Rev. Adam Brown of Crockedholm.
An introductory narrative of the rise and progress of sectarian
principles among the Old Dissenters:
containing various objections to the proceedings of the Reformed
Synod, in expunging Auchinsaugh Deed from their
Terms of Communion, &c. &c.
By an Old Dissenter.
Why gaddest thou about so much to change thy way? JEREMIAH ii.36.
No man also, having drunk old wine, straightway desireth new; for he saith, The old is better. LUKE v.39.
Printed by Andrew Jack,
For J. Dow, Bookseller, 5 Hanover Street; and sold by T. Nelson, West Bow, Edinburgh; M. Ogle, J. Duncan, and W. Bilsland, Glasgow; H. Crawford, and R. Nelson, Kilmarnock.
Three years have now elapsed since Mr. Brown's letter to the members of the Old Church of Scotland was laid before the public; and as there seems now to be no reasonable ground to conclude that any notice is designed to be taken of this epistle, by those members of synod who have advocated the retaining of Auchinsaugh deed in our terms of communion, I consider myself warranted (although a private individual) to offer to the public those remarks and observations which are hereunto subjoined; and this I do from a firm conviction, that both Mr. Brown in his letter, and the Reformed Synod by their late procedure, have greatly wronged the profession of old dissenters. I have therefore, from a principle of duty, though with much reluctance, and greatly against my inclination, been induced to publish these remarks and observations for their vindication; hoping they may not prove altogether unacceptable to those who have not had an opportunity of being present at the meetings of our supreme court, I have endeavoured to give as correct an account as the nature of the subject, or my limits, would admit; and I entreat those into whose hands this small publication may fall, to give the subject their serious and deliberate attention.
Edinburgh, April 28, 1823.
SOON after the first publication of the Evangelical Magazine, the London Missionary Society commenced. Such as composed said Society, being induced to the Missionary plan, by a letter that appeared in said Magazine,* wrote by an independent minister.
Several members connected with the congregation of Old Dissenters, in and about Glasgow, became regular readers, and ardent admirers of the Evangelical Magazine; and their attachment to the Missionary Society was coeval with the first notice which they had of its nature and object;† and have embraced sentiments relative to church communion which contradicted their former profession. They went and heard Mr. Balfour, minister of the Outer Church of Glasgow, preach a missionary sermon. This conduct gave offence to a number of the members of said congregation. They considered it contrary to the Testimony they had given their adherence unto; therefore they gave in a petition and complaint to the session against William Waddell, John Wingate junior, John Ewing, Robert Williamson, &c. for their inconsistent conduct in this matter. This complaint was received by the session, and they entered upon the consideration thereof; and gave their judgment, that such of their number as heard the missionary sermon had acted an inconsistent part, and contradicted the Testimony professedly espoused by them. But the judgment of the session not giving the complainers full satisfaction, they unanimously agreed to refer the whole matter simpliciter to the presbytery, to meet at Douglas in August 1796. This meeting of presbytery unanimously agreed that the conduct of the members of Glasgow congregation, who had heard a minister of the established church preach the missionary sermon, "was sinful and offensive; and enjoin the session to call the offenders in their congregation on that head before them, and to deal with them and bring them to a sense of the sinfulness and offensiveness thereof, and to censure them accordingly."* The foresaid persons being timeously warned, attended the meeting of session, but would neither acquiesce in the presbytery's decision, nor be censured by the session; but declined their authority, and appealed to the reformed presbytery, to meet at Calton of Glasgow in November next. The presbytery at this meeting adhered to their former sentence. But the men who were prosecuted would not submit to their determination, but gave in a formal declinature of the authority of the presbytery, as they evidently saw that they must either submit to them, and be censured for their conduct, or be excluded from the privileges of their church.
After this prosecution terminated, William Craig, Robert Young, and Thomas Twaddale, appeared before the presbytery with petitions that had a native tendency to blacken the reformation period, and introduce sectarian principles. But as they did not get satisfaction, they gave in declinatures, and went off to other parties.
The sectarian principles soon spread farther to the south and west.† In August 1798, six members of the congregation of Crockedholm, gave in a petition to the presbytery, which called in question the power of the civil magistrate about religious matters, as contained in the 24th article of the Scots Confession of Faith; in the 23d chapter of the Westminster Confession; and as it is stated in page 160th of the Testimony of the Reformed Presbytery;—deny a right to the civil magistrate in any case to call synods, as derogating from the glory of the church's glorious Head, and being inconsistent with the church's intrinsic power, and not agreeable to the presbytery's Testimony against the erastianism of the revolution church and state. They also called in question the right of the civil magistrate to exercise his power for the suppression of false religion and heresies, and to bring the wheel over the broachers, maintainers, and abettors thereof, as stated in the acknowledgment of sins connected with the Auchinsaugh covenanting. And they seem to be of opinion, that the period of the church, upon which the Testimony of the reformed presbytery is built, compulsatory measures were allowed, and that the magistrate had a lordship over the conscience. And they speak in an uncertain manner relative to the binding obligation of some parts of the covenants upon posterity, as they are only human compositions.
These and some other things are mentioned in this paper, tending to the disparagement of the work of reformation as carried on by our worthy ancestors. Yet, notwithstanding thereof, it was received by the presbytery; and the petitioners allowed to receive church privileges. This is evident by what took place in the presbytery at Hamilton, March 1799. To this court, said petitioners sent a memorial, which was read by the clerk. After the members had made some observations upon it, the commissioner asked the moderator if the presbytery would give the petitioners church privileges on the ensuing summer or not? After some conversation betwixt the members of court and him, he was informed, that the petitioners might have church privileges, on the footing of the terms of communion, if they chose to take them.
The receiving said petition, which contained sentiments in direct opposition to the public profession of the church, and allowing the petitioners church privileges, I consider to be an inlet to defection, and the opening of a way for the introduction of sectarian principles among dissenters. The presbytery, by granting indulgence to men of avowed sectarian principles, laid the foundation for that latitudinarian fabric that has ever since been rearing, and now seems fast coming to perfection among dissenters. What an inspired apostle saith to the Corinthians, I am of opinion is truly verified among dissenters, namely, that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump, 1 Cor. 5.6. So a little indulgence granted to men seemingly so destitute of principle, that they complied with a profession for a time, in direct opposition to their petition, has been the mean to strengthen their party, and in effect to overturn the profession of dissenters at last.
The coincidence of the sentiments of those who were prosecuted for hearing Mr. Balfour preach the missionary sermon, and the Crockedholm petitioners, are obvious to such as have read their papers. It is well known to some, that a very near intimacy and correspondence subsisted for a time betwixt some of the people in Glasgow (even after they left the communion of the reformed presbytery), and the Crockedholm petitioners. And the confidence that these people placed in some that they knew remained in communion with dissenters, was such, that it is said that some of them asserted, that they had left a numerous party behind them that would plead their cause.
The presbytery exerted themselves to give the petitioners satisfaction, by publishing the explanation and defence of the terms of communion. This, to outward appearance, gave tolerable satisfaction, until 1814, that a respectable member of the congregation of Crockedholm, who had resisted alterations formerly, took offence at a neighbouring minister explaining the 4th article of the terms, relative to Auchinsaugh covenanting. In a short time after this, it soon appeared that the fire that lay for some years past, as it were under ashes, burst forth into a flame, as the disaffected people in the congregation of Crockedholm formed a resolution to petition the synod for some alterations in the terms of communion; and papers were wrote and dispersed through the country to gather proselytes, and make known what alterations were wanted. But as the session of Crockedholm refused to transmit the first petition presented to them, another more smooth and deceitful (said to be wrote by Mr. Brown) was agreed to, and transmitted to the western reformed presbytery, to meet at Glasgow May 2, 1815. Said petitioners profess a warm attachment to reformation principles, but do not see the propriety of making the renovation of the covenants at Auchinsaugh a term of communion; because they shew rather an intolerant disposition towards their fellow christians, who differed from them in their religious sentiments, when they lament in page 102d that the christian magistrate does not use the sword against such, and bring the wheel over them. There are* many denominations of professing christians in these lands; in some the shades of difference may be but small; in all there may be grounds of separation, and cause to testify against their peculiar tenets; yet it is surely carrying their zeal too far, to punish them with civil pains. See their sentiments† page 87:
Your petitioners do not think the civil magistrate ought to be made a judge in religious matters, since he is not infallible‡, neither ought he to have power to use the sword against those christians for their religious sentiments, who dissent from the religion of the state. Have not past ages furnished us with sufficient proof of the dangerous tendency of this principle?* Have not many thousands already fallen a sacrifice to the mistaken zeal of such magistrates? Your petitioners however do not contend for undefined liberty of conscience; they believe that the christian magistrate ought to punish or restrain all gross and open violations of the first, as well as the second table of the moral law.†
They next lay before the court, what they think was inconsistent in their reforming forefathers (as they term them,) in engaging to pay no cess nor supply for upholding their corrupt courts and armies. "This was an engagement (say they) which your petitioners think that they at that time could not perform; however it is quite evident that it is altogether impossible to be performed now, as all the necessaries of life are taxed."
