers in the Union army, Rev. Samuel M. Willson quoted Jer. 48:10. “Cursed be he that doeth the work of the Lord deceitfully, and cursed be he that keepeth back his sword from blood.” Rev. J.R.W. Sloane, D.D., then pastor of a congregation in the city of New York, exhorted the youth of his charge to show their loyalty by “entering into military association” with the Northern army; and afterwards, to prove his own patriotism declared that more young men had gone into the army from his congregation, than from any other in that city in proportion to numbers. On the other hand, while the son was thus emphatically illustrating their Terms of Communion, as he interpreted them; his aged father, Rev. William Sloane, then in Illinois, was “reasoning with them out of the Scriptures, opening and alleging” that the course inculcated by his son was at once a violation of the law of God and of their solemn covenant engagements. A convention of members, elders and ministers from several contiguous congregations in southern Illinois, met for the express purpose of discussing the question of the time,—“Can a Covenanter consistently join in military association with either of the belligerents?” Some of the timid brethren ventured to suggest, that their present duty was to betake themselves to the chambers of safety, &c. This was met by violent opposition—with such an outburst of passionate invective and menacing attitude by an elder, that the reverend old gentleman, Mr. Sloane, quietly remarked,—“We may need the civil power to keep order!” One short sentence was expressed on that occasion by Mr. Sloane which some then present will not soon forget. It was uttered in the form of interrogation, and doubtless, a deeply impressive sense on his enlightened conscience of the obligation of law and covenant. It comprehended the whole matter in dispute. It swept away all wrangling, subterfuge and sophism. It settled the question in the mind of any Covenanter who is what he professes. Mr. Sloane’s concise and conclusive argument was,—“When the Ammonites and Moabites are at war between themselves, what has Israel to do with their quarrel?”

It may be further evident, that no “fixed terms of communion” exist among these parties, especially since the late civil war, from the treatment of their members who survived and returned from the army. Some ministers and sessions, as in New York city and at Newcastle in Western Pennsylvania, refused to admit them to the Lord’s table until they would give satisfaction for breach of vows; whilst other ministers and sessions said,—“Instead of censure, we owe these brethren a vote of thanks!” The Pittsburgh Bond, in the light of the above and a multitude of similar facts, cannot be misinterpreted by any honest and intelligent Covenanter. It was obviously framed in such terms of ambiguity as to endorse or ignore such facts as we have only sampled above, and to cover up complicated iniquity from human inspection. This New American Covenant has abolished all ancient landmarks among its adherents, opened the floodgates for error and disorder, and is cited on Synod’s floor as authority for both.

Sinful ignorance of what the Lord wrought for our ancestors by delivering them, and us in their loins, Heb. 7:9, 10, from Papal and Prelatic bondage, has been a prolific source of manifold defection from our covenanted reformation. The leaders of the people have not furnished them with authentic documents by which they might be instructed in the knowledge of the distinctive doctrines and usages of the R.P. Church. Only at the startling disclosures of 1833 were some awakened to the duty of supplying this defect; and an effort was made by the republication of the “Informatory Vindication” and the “Cloud of Witnesses.” But how few are in possession even of these! The truth is that the official guides know as little of such books as the private members, and are equally unprepared to obey the divine injunction,—“Go thy way forth by the footsteps of the flock;” and both ministers and people naturally prefer the “flocks of the companions.” Song 1:7, 8. Hence the familiar compellations—“brother” such a one of the Methodist, Congregationalist, Universalist and other churches, with whom they have solemnly engaged to “maintain Christian friendship and to feel and act as one with them,” especially on popular platforms avowedly for reformation, the necessity for which is loudly acknowledged by all parties.

Since the Pittsburgh Bond became operative the whole body has presented the appearance of “a city that is broken down and without walls.” The hedge of disciple has in measure disappeared, except in cases of those who practically oppose defection.[30] Heads of families may sometimes be exhorted, but they are not as formerly required, to keep up the worship of God in their families as a condition of enjoying sealing ordinances. This is what some have correctly designated a “heathenized church.” Rev. 11:2. They have “simplified, abbreviated and Americanized” their Standards; but they are not yet short, simple, loose and general enough to suit the “advanced thought” and liberal views of such among them as Rev. James Kennedy, Rev. J.R. Thompson, or Elder John M’Donald; the last two of whom have publicly signified their desire to have the Terms of Communion reduced to three in number; and the last named, with equal publicity, has signified his hostility to any civil establishment of the Christian Church, exalted liberty of conscience as man’s rule in worship, and exemplified these principles by “waiting on the ministry” of Henry Ward Beecher! Oh, what has become of those noble and seemingly earnest sentiments uttered by him in former years before the Synod in Scotland? Those soul-thrilling facts and principles seem to have been since “consigned as much as possible to oblivion,” that together with Covenants, Original Testimony, Auchensaugh Bond, etc., henceforth they may be discovered “only in the cabinet of the antiquary.”

“The United States is a Christian nation and a Christian government,” says Rev. T.P. Stevenson; and this assertion has been often made in the Christian Statesman. Dr. Thomas Sproull has convincingly proved the contrary; yet by the New American Covenant these two divines are in the same fellowship! Outside these new American and National Reform Covenanters this question of the moral and Christian character of the United States government admits of no dispute. Any unbiased reader may see this lamentable fact in the Presbyterian of Philadelphia, March, 1879, in the following words, “It is not surprising that our national government is looked upon in Great Britain as thoroughly infidel, and in the rest of Europe as hypocritical. An American Christian is constantly reproached with the statement that ‘Yours is the only infidel government on Earth. Your constitution does not only not recognize the existence of a God, but your rulers echo it in their utter disregard of all Christian sentiment and proprieties.’. . . The editor says the behavior of our rulers burys hope in the breasts of those in whom the fires of patriotism are kept alive. But for the Christian sentiment of the nation it (Congress) would be only an uncaged menagerie.”—Such is the testimony of the Presbyterian, an exponent of that large and influential body. Surely the government needs reformation, and on a much higher plane than any contemplated by a self-styled “National Reform Association,” and by quite different instrumentalities. Its reformation is impracticable, because it needs to be recast through the crucible and in the mould of the Bible.

When we were appointed a committee by the Reformed Presbytery to issue a second edition of “A Short Vindication, etc.,” we were instructed both to revise the first, and also to make to it whatever additions we thought proper. While attempting to perform the work assigned, it was soon discovered that a book, as distinguished from a mere pamphlet, might be written. So many, so rapid and gross have been the steps of backsliding since the adoption of the Pittsburgh Bond and the publication of the first edition of the “Vindication,” that in this one we could do little more than barely notice a sample of them. We know, and have long known, that “perilous times have come,”—perilous to “the testimony of Jesus,” and to the faith and patience of his witnesses; and, excepting the “peril of the sword in the wilderness,” that our case is similar to that of our fathers, especially in Renwick’s time. Even in his time there were (as we believe there are now) “many poor mourners in the mist what to do [i.e., confused], and with whom to join.” Nor has the Reformed Presbytery been less subjected to the reviling, reproaches, misrepresentations and “contempt of the proud,” than were our predecessors for the same cause.[31] No sooner was the Reformed Presbytery organized, 1840, than it was confidently predicted, that “it would not long need a name!” Of course, “the wish was father to the thought.” By the favorable providence of the Faithful and True Witness, the Presbytery still survives. By “right hand extremes, and left hand defections,” within its own fellowship, it has been subjected to painful trials, just as in former times among our predecessors. Persons have acceded to our communion, and, notwithstanding the vigilance of office-bearers, afterwards discovered their ignorance or insincerity.

But in bringing our present work to a close, while aware of many objections to our position, we will do so by replying to only some of the most common, popular and plausible, as follows:—

1. “You think nobody right but yourselves.” Just so; that is, in the points wherein others differ from us; otherwise we will only proclaim our own hypocrisy. We believe, and therefore speak.

2. “You think nobody will be saved but such as adopt your peculiar principles.” This is an old objection. It was “cast in the teeth” of one of our martyred ministers, Mr. Donald Cargil, as he was “led as a lamb to the slaughter.” He meekly answered, “No.” “Well, and what more would you want than to be saved?” “I want a great deal more,” was his simple reply, “I want Christ glorified on earth.” He understood the first question of the Shorter Catechism, of which too many are ignorant to-day. “Man’s chief end is neither his salvation nor destruction.” Rev. 4:11.

3. “Your principles are impracticable.” If they are scriptural the objection is true in one sense, but false in another. Our Saviour told his real disciples—“Without me (separated from me) ye can do nothing.” Jno. 15:5. This was Paul’s experience (Rom. 7:18), and he tells us that this is part of all believers’ experience. Gal. 5:17. On the other hand, if our distinctive principles are scriptural, as we believe them to be, they are certainly practicable to a true believer; for of such no impossibilities are required. 2 Cor. 12:9; Phil. 4:13.