They next point out what they consider to be inconsistent in the terms of communion and the practice of dissenters in adhering to these terms; and express their earnest request, that the synod would render the Testimony more concise, and more suited to those whose time will not allow them to peruse so voluminous a work, and whose education does not enable them to understand such deep and elaborate reasoning. Might not a more abridged testimony, divested of all odium heaped upon our fellow christians of different denominations, although we see as much of this in the testimonies of other denominations; yet we would wish to see this court to take the lead in removing such obnoxious expressions from their deeds, and also freed from references to things of which we cannot have an opportunity of knowing, but to which we must give an implicit assent, be sufficient to show the doctrine we believe, and the errors we testify against. These are the prominent things contained in said petition. It is no doubt more smooth than the petition from the same quarter in 1798; but none need be surprised at this; as the majority of the members of session were as favourable to this petition as the petitioners themselves, therefore a petition was drawn up that they could all support. This was not the case in 1798. At that time also some of the ministers that supplied the vacancy, caused the trumpet to give a distinct sound against the sectarian sentiments contained in their petition. But the petition in 1815 has not been testified against in such a particular and faithful manner. This petition met with considerable opposition in the presbytery, as it had little support from any of the members but Mr. Brown and the elder from his congregation; yet they had the influence to get it read in a private way before the members of Synod. And in the year 1816, the Synod received said petition, and entered upon the consideration of two articles thereof, namely, the leaving out the clause in the 4th article of the terms, relative to Auchinsaugh deed, and new modelling the Testimony. And Mr. Brown was so successful at this time, that he obtained a majority of votes to new model the Testimony. But as they were not unanimous, the majority gave it up till another opportunity; but in the year 1817, the congregation of Darvel drew up a petition and got it transmitted through their session, and the western presbytery, to the synod, praying them to reprint the Testimony, and give over new modelling the Testimony, and to dismiss the petition from Crockedholm. This paper was never read in the synod. As soon as the minute relative to the Testimony was read, a motion was made to reprint the Testimony without any alterations; and the votes being put round the members of court, it was carried by a great majority, that the Testimony should be reprinted without further delay. And the minute relative to Auchinsaugh deed being also read, it was voted to be delayed till their next meeting. Matters being conducted in this manner, the commissioner from Darvel did not insist for reading their petition, as some things that they petitioned for were granted, and others delayed.
But in the beginning of the year 1818, it came to be known that the people of Crockedholm were intending to carry forward a memorial in support of their petition. The people belonging to the congregation of Darvel saw it to be their duty to get another petition prepared, and transmitted to the synod, in defence of their terms of communion; praying them to dismiss the petition from their brethren at Crockedholm, as their letting such a petition lie before them so long, had a native tendency to raise schism and division in the church. A petition came also to the synod from about nineteen members of the congregation of Crockedholm, praying them to abide by their principles and terms of communion, as they are presently stated; and to dismiss the petition from their brethren.
A petition was likewise presented to the synod by some members of the congregation of Glasgow, praying them to new model the Testimony. Said petitioners gave a long narrative of such things as they accounted wrong, in both the first and second periods of reformation; the most of them appeared to me to be mere captious quibbles, more like the work of Mr. Currie, who was minister of Kinglassie, than an old dissenter.
All these three petitions were received by the synod, and marked in their minutes. But the last seemed to have come just in time to answer the purpose of such members in the court as were wishing to new model the Testimony. This synod granted allowance to the different sessions to act, in reading the Auchinsaugh clause, as they saw it to be most for edification. And though there was much said at this time both for removing said clause from the terms, and for retaining it, and also for continuing the old Testimony, and making a new one; yet they came to no determination about them; but the ministers were informed to lay both these articles before their sessions, and bring their judgment to their next meeting. The synod met again in November 1818; and the matter relative to Auchinsaugh deed being again before them, according to the order of the minutes, and the report of the sessions being called for, it soon appeared that the different sessions, as well as the members of synod, were divided in their sentiments relative to both these articles. A motion being made for making application for the judgment of the synod in Ireland, upon the Auchinsaugh question, before they came to a final determination thereof, it was agreed to, and the clerk was ordered to write to the Irish synod about this matter, and in the mean time that an overture should be drawn up, to be a bond of union, till the matter was finally settled.* Accordingly, an overture, drawn up by a committee appointed for that purpose, was read before the synod. But as it did not answer the expectations of such as were intent for removing the Auchinsaugh deed from the terms, another was framed, and the roll being called, and the votes marked, the first overture carried by a majority of one.
A petition was also received by the court, from some members in the congregation of Stirling, praying them to make no alterations in the terms of communion; and expressing their fears that they were appearing to act in a similar way as the burgher synod did in the year 1795. Two memorials were likewise received from members of the congregation of Crockedholm, one for and another against retaining said clause in the terms; a memorial from some members of the congregation of Glasgow, in support of their petition for new modelling the Testimony, and a memorial from the congregation of Darvel for continuing the terms as formerly, were received by the court.
And though the report of the different sessions, relative to the propriety of a new Testimony, and expunging of Auchinsaugh deed from the terms of communion, were far from being favourable; yet the synod acted in such a forward manner, that they appointed a committee to prepare the draught of a new Testimony. The meeting of synod in May 1819 did nothing in this business, as the opinion of the church of Ireland was not come forward. Only such as had not given their minds on the controverted points, were allowed to be heard. Accordingly, two excellent letters were presented and read by the clerk, the one from the late Rev. John M'Millan of Stirling, and the other from the late Rev. W. Grieve; that appeared to cast all the arguments formerly advanced by the new light party into the shade. And the Rev. James Reid, not being in the court since the commencement of this contest, was allowed to speak his mind, which he did by giving his hearty approbation of the two letters formerly read, as expressing the sentiments of his heart, and in a short but able speech declared, that he had given the subject a close investigation, but could not see that the Auchinsaugh deed should be given up as a term of communion; and that the alterations contemplated would give him much trouble in his advanced state of life, if carried into effect.
The business relative to the Auchinsaugh deed was again under the consideration of the reformed synod in May 1820. The judgment of the synod of Ireland having arrived, which was, that the synod, together with all the presbyteries and sessions there, were unanimous for retaining said deed in the terms of communion. A petition was received by the court from the congregation of Edinburgh, praying them to leave out said clause in reading the terms. Another from thirty-four members of said congregation for retaining the clause. A petition was likewise received from the session of Kilmacolm, with some reasons for continuing the controverted clause in the terms; and two memorials were also received from members in the congregation of Crockedholm, one for and another against retaining said clause; and one from the congregation of Darvel, for retaining it in the terms, giving some reasons against new modelling the Testimony, and lamenting the breach of the overture by some ministers in reading the terms of communion.*
The judgment of the synod in Ireland had no effect upon the new light party. They seemed now more determined than ever to gain their point. Some papers wrote contrary to their views of the matters in dispute, some of them severely censured; particularly the petition from Kilmacolm, and the memorial from Darvel: and such language was used by a leader of the new light party, as was sufficient to convince every person divested of prejudice and partiality, either of the weakness of his cause, or his inability to vindicate and support it in a proper manner. The new light party had all along maintained, that none could adhere to the Auchinsaugh covenanting as a term of communion, unless they gave their approbation of every word and sentence in it; and they considered the adherence given by church members to the acknowledgment of sins, and engagements to duties, to be equivalent to swearing them. Hence they often spoke of swearing to the two controverted clauses. But a member of the southern presbytery read a few lines that he had transcribed from the register of the general meeting, dated April 1712, which clearly evidenced that the swearers themselves did not understand the connection betwixt the covenants and acknowledgment, &c. in the same way that the new light ministers seemed to do. This rather silenced them on this point. But they had another point to establish, namely, That in Auchinsaugh deed, dissenters had engaged neither to pay taxes directly nor indirectly. This matter was often spoken of by the new light party, and cast in the teeth of such as wanted to make no change in their profession: but they told them, no such words were in said deed; therefore this could not be their sentiments. But a member of the eastern presbytery made an attempt to put this matter out of doubt, by reading a note which he had transcribed from a declaration published by a society in Edinburgh against the accession of George I. in the year 1715; wherein the words directly and indirectly were used. It appeared now to be made evident, that this was the sentiments of dissenters at that period: and it must be acknowledged, that the senior members of synod made no reply. But neither said note, nor their silence, will convince any who are acquainted with the history of dissenters at that period, that this was matter of fact. There is reason to fear, that the quotation from said declaration was brought forward to blind and deceive the simple and unwary. I hesitate not to maintain, that it was quite fallacious to make said declaration to be the sentiments of the community of old dissenters. The declaration published in 1715 was never agreed to, nor approved of by them; and it is neither approved of nor adhered unto in the Testimony of the reformed presbytery. For what purpose then was it brought forward? It must surely be a bad cause that needs such fallacious shifts to support it.
Matters appeared now in such a crisis, as to be fast coming to a rupture; when the proposal of a healing measure was made and agreed to, namely, To put the marginal notes of Auchinsaugh covenant into the body of the deed, and draw up a new acknowledgment of sins and engagement to duties, and put them in place of the Auchinsaugh deed, into the terms of communion. And a committee was appointed for that purpose.
A committee of the whole synod met on the first Wednesday of November to examine the draught of a new Testimony; and in April following it was published. At the meeting of synod in 1821 a memorial was presented from the new light petitioners of Crockedholm, expressing their ardent wish to have the Auchinsaugh deed immediately expunged from the terms of communion. This paper contained some expressions indicative of the insincerity of the synod in this business, that gave offence to some members of court; but Mr. Brown apologised for them. However their petition was not granted at this time.
A petition came also from the congregation of Chirnside, praying the synod to use means for an union with the secession church. This petition they received, although it appears to be substantially the same in principle, as the resolutions from Chirnside, that appeared in the Christian Monitor for May 1821. And the synod were so active to gratify the petitioners, and answer the prayer of their petition, that they appointed a committee to draw up a report, to shew upon what terms they would unite with seceders.
At the meeting of synod in May 1822, the committee were called upon for the new bond they were ordered to prepare on covenanting; they stated that it was not yet completed. Therefore the synod appointed another meeting to take place in November, and enjoined the committee to have it ready by that time; and agreed that they should spend the first day of meeting in fasting, humiliation, and prayer, and then enter upon the consideration of the bond. The report of the different sessions being called for, upon the overture of a new Testimony, the general opinion of the members was, that further time should be granted. It was noticed that copies had not been transmitted to Ireland and America, for the consideration of the synods there, and that they should wait for their opinion upon it.
A memorial was offered to the court from the minority in the congregation of Edinburgh, at the time that papers of this kind used to be received; but it was opposed by Mr. Goold. He alleged that the memorialists were under a deed of suspension by the session, for the concern which they had in a letter and protest, relative to his conduct in explaining the terms of communion in June 1820. The commissioner stated, that he knew of no deed of suspension they were under. Mr. Goold, being under a necessity to leave the synod before the termination of their business, wished to speak his mind relative to the situation and conduct of the memorialists: this was granted. But the court refused to hear the commissioner speak in his own defence, to clear himself of the alleged charges. When he insisted, he was told that they were not to take up the matter at the time, but he would be heard when the rest of the papers were taken in.
There was a paper presented from the congregation of Laurieston, pointing out some things that they thought wrong in the overture of a new Testimony. The synod next proceeded to the report for union; which being read, the members gave their judgment upon it. Mr. M'Indoe in his speech, said that he heartily approved of the report, and that for the sake of union, we should drop these superfluous things in our terms, that lay as a bar in the threshold of the sanctuary, and obstructed the entrance of the children of God. When it came to the turn of the elder from Paisley to speak, he took notice of what had dropped from Mr. M'Indoe, about some things being superfluous in our terms: he said, he would like to know what these things were; for he knew of nothing in our terms which ought to be given up for the sake of union. Mr. M'Indoe rose to give an explanation, and instanced, that our adherence to the national and solemn league might be given up for the sake of union* This was very plain language, and caused an unusual sensation among a great part of the audience, holding up their hands in astonishment, and turning about on their heels, on hearing such an unexpected declaration. Mr. Henderson said, had the young man been as candid in his declaration before he came to be licensed, it is not very likely that they should have been troubled with him to-day. Mr. Brown seeing a diversity of sentiments among the members of the court, immediately rose to make an apology for the rashness of his brother, arising, as he conceived, from the keenness of the debate; and begged of the members to be guarded in their expressions. Mr. And[rew]. S[y]mington said, that we had contended for upwards of an hundred years for our peculiar principles, and were we now going to lay them down at our feet, for the sake of union with any party whatever? And Mr. Rogerson said, were any of our peculiar principles given up with, it would be a ground of separation with him.
The spirit of the report was approved of, and Mr. Ozburn moved, that a committee should be appointed to carry its principles into effect. Mr. Brown said, that he was a friend of union, and that he should like to see a committee appointed to meet with other bodies; and said, that the united synod had agreed upon a basis of union, and they could not expect that we should accede to it; neither could we expect that they should accede to our principles,—but let us meet together, and let them drop what they can of their peculiar principles, and let us do the same, and then we shall come to an union.
The synod received a paper from some members in the congregation of Glasgow, in defence of Auchinsaugh deed, and another of the same import from members of the congregation of Stirling, and complaining of the want of uniformity in the different congregations in administering the Lord's Supper, and reflecting on Mr. Anderson for leaving out the Auchinsaugh clause when he administrated that ordinance at Stirling. The memorial from Edinburgh, formerly noticed, was rejected principally because the memorialists styled themselves the minority in the congregation.
The synod entered upon the consideration of these papers. A motion was made by Mr. Anderson, that the Auchinsaugh deed should be for ever expunged from the terms of communion. Mr. Milwain seconded the motion. Several of the members stated their surprise, that the business should be taken up at this time, when a committee had been appointed to prepare a new bond, previous to next meeting of synod. Mr. Rowet said, that he was surprised that this business should have been taken up at present, and that he had heard language since he came to the synod that he never expected to have heard. A new article was proposed in place of the fourth; some draughts of one was proposed to the court, but none of them were adopted. The court appointed a committee to retire and make out one, which was approved, namely, "The acknowledgment of the perpetual obligation of our covenants,—national and solemn league: and, in consistency with this, the duty of a minority adhering to these vows when the nation has cast them off; and under the impression of solemn covenant obligations, following their worthy ancestors in endeavouring faithfully to maintain and diffuse the principles of the Reformation."
Addressed to the Members of the Old
Church of Scotland.
DURING the contest in the reformed synod, respecting the continuation of the Auchinsaugh deed, as a term of communion, some that were unfriendly to it, said, that although there were no other reasons for laying it aside, the scarcity thereof rendered the retaining of it unnecessary, as the greater part of the people had no access to read it. To remedy and supply this as far as possible, a new edition of said work was undertaken by some wellwishers. There was a preface affixed to it in vindication thereof, with several weighty reasons for its being retained as a term of communion among old dissenters. This was published in February 1820. To counteract the influence thereof upon the people, was supposed to be one of the principal reasons for Mr. Brown publishing his letter in April following.
In the entry, he professes to give information of the discussion in the supreme court, respecting the propriety or impropriety of retaining Auchinsaugh deed as a term of communion; But from the one end of said letter to the other, there is not a sentence on the subject. What his reasons were for making such a profession, and taking no heed to fulfil it, are best known to himself. A number of his readers would probably be very elated with the first view of his performance, while expecting to get a full detail of the business, that in the end would find themselves completely disappointed.
Although Mr. Brown had attempted to perform his promise, there is ground to fear, that his information might have been as incorrect, improper, and deficient, as that communicated by others; since he has been such a chief leader, keen actor, and party in beginning and carrying on the contest in the synod.
He gives us indeed a few lines about church members all speaking the same things, when there is no division among them, as was the case at the first planting of Christianity in the apostolic age. In this he appears to be tolerably correct; but in making application, he says, page 5th, "I have often thought, as our whole creed is, or should be, summed up in our Testimony or Confession, so we should understand our terms to be the word of God, and the Testimony which we hold." This is plain language indeed! It sweeps off at once, all the subordinate terms of communion held by the reformed and suffering church of Christ in Scotland. Well, if Mr. Brown's sentiments relative to this matter be adopted, dissenters will only have as terms of communion, the scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, and the new Testimony that he is contending for. Why did not Mr. Brown declare this at the beginning of the contest? If he had done so, he could not have been justly blamed for seeking such things. Has he dealt fairly and candidly in this matter? Seeking first to remove Auchinsaugh deed, and then, when he saw it suitable to his purpose, to publish such vague doctrine to the world, as will cut off the confession of faith, catechisms, covenants—national and solemn league, &c. from the terms of communion. "This argument (says he, page 18.) is one of the most appalling arguments, in some respects, that can be brought forth. Surely it represents some of our ministers and people, as totally divested of conscience." I am sorry that Mr. Brown has laid himself obnoxious to this imputation, by his own principles. Happy is he that condemneth not himself in that thing which he alloweth, Rom. 14.22.
He asserts further, that a Testimony should be suited to the capacities of the weakest members of the church. "If afterwards any prolixity, redundancy, or obscurity is found, explanations and additions is not the most proper: a complete revisal and change ought to be effected as soon as possible?" No doubt confessions and testimonies ought to be drawn up in a plain, concise, and scriptural manner, and likewise made to strike against the errors and immoral practices of the times; but to new model or generalize a confession or testimony into indefinite and ambiguous language, in order to screen and shelter the sectarian and latitudinarian, would be deformation in place of reformation. In scripture, the strong are enjoined to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please themselves. But where is the scripture warrant for reducing the church's confession and testimony to the capacity of the weakest member therein? If it shall be done so respecting matters of faith, is there not as good reason to maintain that it should also be so in matters of practice? And then the church's faith will not stand in the revelation that God hath given, but in the faith and practice of the weakest members thereof. How can Mr. Brown know the weakest members of the church, and what will suit their capacities? Unless he know this, he will still be in doubt, whether his testimony be a suitable one or not, till he compare it with their capacities, and find that it answers them exactly.
I remark further, that this plan of Mr. Brown's respecting testimonies, &c. if reduced to practice, would cause a daily trade of writing and printing testimonies. It appears calculated to open a door for introducing latitudinarian principles, and to fill the church with members of opposite and jarring sentiments, and that would, in a very short time, extinguish the remains of the old dissenters' principles out of the land.
Indeed he gives the Shorter Catechism great applause; but to do so, at the expence of excluding the Larger Catechism and Confession of Faith, seems calculated to introduce a vague and antiscriptural scheme of principles. Although the Shorter Catechism be as well compiled as any of our valuable standards, yet, to adhere to it in a sense excluding the Larger Catechism and Confession of Faith, was never the mind of its compilers. They certainly intended it for catechising such as are of a weaker capacity; but not to be the profession of the church abstractly considered, as it is only a part of the covenanted uniformity. There are many who approve of this excellent Catechism, that revile and condemn the peculiar parts of our reformation, and the binding obligation of the covenants upon posterity. For Mr. Brown to give said Catechism such applause, and, in the same letter, frankly to confess that he does not believe two articles in the 23d chapter of the Confession of Faith, is an evidence (in my opinion) that he is prepared to join interest with the contemners and underminers of the work of Reformation.