4. “You meddle with political matters;—preach the gospel and let civil government alone.” We often meet this objection under the form of friendly advice; and we believe none is of deeper significance or more pregnant with consequences. (a) It confounds politics and civil government. (b) It separates between the gospel and civil government. (c) It excludes the Bible and its Author from the commonwealth. (d) It conducts us to infidelity and issues in blank atheism. But this objection involving, as it does, so much both of principle and practice, demands more consideration and a particular and intelligible answer. It is not true that we meddle with politics; for a Covenanter can affiliate with no existing political party because no party will consent to be governed by the Bible. The gospel, as we understand it, covers the whole of the Scriptures. Gen. 18:18, Gal. 3:8, Heb. 4:2. It is “another gospel” which excludes any part of the Bible. That we may be more fully understood, we assert that the Holy Scriptures are the only infallible rule to direct mankind in individual and social life: that all the lawful relations of this life are instituted, defined and limited in the Bible. We find in the Sacred Oracles that God has organized society in three, and only three departments, both for its conservation and reformation. These are the family, the church, and the state, the two latter being auxiliaries of the first—the church and civil commonwealth to be helpful to the family. The plain lesson of history and experience is, that insubordination in the family generates contumacy in the church, and issues in insurrection and rebellion in the state. If there be no “church in the house,” there will be no godliness in the church, nor honesty without godliness in the state. To effect a real reformation then, these three divine ordinances are the proper instrumentalities to be employed—and no other. These have the promise of their Author to render them effectual. Prov. 22:6; 1 Tim. 4:16; Josh. 1:8. Of course, we cannot co-operate in the voluntary and irresponsible confederacies of our time, having but one condition of fellowship, and demanding a pledge of fidelity. To ask or give such pledge involves an insult offered to our Master, to whom alone our pledge has been previously given, that we will be governed by that law in His hand, which commands every duty and forbids every sin in all our relations. According to our interpretation of the gospel, therefore, we must have scriptural and definite views of the divine ordinance of civil government, while we do not “meddle with politics”—earth’s party politics, which disregard the Lord, His Anointed and His word.

5. “You will admit none to your communion but those who adopt your peculiar principles: and does it not follow that you account none to be Christians but yourselves? All others, by your close communion, you would shut out of heaven.” We have given this objection in greater fulness than the preceding ones, because of the frequency and plausibility of its utterance by the generality of professors. Well, we readily admit the truth of the first part of the objection: but in the practice of restricted fellowship we are not peculiar, and we think consistency, common sense and honesty, justify this part of Christian practice. Nor does this practise involve a denial of the Christianity or meetness for heaven of any others. This part of the objection denies, or at least confounds the necessary distinction between the visible and invisible state of the church—an error which is logically followed by many others. Consistently with our distinctive principles and practice, which alone exemplify true charity, as we sincerely believe, we doubt not many are now in heaven and also on earth, partakers of the “common salvation,” who never heard of Covenanters. And, moreover, Covenanters have always, in private intercourse, been ready to embrace in their heart’s affections, all who in their judgment love God in Christ. This they do on the principle that “every one that loveth Him that begat loveth Him also that is begotten of Him.” 1 Jno 5:1. But this private and occasional intercourse the Scriptures distinguish from public, ecclesiastical fellowship; and Covenanters endeavor to act according to that supreme rule. They cannot, therefore, at the same time, consistently testify against the errors and sins of parties, and appear under an official or judicial banner as one with them. “If any man see thee which hast knowledge sit at meat in the idol’s temple, shall not the conscience of him which is weak be emboldened to eat those things which are offered to idols?” 1 Cor. 8:10.—Not that we charge all others with idolatry: but there is a rule in Logic which the learned acknowledge to be correct, Majus et minus non variant speciem,—“greater or less does not vary the nature of a thing.” And we are enjoined to “mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which you have learned; and avoid them, Rom. 16:17: as also to “withdraw ourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly”—yes, though a brother. 2 Thes. 3:6; 1 Tim. 3:5. No, no, we are not uncharitable. While hating Pharisaic exclusiveness, we no less dislike the spurious charity that “suffers sin upon a brother” without rebuke. Lev. 19:17; Tit. 1:13.