In page 6th, he mentions the candour pleaded for by some of his opponents; which he rejects: But seems to boast of his own. "Is this not candid? What, I ask, (says he) can candour do more?" By this he appears to think, that all his opponents' explanations are contradictions and absurdities; and therefore should not have a right to plead for candour. But if his opponents were to serve him in the same way that he does them, they would call his adhering to both the old and new principles, absurdities, and contradictions too. It is a known fact, that in all the alterations he has been ardently pushing forward, since the year 1815, he all along maintained that no change of principle was intended!!! But if no real change was intended, for what reason has he both preached and wrote against some articles in the 23d chapter of the Confession that he gave his adherence to at his ordination? Preached for a seceding minister, for the missionary and bible society? And he has preached several dark and ambiguous sermons, especially at sacramental occasions, that appeared to indicate that he had changed his sentiments. He has also recommended union with seceders. So there is great reason to fear, that he is endeavouring to diffuse sectarian and latitudinarian principles, under the cloak of a reformed profession. Is there no contradiction or absurdity in such conduct? Or will candour be summoned to believe, that no contradiction exists betwixt his adhering to the principles of the reformed presbytery, and the principles and practices he has often pled for since the year 1815, and published to the world in his letter?
His mentioning a person, who, through prejudice or some state of temper, utters a proposition that he cannot assent to, far less swear its truth—is not to the purpose. The matters in dispute were the result of examination, and deliberately agreed to. Did not Mr. Brown vow to adhere to them, and to follow no divisive course therefrom? This was very different from a person, through some prejudice or state of temper, uttering a proposition that he cannot assent to, &c. If he means to insinuate by this, that the terms of communion agreed upon by the reformed presbytery, were the effects of prejudice or bad state of temper, I cannot help thinking, that there is far more reason for insinuating, that this disturbance among dissenters has been begun and carried on through some prejudice or bad state of temper.
What he says as to explanations being substituted in place of the text, would undoubtedly answer his purpose well: by this plan he would get quit of the text altogether. But there is ground to fear, that instead of his explanations being more intelligible and correct statements, they would either entirely contradict the text, or be constructed in more obscure and indefinite language than any thing in the reformed presbytery's terms of communion.
What he says, page 7th, about enquiring into the reason of the things stated in a religious creed, after as well as before subscribing, is no doubt very just. Although this be granted, it does not follow, that every one, in their re-examinations, are to find fault and condemn their examinations before subscribing; this he seems to have done. I have not the smallest doubt, but after-examination hath strengthened the faith of some in the soundness and justness of their profession; yet I am far from thinking that it has had this effect on Mr. Brown. When he has so many hints against us for following our reformers and their successors implicitly, why did he not evidence this? and for what reason does he not point out particularly wherein they acted wrong? I would not wish, however, to give implicit faith either to the reformers or to Mr. Brown; but I think there is as good reason to allege that he gives implicit faith to Dr. Jeremiah Taylor, Mr. Rodger Williams, Mr. Glass, Mr. Whitefield, Mr. Patrick Hutcheson, together with the whole body of the Scottish and English sectaries of the present day—and new light seceders not excepted. This, I say, would be as just as either to maintain or insinuate, that such as are for retaining Auchinsaugh deed in the terms of communion, wish to place implicit faith in the reformers, or in their descendents.
He says further, "that much hurt has been done to the reformation interest, by too rigid an attachment to certain acts, certain works, books, testimonies, or declarations." It is no doubt possible, that too rigid an attachment may be given to confessions, testimonies, and terms of communion, by persons who have never truly examined them, and wish to put them out of their proper place. While, on the other hand, many, Gallio-like, care for none of those things. But this is no argument against their being still retained in the church; it only strikes against people who use them improperly, and against ministers and elders for receiving and admitting such as church-members, who are not properly acquainted with the history of the church, her standards, and testimony. In former times, such as applied for admission into the church were strictly examined as to their knowledge in these articles. Church members were better acquainted with their principles at that period than what they are in our time. But what is the reason of this? I conceive that lax admissions by sessions, is the principal cause that can be assigned for the ignorance of church-members. Numbers, and the flourishing of congregations externally, seem to be the main object now in view by our new reformers. And I question as little, that sessions have been as much to blame in admitting ignorant and unqualified men, as elders: and presbyteries are to blame in admitting disaffected and unstable men into the ministry, as sessions have been in admitting unworthy members into the church. And I hesitate not to say, that these lax admissions have done more hurt to the reformation interest, and to religion in general, than "too rigid an attachment to certain books, acts, &c.
He says, "It is acknowledged by all, that many of them were designed to supersede those that had been made before. For example, the second book of discipline was intended to supersede the first; and what was done afterwards in directories, &c. was with a view to supersede both." This directly contradicts our church historians, and the testimonies of several parties who profess to adhere to the reformation. The following quotations will evidence this: "The book of policy, which was penned afterward, (says Calderwood) doth not abolish this book of discipline, but only so much as was admitted for a time, and accommodated to the infancy of the kirk.*"
And in a preface to the first and second books of discipline, printed in 1621, he says, "Item, Either of the said books confirm the other, and neither of them abolish or innovate the other." "And the first book of discipline (says Stevenson) was, in the most material parts, intended for a public standard, is evident from the appending of the subscriptions of so many members of the privy council, the supreme legislators, in the interim of parliaments, to the same."† And the general assembly at Glasgow, in the year 1638, refer several times to the first book of discipline, as of standing authority; particularly in session 17th, condemning the articles of Perth.‡ And the general assembly, by their act, Feb. 1645, for establishing the directory for the public worship of God, receive it upon the express terms, that this shall be no prejudice to the order and practice of this kirk, in such particulars as are appointed in the books of discipline, and are not otherwise ordered and appointed in the directory; and the assembly, when approving the propositions for church government, mention the books of discipline with approbation. When the parliament of Scotland abolished patronage in the year 1649, they say that it is contrary to the second book of discipline; this surely evidences that they considered it of standing authority in the church of Scotland.
And the reformed presbytery say, that the first book of discipline, containing the form and order of presbyterial church government, was composed, approved, and subscribed by the ministers and a great part of the nobility; and, by perfecting the second book of discipline, they completed the exact models of presbytery.
Seceders also in their Testimony, often use these words in the way of approbation.—Our books of discipline. But this does not satisfy them, as they have expressly recognized the second book of discipline, in the formula of questions put to ministers and elders at ordination. And Dr. [Thomas] M'Crie [the elder] says, "that the second book of discipline is a form of ecclesiastical policy, whose practical utility has been proportional to the purity in which its principles has been maintained. Accordingly, it has secured the cordial and lasting attachment of the people of Scotland; and the principal secessions that have been made from the national church in this part of the united kingdom has been stated, not in a way of dissent from its constitution, but in opposition to departures, real or alleged, from its original and genuine principles." Life of Andrew Melville, vol. 1. page 172. Many more quotations might be brought forward, were it judged necessary, to evidence that both the first and second books of discipline were considered, by our church historians, and the testimonies of such who profess to witness for the covenanted work of reformation in Scotland, as still strictly adhered unto, and not superseded, by directories, as this letter to the members of the Old Church of Scotland falsely maintains. Does Mr. Brown imagine, that people will believe his bare assertions on this, or any other matter, without either proof or evidence to support it? Especially when it contradicts several acts of assembly and parliament, the Testimonies of all the parties in the land professing to witness for the reformation cause, and the Testimony which he gave his adherence to, among the rest, together with the most approved historians who have written the history of the church of Scotland. If people be so implicit as to believe his bare assertions, in opposition to these evidences to the contrary, I hesitate not to declare, that their faith will be implicit with a witness.
He says, "Some acts also were meant to stand in place of former acts, now no longer binding." Here his language is so general and indefinite, that I am at a loss to conceive how any reader can be benefited by it. It is true, that the general assembly in 1638, condemned all the six preceding assemblies together, for the reasons assigned in their acts; and their acts stood in place of the former corrupt acts of these assemblies, no longer binding on the church of Scotland. But whether Mr. Brown alludes to this period or not, is very uncertain. It is surely very strange, that he should complain of the Auchinsaugh acknowledgment of sins for want of clearness, and at the same time be so dark and ambiguous himself in this and several other parts of his letter. "And the same, I presume, (says he) may be said of certain Testimonies emitted in different periods. What then are we to do with these Testimonies, Declarations, &c.? If we declare them to be scriptural, we will perhaps involve ourselves in a mass of contradictions. If we reject any of them, condemning them to oblivion, we will incur, it may be, the charge of departing from former attainments. Neither of these courses are we, in my opinion, compelled to take. Let us, in our declaration of principles, engross all that is valuable or scriptural in them; and in our history of the Church's Testimony, let us make honourable mention of them: let us praise the framers of them on account of their bold and manly efforts in the cause of Christ; but let us not be bound to declare that to be scriptural, which they, taking the word of God for their rule, saw need themselves to alter." I remark, that the charge of inconsistency, with regard to these Testimonies and Declarations is altogether without foundation. They have been adhered to, only as they agreed with the Testimony of the reformed presbytery; and therefore, adhering to them, can involve none in a mass of contradictions. I have not the smallest doubt but Mr. Brown would wish those honest Testimonies, emitted by the witnesses for reformation, condemned to perpetual oblivion. He has exhibited great aversion to them in his speeches before the synod. If he do no more than make honourable mention of them, in a history of the Church's Testimony, what better will it be than condemning them to perpetual oblivion? I judge that it will be much worse, as it has a native tendency to deceive the simple and unwary; yea, to make them think that they are adhering to a Testimony for the whole of a covenanted reformation, when perhaps there is no mention made of the covenants from the one end of it to the other. And though he should take all that he accounts scriptural and valuable in these Testimonies, and engross it into what he is pleased to call a declaration of principles, and make honourable mention of them in the history of the church's Testimony, yet this will not free him from the charge of departing from former attainments, since the History and Testimony that he is contending for, are essentially different, in both matter and manner, from the old one. His wishing to make honourable mention thereof appears to be a trap laid to involve all the members of the church into a course of apostacy and departure from former attainments. I wish that his praising the framers of these Testimonies, for their bold and manly efforts in the cause of Christ, be not similar to the conduct of the scribes and Pharisees of old, who built the tombs of the prophets, and garnished the sepulchres of the righteous. Yet though they did this, Christ tells them, that they were witnesses unto themselves, that they were the children of them who had killed the prophets. So we have great reason to fear, when such shifts are resorted to, and efforts made to get these honest Testimonies and Declarations removed out of the way, and buried in oblivion, that we are acting like the Jews of old. We are still professing friendship to such as bled and died for the cause of Christ, but we seem to be ashamed of their testimony. Although the reformed presbytery, in the years 1761 and 1773, did not express themselves in the same way as dissenters in the year 1712, respecting paying cess, and going to law, this did not arise from any difference of principle, but from the difference of the times, and the experience that they had of some who had been under an absolute necessity, for the vindication of their character, to defend themselves. This was from no conviction that their principles were contrary to the word of God; as Mr. Brown seems to insinuate.
I have been often very much surprised at Mr. Brown for declaiming so much against contradictions, since it is evident to every unbiased person, that he is greatly involved in these himself. He is known to be a great favourer of the missionary society, and says—A Confederacy—with such as are actual members thereof, by sitting in church courts with them. Is there no contradiction in such conduct? This latitudinarian society is constituted upon the plan adopted by Mr. Whitefield, which the Testimony of the reformed presbytery condemns. If there is not a contradiction in these two systems, relative to church communion, I leave it to the impartial world to judge. It is surely very strange what Mr. Brown asserts, that we will be involved in a mass of contradictions, if we declare these Testimonies to be scriptural, and yet sees no contradiction, either in his own practice, in all the new modes he has gone into since 1815, or in the practice of a considerable number of the members of his congregation, who gave their adherence to a Testimony that condemns occasional hearing; and yet in this matter their practice often gives their profession the lie. I am afraid that Mr. Brown and others deceive themselves, by considering and approving dissenters' principles, as they shape and carve them in their own minds to suit the guise of the times, and not as they are stated in the Testimony. If this be the case, surely it is gross deception. The principles of the church can only be known by what they publicly profess to the world. If Mr. Brown design any other thing but the public declaration of principles contained in the Testimony of the reformed presbytery, when maintaining that he has made no change of principle, he is undoubtedly guilty of deception.
He goes on declaiming against the plan of the Testimony's including a number of books to which the members adhere. This plan appears to him so contradictory, that no candour can reconcile it. On this I remark, that the Testimony of the reformed presbytery is properly and formally a testimony for the reformed profession of the church of Scotland. It is not a declaration to certain truths, and of opposition to certain errors, simply on the general ground of their being agreeable or contrary to the scriptures, the supreme standard, but it is also a Testimony to those truths, as pertaining to the attained and fixed profession of the reformed church of Scotland, and against errors, as contrary unto, and departures from it. This is the formal and specific nature of that Testimony. This is evident from the very title page, together with the whole form and contents of said Testimony. Therefore it is no contradiction to quote the subordinate standards of the church, or even to adhere to these. This is so far from being a contradiction, that [it] is an evidence that such as do so are acting consistently with their profession.
Let people act on candid and rational principles, and they may easily see, that his declaiming so much against contradictions, is only a mere blind, to deceive the simple and unguarded reader. It generally holds true (according to the common saying) that none are more ready to cry, catch the thief, than the thief himself. So Mr. Brown declaims very much against contradictions, while the system that he presently practises, is ten times more contradictory than the principles of his opponents. Let strangers enquire into the old and new light principles and practice, and try them by the unerring criterion—the word of God; and they will find the new light system to be a mass of contradictions, sufficient to make them to be aware of both him and his new light party. Would they not give their assent to such as wish to abide by their old principles? Surely it would be more honest and manly for Mr. Brown to make a candid acknowledgment that he has changed his principles, than to take such low and mean shifts to lead people aside from the principles of the reformation.
He says further, "Old errors may pass away and be forgotten, at least they may lose their former name and appearance, and assume a new form; besides, many parties formerly deemed erroneous, may imperceptibly change their ground, and appear less exceptionable. Who would think of confounding the present calvinistic and pious baptists in England with the old anabaptists of Germany? It would be wrong to continue to treat them in the same way with their fathers: nor would it serve any good end to load our declarations of principles with old names, and the refutation of old fashioned errors that have assumed a new dress."
If there are any old errors that have passed away, or assumed a new form, since the presbytery published their Testimony, I am of opinion that there is not an individual in the community that would object to the expunging of such therefrom. But as the most, if not all, the errors that the reformed presbytery testify against, do still exist; I can view what he says here, in no other light but as intended to lull people asleep, that he may get the Testimony modernized, to suit the guise of the times.
Although we have a different kind of anabaptists now, from the old enthusiastic anabaptists of Germany,* we have no ground to maintain, that the anabaptists in Britain have imperceptibly changed their ground to the better; but rather the contrary. When they separated from the independent churches in England, it was in respect to baptism.† It is evident now, that there are both arminian baptists, and such as deny the first day of the week to be the christian Sabbath. Where will Mr. Brown find that the original anabaptists of this country, denied either original sin or the eternal sonship of Christ? It is well known that some modern anabaptists deny both. I hope Mr. Brown will not say that this change is to the better. Why then does he mention the pious calvinistic baptists in England, in such a way as to make his readers think that anabaptists had imperceptibly changed their ground to the better? I would ask Mr. Brown, if the established church of Scotland has lost their former name and appearance, and imperceptibly changed their ground to the better? Or have seceders done so, in all the changes that have lately taken place among them? If he answer in the affirmative, it is a clear evidence that he has changed his views respecting churches and parties. But, if in the negative; all that he has said on this matter is to no purpose, As there is as much need as ever for the church to lift up a banner for the truth, and faithfully continue to adhere to the Testimony against them.
What this letter writer says anent lifting a Testimony against the Essenes and Sadducees, is not the state of the question at all. No honest dissenter wishes their Testimony loaded with old names; or that it should testify against old condemned errors, at the dawn of the christian era. I wish Mr. Brown would point out what parties appeared in the days of our fathers whom they testified against, that are gone to their rest without successors. But a new Testimony he is anxious to have, and to lay by the old one, as an almanack out of date. He professes indeed, not to condemn the old one, but to preserve it, and make honourable mention of it in a narrative to the church's testimony-bearing works; but as a term of communion, he would deem it no longer necessary.
What reason can Mr. Brown assign for such great changes taking place in the profession of dissenters at this time? Is it because success has attended the missionary society, and he has fallen in love with their principles, to the degrading of his own? Or is it because of too much familiar company-keeping with burgher ministers, (now union seceders) that he has adopted their system, at the expence of giving up his own? If the Testimony of the reformed presbytery is to be cast into the back ground of a narrative to the church's testimony-bearing work, and rejected as being a term of communion as formerly, this mode of procedure, will make the profession of dissenters very different from what it has been, ever since they separated from the indulged, all along down to the present day. In the old Testimony, the high attainments in reformation are approved of, and the great defections therefrom are condemned. This makes them proper objects of testimony, as well as the doctrines contained in the word of God. And in the 4th part, all the doctrines approved of are considered to be agreeable to the Confession of Faith, Catechisms, books of Discipline, &c. as well as to the word of God. And the doctrines that are condemned, are viewed as contrary to these. But in the plan pled for by Mr. Brown, and the overture of a new Testimony published by the synod, a quite different plan is adopted; the narrative is only a detail of historical facts, similar to Crookshank's or Stevenson's histories; and it is so extensive, that it is impossible for the generality of church members to give their assent to it with judgment. And the summary seems intended to be a subordinate standard of itself, independent of the Westminster Confession of Faith, Catechisms, &c. Hence it appears too evident, that Mr. Brown and the synod have taken the pattern of their new Testimony from their friends in America, and new light seceders in this country.
The reformed synod in America maintain, "That the historical part (of their Testimony) is partly founded on human records, and therefore not an article of faith. Authentic history, and sound argument, are always to be highly valued, and have been beneficial to the church; but they should not be incorporated with the confession of the church's faith." Preface to the American Testimony, p. 7,8. This quotation appears to me to condemn all the Testimonies emitted by the parties professing to bear witness for the reformation. Both narrative and argument were incorporated with these Testimonies. When our transatlantic synod made such a great change in their Testimony, it was surely proper that they should have assigned some reasons for it, and not left the members of the church to believe it on their bare assertions. It signifies very little to tell us, that the narratives of men are fallible, without proving that they have actually fallen, and given a wrong statement of facts. And it will not be much better to inform us that the fallible narrative of men can never be a ground of faith, if this be meant of a divine saving faith. But there is a human faith about human things, having such evidence as the nature of the case requires and admits; which if we would deny, there could be no subsistence of human society. The concerns of all human things must in many instances depend upon the witness of men. If the fallible narratives of men cannot be a sufficient ground of faith about human things, what must have become of all that obligation which christians are under, to give glory to Him who is a jealous God, visiting the iniquities of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate Him, by confessing not only their own sins, but the sins of their fathers. If people cannot confess the sins of their fathers, on the fallible testimony (or narratives) of men, they cannot do it at all. It must without doubt be as solemn a business to make confession of the sins of our fathers, as to give an assent to the narrative of a testimony. Why then expunge the very strongest ground of withdrawing from the national church, and the other parties in the land, from the profession of the church, and from being a term of communion? This Mr. Brown in his letter, and the synod in the overture of a new Testimony, seem to do. If they act consistently on this plan, they will not need to publish any causes of fastings, or confess any sins, but what they know are independent of human testimony.