This chaotic condition of the nominal Reformed Presbyterian Church at the present time in all lands in which her people are found is just cause of lamentation; and our real object in this as in other humble efforts, is to help and direct all who bewail the present desolations of our covenanted Zion. We pretend to no superior light, or wisdom, or sanctity; we aim only at removing the rubbish, that the ancient landmarks may reappear, and on the principle of charity, which comprises the whole moral law (Rom. 13:8-10), we have not shunned to mention the names of leaders in public measures of defection, following the example of our Lord, prophets, apostles and our witnessing ancestors. Few and feeble as we are if our Lord please to bless this publication to His hidden ones who sigh and cry for the abominations prevalent in society the greater revenue of glory shall accrue to Himself. “And in his excellent glory let all his saints rejoice.”[32]

Finally, that we may trace the streams to their fountain, of which the “flock of slaughter” are tempted to drink when “fouled by the feet of shepherds” unfaithful to the Chief Shepherd, we believe that the (fons et origo omnium nostrorum malorum)—the fountain and origin of all our sinful departures from the Covenanted Work of Reformation—will be found in the practice of what is well, too well, marked in our history, and commonly called “Occasional Hearing.” Can any person give a reason why he should not hear constantly where he can hear occasionally? Or can any one, at the same time, testify against a church for unfaithfulness, and wait upon its ministry, without evident inconsistency and neutralizing his testimony? Will he succeed in recovering backsliders by following them in their backsliding course? We distinguish here between such as are advancing and those who are retrograding, as our witnessing fathers always did, and towards which parties our deportment ought to be different. To those advancing we extend a helping hand, but from those declining we are commanded to “turn away.” (2 Tim. 3:1-5). If I may hear a minister in his pulpit in another fellowship, why may I not in my own pulpit? Then exchange of pulpits necessarily follows, invitation to a seat in church courts, and then open communion!—and all sanctioned and sanctified by the euphonious phrase, “Christian courtesy”! But how will Christ look upon such motley multitudes? Can they bury his blood-sealed truth and conceal their hypocrisy under “good words and fair speeches” from “His eyes, like unto a flame of fire?” Impossible. But we ought to “have the mind of Christ.” (l Cor. 2:16). To us the logical connection of the consecutive steps above merely noted is quite obvious. The inevitable tendency of occasional hearing and its ultimate issue is open communion,—the overthrow of all creeds, confessions and testimonies; all Subordinate Standards and final apostasy.

To all those in whose heart the Lord has preserved a supreme love to Himself and to His truth, sealed by the blood of heroic and patriotic martyrs, as that truth has been transmitted historically in doctrine, worship, government and discipline,—the practical results of our Covenants, National and Solemn League: to all such we address the words of good Hezekiah: “Now, be ye not stiff-necked, as your fathers were; but yield yourselves unto the Lord, and enter into his sanctuary, which he hath sanctified forever, that the fierceness of his wrath may turn away from you.”

“Arise, O God, judge the earth, for thou shalt inherit all nations.”

April, 1879.





[1] The reference is, of course, to the “New American Covenant,” adopted May 27th, 1871, and to the “Public Resolutions” of December 14th, 1650; which resolutions, says a learned and intelligent writer, “obliterated the co-ordinate and inverted the relative standing of church and state; effected a schism in the body of Christ, and opened the way for all the suffering, tyranny and blood which followed till 1688.” All the crueltie perpetrated by the “bloody house of Stuart” did not—could not wound the cause as did the perfidious Resolutions.

[2] Reformed Presbyterian Witness, Sept. 1871, p. 199. About the date of the above quoted sentiments of the editor, Rev. Robert Wallace, the “Minority Synod” in Scotland seemed to retain some “affection to the cause”—now how fallen!

[3] These brethren’s posterity congratulate themselves that they have never repudiated the Covenants as was done at Pittsburgh, 1871! Many years ago they “consigned them as much as possible to oblivion,” by expunging their very names from their Terms of Communion. In lieu of them is inserted an approbation of covenants in general. No party can well object to this. It suits all comers.

[4] Rev. A.M. Milligan.

[5] Rev. S. Carlisle.

[6] Rev. S.O. Wylie.

[7] Rev. J.S.T. Milligan.

[8] Rev. Dr. Sloan.

[9] Mr. David Wallace, Elder.

[10] We think no malignant in Scotland ever spoke against the covenants with more detestation.