What Mr. Brown observes, page 9. about the impossibility of bringing men exactly to the same views in every sentiment which may affect truth a little, and be made a term of communion, is quite foreign to the purpose. The instance that he gives of supralapsarians, and sublapsarians, and of such as maintain that the holiness of Christ's human nature was a part of his righteousness, and others that it was just a qualification necessary for his giving that obedience to the death which constitutes the justifying righteousness of his people, has nothing to do in the present case. These points were never made terms of communion in the church. I wonder that none of the instances which he brings forward are to the purpose! It appears that he has not much to advance that is solid, when he has recourse to such silly shifts!!!
The true state of the question appears to be this. Are those truths which have been adhered unto, and contended for, by Christ's faithful witnesses, in the time of Scotland's purest reformation, owned and sealed by the blood of the martyrs of Jesus, and maintained and contended for by dissenters, from the revolution down to the present time, and solemnly avowed by Mr. Brown himself at his ordination,—are they, I say, to be laid aside, resiled from, and given up with, to please men of sectarian sentiments, who appear to exert all their influence to undermine both the work of reformation and the profession of dissenters? This is the true state of the question. It hath nothing to do with the supralapsarian controversy, or that respecting the holiness of Christ's human nature being part of his satisfaction. This is another trap laid to deceive.
"A proposed union of some parties, I hailed with joy, (says he, p.10.) not because I expected any happy union would presently take place, but because it was an indication that the divisive spirit was on the decline." I do really think that the proposed union of the parties alluded to, was an indication that their respect for reformation principles are on the decline. Both parties had given up with some of the peculiarities of their original profession, by means of a vague preamble, and a new Testimony. The union that took place betwixt these parties, appears to have led them to expunge the covenants from their profession. For Mr. Brown to hail the proposal of such an union with joy, is an indication that he is ready to part with some of the peculiarities of his profession also. Will a person, having the use of his reason, rejoice at any thing taking place that has a native tendency to cut off his comfort in life, and make the cause that he espouses the subject of ridicule and reproach? Surely such conduct is contrary to the nature of man.
He says further, "One happy consequence of meeting for union, we have in that great work, the Westminster Confession of Faith. Episcopalians, independents, presbyterians, and erastians met together; the result has been an unspeakable good."
Although it be true, that some episcopalians met in that assembly, along with the other parties; yet it can serve little purpose to meet, without doing some business. The king, by his proclamation of June 22. forbad the meeting of the assembly for the purposes therein mentioned; and declared, that no acts done by them ought to be received by his subjects. A great part of the episcopalian divines obeyed his injunctions. The few that met, left the assembly before the bringing in of the covenant, except Dr. [Daniel] Featley, who was expelled for holding correspondence with archbishop Usher at Oxford, and for revealing their proceedings, contrary to the express words of the ordinance. Therefore the Westminster Confession was no work of episcopalian divines. For what end does Mr. Brown mention the four parties in such a way as to make his readers believe that the Confession was the joint work of them all? It is well known that there was not many erastians in the assembly; and there was only seven independent divines therein, the most part of whom left the assembly before the Confession was finished. Therefore the Confession behoved to be the work of the presbyterians. It is no latitudinarian system, as Mr. Brown seems to insinuate, but a work compiled by men of integrity and principle. There is a vast difference betwixt the meeting of the Westminster divines, and the meeting of the burghers and antiburghers. The assembly met for, and did to a certain extent begin and carry on reformation. But seceders met after they had both made apostacy, and departed in some articles from their original principles. And the result of their meeting together for union, has been the mean to get their departure from owning the national and solemn league and covenants completed. It must surely be strange work for a dissenting minister to hail the proposal of such an union with joy. There is no human probability that he can unite with seceders, without renouncing his peculiar principles. Is it not very amazing, that he passes by the seceding parties, who yet appear zealous for the covenants, and work of reformation, and uses means to unite with the union seceders, who have manifested such hostility to the principles of the reformation. This conduct clearly evinces his change of sentiment. He indeed tells his readers, not to suppose that he considers any truth unimportant or circumstantial. He may desert the principles that he once professed, for all that he has said here to the contrary. He is not ignorant of the principles of his intimate friends the burghers on this point.
In page 11. he expresses his ardent wish for the renovation of the Testimony in form, and the exclusion of the references to former Testimonies. This clearly discovers his intention to make an essential change in the Testimony. How lamentable, that a minister of the gospel manifests such a flexible disposition, and to be so unstable in his principles, as appears in several parts of this letter. He once seemed zealous for vindicating the principles and Testimony of the reformed presbytery. When the chief men of his congregation appeared to turn their back on their principles, and terms of communion, he soon joined them, and has ever since been a leader, and an active agent to get these principles overturned.
When speaking of the renovation of the covenants at Auchinsaugh 1712, he says, "The manner in which these covenants were renewed, never appeared to me the most judicious. A more simple plan, and more suited to the state of the church then and now, would have been a bond of adherence to said covenants." Such language is a clear evidence that he has changed his views respecting the renovation of the covenants. He once gave his assent to the Testimony of the reformed presbytery. This Testimony vindicates the way the covenants were renewed at Auchinsaugh and Crawfordjohn, and condemns the way that seceders renewed them by a new bond, cutting and carving them to answer their principles about civil government. But now he seems to fall in with the seceding plan of renewing these covenants. Why doth Mr. Brown say, that the manner in which these covenants were renewed, never appeared to him the most judicious? Did he not express himself, in a very strong and positive manner, (in defence of the Auchinsaugh plan of renewing the covenants) in the year 1810, a few weeks after the covenants were renewed by the antiburgher congregation of Newmilns? Did he not condemn their plan of covenanting in a very angry tone, and in the end call it a delusion? If he remembers this, let him reconcile it, if he can, with what he has advanced on covenanting since the year 1815. I am sorry that he has introduced the word never, about this matter, when he cannot but know, that his profession and sentiments were the very reverse of what he asserts here.
He says, "Although perhaps many of the errors at that time, mentioned as errors that should meet with civil pains, were highly aggravated and opposed to the moral law, yet since that time many shades of difference have appeared, that, in my view, could not come under the cognizance of the civil magistrate."
Such indefinite and obscure language, is an evidence that he wishes to keep his readers in the dark as to his sentiments about the power of the civil magistrate. Is not such conduct similar to what the Apostle calls, the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive, Eph. 4.14? He appears ashamed, openly to profess his views on this point. It would be diametrically opposite to the Confession of Faith, and the Testimony that he professes to adhere to; but he wishes to get these expunged from the profession of dissenters. Had he wrote in a plain manner for his readers' benefit, he would have specified the time that he alludes unto, described the high aggravations of the errors then, and shewed the difference betwixt these highly aggravated errors then, and the shades of difference that have appeared now; which he thinks should free them from the cognizance of the civil magistrate. This he has not done. His readers may be very suspicious, that he is of the very same principles respecting the power of the civil magistrate about matters of religion, as his friends the union seceders.
He says, page 12, "That disobedience to the law, which would forfeit any subject's privilege, must likewise, in the magistrate, lessen his right to conscientious subjection." If this hold as to ancient magistrates and subjects, I see not but it will hold also with ministers and people. That disobedience to the law of God, and the subordinate standards of a church founded thereon, which would forfeit any church member's privilege, or bring him under church censure, must of necessity (according to Mr. Brown's principles) lessen the minister's right to conscientious subjection and obedience. Consequently, such as cause divisions in the church, by bringing in, and publishing new doctrines, denying parts of the Confession of Faith, and Testimony which they formerly gave their assent to, must likewise lessen the minister's right to conscientious subjection and obedience from their people. He says, "it may here be objected, in the language of the Westminster divines, that infidelity and difference in religion, does not make void the magistrate's just and legal authority, nor free the people from their due obedience to him. I frankly confess, says he, I am not of that opinion, nor were our reformers all of that mind. That, I believe, was a clause introduced by royalists in the time of Charles I. and a clause to which they submitted because they could not help it?" But who told him? or where does he find that this clause was put into the Confession by royalists? He says he believes it. Well then his faith must surely rest on testimony. I wish he had told what authority he had for believing that either said clause was introduced by the royalists, or that the assembly were constrained to put it in against their will. Does he think that they were the dupes of the royalists? All the members of this famous assembly, came under a solemn vow to maintain nothing in point of doctrine, but what they believed to be most agreeable to the word of God; nor in point of discipline, but what may tend most to God's glory, and the peace and good of the church. After such a vow, are we at liberty wantonly to maintain or believe that they put clauses into the Confession, to please any false party whatever? If we do so, we will be guilty of calumniating their character, unless we could make it evident. This Mr. Brown has not yet done. And since he has published such apparent calumnies and slanders on these divines, let him stand forth and make them evident.
It appears very unlikely that royalists could influence said divines to put clauses into the Confession to please them. At the very time the Confession was compiling, the royalists, with their head Charles I. were at open war with the parliamentarians. And as the assembly sat by the authority and direction of the two Houses of Parliament, they behooved to act very far out of character, if they were either royalists themselves, or under their influence to such a degree as would cause them put such a clause into their Confession; which clause, if taken in an absolute sense, of all times, of all kingdoms, and of all differences in religion, would have been given up of the cause that they were contending for, against the king, and would have overthrown both the principles of the reformation and the revolution. That royalists had such a sway with either the assembly or Parliament, about the very time that the royal army was cut off, or every where dispersed, and Charles himself obliged to flee to the Scots army for protection, is very unlikely. It is plain that the assembly who compiled, and the general assembly of this kirk who ratified and approved the Confession, with the Parliament that confirmed it with the sanction of civil authority, were men of sense and religion, who studied to have a practice consistent with their faith. They never understood that clause so as to bind up their hands from opposing the supreme magistrates, overturning the work of reformation, or from requiring of them conditions necessary for the security thereof. Witness their practice with both Charles I. and II.
That christians living in a land which has not been generally reformed from infidelity, or false religion, where christianity has not yet obtained the sanction of the laws of the kingdom or commonwealth, ought to submit to the lawful authority of the magistrates thereof, although infidels or of a different religion, is the import of that article of the Confession, and true meaning of the scriptures brought to prove it. But, for reformed kingdoms, that have covenanted to maintain the true religion, to extirpate false religion, and to do nothing that may impede the success of reformation, to commit the highest trust into the hands of the enemies of reformation, make them keepers of both tables of the law, and submit to them, and excluding others that might act for the glory of God, and good of religion, is contrary to scripture, reason, and covenant engagements.
This distinction is no novel fancy. We find it among the ancients. Lucifer Calaritanus, in a book written to Constantine the emperor, who had upbraided him for walking contrary to the apostle's precept, Titus 3.1.—the apostle admonishing us to be subject to good works, not to evil,—Says that the apostle speaks of those magistrates and princes, who as yet had not believed in the only Son of God; that they by our humility, meekness, and long-suffering under adversity, and all possible obedience in things fitting, might be won over to christianity. But if you, because you are emperor, feigning yourself to be one of us, shall forsake God, and embrace idolatry, what, must we quietly submit to you, for fear of seeming to neglect the apostle's precept.—Here he tells us that the case was altered, and that the christians who, by virtue of the apostle's precept, were to obey heathen emperors before the empire was reformed, might deny it lawfully to arians, or other heterodox emperors, after the laws had established christianity.
It appears evident from the history of the church and state of Scotland, that our reformers acted on this principle, at the time of the reformation from popery. They acknowledged the authority of Queen Mary, although she was a papist, until she, by her personal crimes, rendered herself unworthy of government, and was obliged to abandon the crown. At this time they framed a coronation oath, which excluded all from the throne but professors of the true religion. And in the second reformation 1649, our reformers made this coronation oath still more explicit, as the supreme magistrate was bound by it to observe the presbyterian religion in his own practice and family; and the general assembly of the church of Scotland 1648, could not conceive how the clause concerning the extirpation of prelacy in the solemn league and covenant, could consist with bringing Charles I. to one of his houses in and about London, without security had from him for the abolition of prelacy. This famous and faithful assembly did not understand this clause of their Confession in an unlimited and absolute sense, like Mr. Brown, but in a limited sense, with necessary cautions. It surely would have been very inconsistent in them (according to Mr. Brown's sense thereof) to have published any thing tending to exclude him from the exercise of his power, upon the account of religion. For if infidelity and difference in religion did not make void the magistrate's just and legal authority, it could never make void the exercise of it solely on account of religion. Had our reformers understood said clause without limitation, as Mr. Brown does, with what propriety could the commissioners of both kingdoms have insisted on Charles I. to take the covenant? Instead of pressing him to take the covenant, it would rather have been their duty to have submitted to him, even though he had made open profession of popery, mahometanism, or paganism. Had Charles understood it as Mr. Brown does, he might have told the commissioners plainly, that he was an episcopalian, and was under no obligation to swear to their covenant; as by their own Confession of Faith, an infidel, or one of a different religion, had a just and legal authority over them; and that their practice with him was at variance with their profession. There is no appearance that either Charles, or his junto of critical and learned episcopal divines, were so eagle-eyed in espying contradictions as Mr. Brown, and the new light party in the synod; as in all the treaties set on foot betwixt the king and the parliament, we find not the smallest hint that ever he mentioned their practice with him, to be inconsistent with this clause of their Confession of Faith.
Many authors might be produced, that understand foresaid clause in the same sense as the reformed presbytery. A few quotations shall suffice at the time.
I shall begin with that eminent minister and martyr, Mr. James Guthrie, who was minister of the gospel at Stirling. "As for what is alleged (says he) from the late Confession of Faith compiled at Westminster, and ratified by the assemblies of the kirk, in the fourth article of the chapter concerning civil magistrates, where it is asserted that infidelity or difference in religion doth not make void the magistrate's just and legal authority, nor free the people from due obedience to him, from which ecclesiastic persons are not exempted; the defender doth cordially close with and subscribe to, as sound and orthodox doctrine; but humbly conceives it doth contain nothing contrary to the book of the causes of wrath, and the declaration of the general assembly cited in that book; which may convincingly appear to every unbiased understanding person, from this, that the assembly of divines at Westminster who first compiled that Confession, and the general assembly of the church of Scotland, who did ratify and approve the same, and the parliaments of both kingdoms who did also ratify it, did not only in their judgments approve and allow, but also in their practice, so far as was competent to them in their respective stations and callings, in maintaining a defensive war, both before the compiling and drawing up of that Confession, and whilst it was in compiling, and after it was compiled and approven, ratified and published to the world, and received by the churches of Christ in these kingdoms, as part of uniformity in religion. And therefore, unless we would suppose, which cannot rationally be supposed, that so many godly, learned, and orthodox divines, as were in the assemblies of the churches of both England and Scotland, and so many able discerning statesmen and politicians and lawyers as were in the parliaments of both kingdoms, should in these words of the Confession of Faith, palpably contradict both their own judgment and practice in the tenor of their public professions and actings for a good many years together,—that sense which is given by the pursuer, cannot be the true meaning of the Confession of Faith which is cited by him; nor do the words themselves import any such thing, either expressly or by necessary consequence; both may very well consist with any thing that is holden forth in the book of the causes of wrath, and in the public papers of this kirk and kingdom concerning defensive arms, and their not admitting his Majesty to the exercise of his royal power, without necessary security obtained for religion." Minutes of parliament, April 11. 1661. Appendix, page 52, printed 1822. Being part of Mr. Guthrie's duplies to the replies given by his Majesty's Advocate.
"But in the Confession, (say dissenters in the year 1741) they intended no retraction of what they had both said and sworn in the solemn league not long before, concerning the civil magistrate, and allegiance to him, in this land in particular; which appears plainly by the after-conduct of the church of Scotland with Charles II. at Scoon: And if there had been any such thing as a retraction intended in the Confession, without all doubt an assembly of such eminent and godly divines would not only have been plain and full therein, but also confessed their sin in the vow and oath they had made with so great solemnity; yet the least vestige or hint thereof doth not appear." Declaration at Mount Her[r]ick, 1741. Preface, page 9.
When Mr. Currie did what lay in his power to sully the Reformation period, he objected against the Testimony of the associate presbytery for mentioning the act of Parliament 1649, anent securing the covenanted religion and peace of the kingdom as a laudable act, and alleges that it is contrary to chap. 23. § 4. of the Confession of Faith. Mr. Wilson of Perth, both the framer and defender of the Secession Testimony, says, "I believe that our author is the first that has discovered the contrariety he mentions." Defence, page 317. first edition.
And when Mr. Currie says, "If a papist had been set upon the throne by the people, they having sworn allegiance to him, he ruling according to law, and defending the subjects in their rights and privileges, sacred and civil, he may be a lawful king, according to the doctrine taught in our Confession, chap. 23. art. 4." Mr. Wilson answers, "He appears to me to pervert the words of our Confession. Infidelity, or difference in religion, doth not make void the magistrate's just and legal authority. But according to the principles received immediately after the Reformation, when Queen Mary abdicated the crown, as also according to the principles which were espoused by the three nations at the Revolution, one that is a professed papist can never have a just and legal authority; and consequently it is no ways contrary to our Confession of Faith to assert, that a professed papist cannot be a lawful and rightful king, even though all Mr. Currie's ifs should be taken in." Continuation of the Defence, first edition, page 157.
These are the sentiments of the eminent Mr. Wilson of Perth, in the years 1739 and 1741, before the controversy took place betwixt the seceders and Mr. Nairn. But in the answers of the associate presbytery, to Mr. Nairn's reasons of dissent, printed 1744, another doctrine is maintained, in express contradiction to Mr. Wilson's sentiments.