[11] See the wickedness of this phraseology plainly and faithfully exposed in the Original Covenanter, p. 259, &c.

[12] Solemnizing “private marriages or without proclamation” was one of the sins of the prelates, for which they were excommunicated by the General Assembly, 1638. (See Covenanter (Belfast) 1834, p. 182.

[13] We put on record one example among many of aggravated guilt contracted in that “hour of temptation.” Rev. A.C. Todd volunteered as military captain, inducing and seducing young men of his pastoral charge to accompany him into the Union army. For reasons unknown to us he shortly resigned his command, leaving his comrades in camp! Re-entering his pulpit “in his regimentals” on the Lord’s day, an aged minister, the late Rev. Wm. Sloane, took his hat and the hand of a grandchild and withdrew. Unable to withstand the resentment of the mothers whose sons’ carcasses their pastor had left to fall in the wilderness, Mr. Todd soon after relinquished his charge of that congregation, withdrew from the neighborhood and located somewhere, at that date at the western limit of civilization. And all this with the connivance—or, rather, the sanction—of his brethren: for, so far as known to us, he has been all along recognized in “full and regular standing.”

[14] The Ferguson Bequest case, in Scotland, and that of Mary White, in Rochester. N.Y., are essentially similar; but in the latter case there was neither a “Lord President” to investigate, nor pecuniary resources to meet the necessary charges of court that justice might go forth.

[15] We gladly put on record here our grateful tribute to the fortitude and fidelity of the late Rev. Wm. Toland, who, in 1853, when the Irish Synod was preparing to renew the Covenants, alone refused to cooperate, unless in the “Confession of Sins,” that sin of confederacy should be inserted—especially in the presence of Dr. Wm. J. Stavely, their oldest ministerial brother.

[16] Rev. Andrew Symington, D.D.

[17] Rev. J.R.W. Sloane.

[18] Rev. J.H. Boggs.

[19] Rev. J.C.K. Milligan.

[20] Rev. J.W. Sproull.

[21] At this time (1859), Rev. John Cunningham, LL.D, left the Synod, fully convinced that the leaders were irreclaimably bent on apostasy. Time proved he was right.

[22] Dr. Paul’s position on the question of the magistrate’s power circa sacra, a question discussed at that time with much acrimony, could not be misunderstood by any unbiased person, when the votaries of Rome presented a purse of British sovereigns to the Doctor, as a token of their approbation!

[23] The Rev. James Reid, author of the Lives of the Westminster Divines, left the Synod in the year 1822, because of the change in the Terms of Communion by expunging the Auchensaugh Deed. Dr. [John] Cunningham, in 1849, was much influenced and directed by the beacon light of Mr. Reid’s example. Jas. 5:10.

[24] Rev. Samuel McKinney.

[25] Rev. J.B. Johnston, Rev. James Milligan and others.

[26] Isaiah 9:15.

[27] The Duty of Social Covenanting, By Thomas Sproull, Pastor, pp. 32. Pittsburgh, 1841.

[28] All these excellent sentiments seemed to have been totally forgotten or wholly disregarded when the time came for their practical use and appropriate application. Some said, “We have all we want;” and we strongly suspect too many wanted none of the former obligations—“in this free country.”

[29] The Scottish Synod changed the Terms in 1822, and the Testimony in 1837-9, bringing the latter into agreement with the former. Both were adopted by the Irish Synod which divided in 1840; and the same causes resulted in the disruptions of the Scottish Synod in 1859 and 1863. At this date (1879) the two parties in Ireland seem to be coming together on the lower platform.

[30] Years ago the Reformed Presbyterian Witness (Glasgow) said, “We have it on the most reliable authority, that in admitting members in at least several congregations of the (O[ld] L[ight]) Reformed Presbyterians in America, there is not the slightest reference made to the terms of communion.” A mere “profession of faith in Christ” is all that most sessions require of applicants.” Alas! how must the case be now?

[31] One of the most recent accusations is, that we are “enemies to church and state.” We hope the ground of this charge by our accusers is no worse that of the Galatians against Paul, who “became their enemy because he told them the truth.” Ch. 4:16.

[32] The late Rev. William Sommerville, of Nova Scotia, after a long and laborious ministry, shortly before his death gave expression to the opinion that before the overthrow of Antichrist, and the introduction of the millennium, the witnesses would be still further reduced in number; and the Rev. Thomas Henderson, in Scotland, expressed the same opinion.