And Mr. Forrest, who was burgher minister in Inverkeithing, says, "There is a doctrine in our Confession of Faith, chap. 23. § 4. 'Infidelity, or difference in religion, does not make void the magistrate's just and legal authority, nor free the people from due obedience to him;' which is a sound point of doctrine, as it stands in our standards; but as understood by seceders, taught and vindicated by them, is unsound, as is abundantly made to appear in the Testimony of the reformed presbytery, and defences of it, which seceders have never to this day answered; therefore they are lying under the unanswered charge of error in doctrine. More particularly, the infidelity and difference in religion spoken of in the Confession, is the infidelity and difference in religion in a heathen and unreformed church: that infidelity belongs only to heathens, and not to christians, is not, nor cannot be denied, which at once answers and overturns that objection, viz. That our Reformers never made a confession for heathens and heathen countries: But did they not make it for christians, when their lot is cast for a time in a heathen country? And also for heathens, in case some of them should turn christians, to be a rule to them how they were to behave toward their heathen magistrates; and further, for christians, in case they were conquered by heathens in their own land, as was the case when Paul appealed to Cesar, Acts 25.10,11.? which text the assembly cite; and there was great need for such a clause and caution in our Confession, to shew the duty of people in such circumstances, when they were in providence shut up from relief by their own magistrates, according to the word of God, and the fundamental laws of government. It was a known principle in Scotland, that the king and people should be of one true religion: It was also known, at the very time the Confession was drawn up, that king Charles and his subjects were fighting against one another, and that they would not admit him to the exercise of government, unless he would comply with the solemn league. What might the people infer from all this, but that be their lot where it will, or what it will, they were to own none but a covenanted king; the caution was therefore very necessary." Memoirs, page 161, 162.
Does it not appear, that Mr. Brown's denying this clause of the Confession is a breach of his ordination vows? and is it not strange to tell us the difference in the Westminster Assembly respecting this clause, without giving the least evidence to support his assertion? He appears to be gone into that right hand extreme, of these people called active testimony-bearers, with regard to this clause of the Confession: which is contrary to the word of God, and the Confession of Faith of the reformed churches.*
"The same view (says Mr. Brown) I am disposed to take of that other clause, 'he hath power to call synods, to be present at them, and to provide, that whatsoever is transacted in them, be according to the mind of God;' a clause introduced probably by those who leaned to the sentiments of Erastus: Our reformers set limitations to them, but did not give explanations; their statements being entirely opposite in doctrine to these exceptionable clauses." I remark, that as Mr. Brown gave his assent to this article of our Confession of Faith, in a public manner at his ordination, so he has made as public a declaration that he does not believe it. Why does he blame all who contend for retaining Auchinsaugh deed in the terms of communion, for pleading for, and practising contradictions, and yet still give his assent to the Confession of Faith, and join in the Lord's Supper, where it is made a term of communion, when he has published such vague sentiments in opposition to it? This has as great an appearance of contradiction as any thing he can produce against retaining the Auchinsaugh deed. He seems to think, that allowing the magistrate a power to call synods, is at variance with the intrinsic power of the church to call her own assemblies. This intrinsic power of the church to call her own assemblies, the Westminster divines, the London ministers, and the greater part (if not all) the presbyterian divines in England, maintained and contended for, at the time the Confession was compiled; and at the same time maintained, in consistency with this, that the civil magistrate had a right to call synods, in either a broken unconstituted state of the church, or pro re nata, in a constituted state thereof. They prove the magistrate to have this right and power, by the example of the godly kings of Judah, who were highly commended by the Spirit of God, for their zeal in reforming the church. Unless a power be allowed to the civil magistrate, in some cases, to convocate synods, the right of acting for the advantage of, and reforming the church, which the godly kings under the Old Testament dispensation exercised, will be denied to the civil magistrate.
The reformed church of Scotland always considered her right to exercise and maintain the intrinsic power of the church, to call her own assemblies. At the time she received the Westminster Confession of Faith, she had as full and ample profession of this power, as at any former period. It was only a part of the 31st chapter, relative to the calling of church assemblies, that the general assembly of the church of Scotland 1647, gave a more extended explanation of, respecting the power of civil and ecclesiastic rulers in calling assemblies, in both a settled and broken state of the church. And it is worthy of notice, that while the intrinsic power of the church is maintained, a power is also allowed to the magistrate to call assemblies occasionally. Unless this be allowed to the magistrate, it will in effect deny the power ascribed to him in the Confession for the suppressing of blasphemies, heresies, &c.; for it is expressly declared, that it is for the better effecting thereof that he hath power to call synods. By consequence, if his power is denied in the one case, it might be denied in the other also. If we compare sect. 3. of chap. 23d, and sect. 1. of chap. 30th, with the clauses respecting the calling of synods, and foresaid act of the assembly 1647; none who take the scriptures of the Old and New Testaments for their rule, will (I humbly apprehend) have sufficient ground to think, that our reformers in either compiling or ratifying the Confession of Faith, intended, or actually gave the magistrate a supremacy over the church, to fetter her in her courts, or in any respect subject her to the sentiments of Erastus.
The unanimity of the presbyterians in the Westminster assembly, manifested a very laudable zeal for the independence of the church, on the civil magistrate; for when that proposition, that the Lord Jesus Christ, as king and head of his church, had himself appointed a government distinct from the civil magistrate, was voted, there was only one dissenting voice in the assembly.* The assembly engaged in a dispute against erastianism, with the parliament, under whose protection they sat. And owing to their steady refusal to concede that power to the state, the erection of presbyteries and synods were suspended in England. And so firm and steady were the London ministers, when the parliament sent the queries† to be answered by the assembly on the erastian controversy, that they took up the debate in a book entitled, The divine right of church government; wherein they give a distinct answer to the several queries of the House of Commons; and undertook to prove every branch of the presbyterial government and discipline to be jure divino, and that the civil magistrate had no right to intermeddle with the censures of the church.‡ The zeal of the Scottish commissioners, the lord mayor, and aldermen, with the greatest part of the citizens of London, when the question respecting the jus divinum of church government was lost in the House of Commons, clearly evinced that they opposed every erastian tenet. Although there were a few erastians in the assembly, this is no evidence that any part of the Confession leans to erastian sentiments. It is quite obvious, that the presbyterians were by far an overbalance for all their opposers together, in point of numbers, and therefore were under no necessity to comply with erastian tenets. A great many in both Houses of Parliament gave too much countenance to erastianism; yet I have never seen any evidence that the assembly made the Confession to suit their fancy. Nay, the contrary is evident, as the English Parliament never gave either their approbation of, or an order for printing the Confession, after it was examined by the Parliament. But they printed it wanting some whole chapters, which they did not approve, for the satisfaction of the foreign churches.*
For Mr. Brown to assert that these clauses in the 23d chapter of the Confession, were entirely opposite to our reformers' statements in doctrine, is without foundation, and is just in effect to tell the world that they were inconsistent, and put clauses into the Confession to please royalists and erastians. To impute such things to these worthy divines, without proof, I consider to be an evidence that he is willing to give up with part of his profession, and is paving the way for his further progress in the sectarian system.
He says, "To the magistrate belongs not the power to settle matters of pure religion or belief; but to restrain and correct what affects grossly any precept of the divine law." But if it is incumbent on the magistrate to settle religion at all, it must surely be his duty to settle pure religion or belief, and not a religion contrary to the scriptures. Does he think that the civil authority did wrong in establishing the protestant religion at the reformation? Or does he allow the magistrate no power circa sacra at all? The terms he uses, viz. Pure religion or belief,—are substantially the same as the words used by Mr. Allan of Couper-Angus, and other new light seceders. This is obvious to such as are acquainted with their writings. If the civil magistrate has a power to restrain and correct what grossly affects any part of the divine law, will not his power extend also to the correcting and restraining of all such as maintain and publish doctrines in direct opposition to both tables of the law; and consequently, such as publish opinions, or maintain practices, contrary to the light of nature, or to the known principles of christianity, whether concerning faith, worship, or conversation, will be proceeded against by the power of the civil magistrate? I fear, though Mr. Brown may express himself in general terms, in the same way as those who adhere to the genuine sense of our Confession, yet I have reason to think, from different parts of his letter, that he is of the same sentiments on this matter as his friends the union seceders.
"Were they (the magistrates, says he) to endeavour to suppress all immorality in their dominions, and exhibit morality in their whole conduct, they would then be nursing fathers to the church." But if the magistrate were only to suppress such as are guilty of reproachfully speaking against God, taking his name in vain, or breaking the Sabbath out of contempt, I see not that such correction or restraint would make the magistrate a nursing father to the church of Christ. There is reason to suppose, that this is all the correction or restraint that he intends here. For he says, "Schism, however, of every description, with those slight shades of difference found among different denominations in our day, could not very warrantably be punished by them." Now is this not a proclaiming liberty to every party to publish and practise whatever damnable errors they please, if it be done under the pretence of religion? As for what he says about the slight shades of difference found among professors in our day; it appears to me to be altogether impertinent. None, I presume, adhering to the principles of the reformed presbytery, would wish the present magistrates to punish the slight differences among professors in our time. It is clear that the corruption of government in both church and state has been the cause of division among presbyterians, and has given rise and encouragement to sectaries among us. It appears very strange that length of time, and shades of difference, should make erroneous persons free from the cognizance of the civil magistrate! Might not such as worshipped the Lord on high places, in groves, and under green trees, in the days of Manasseh and Ahaz, have pleaded with as good reason as Mr. Brown does here, that their schism was not so highly aggravated as those who did so in the days of Solomon and Jeroboam? Such a plea would not have passed with that great reformer Josiah, when he took away all the abominations out of all the countries pertaining to the children of Israel, and commanded all authoritatively to serve the Lord, according to all things contained in the law of Moses. So I expect, when the Lord turns back the captivity of Zion, in the latter days of the church, that all the pleas of sectarians, and such as are abettors of their cause, will never be heard any more; when the Lord will fulfil these promises to his church, that are contained in the 13th chapter of Zechariah, verse 2—7.
Again, (he says in page 13,) we find this expression, "Yea, such as are in actual compact with the devil are not carefully sought out, and actually tried in order to be brought to punishment, but are overlooked and protected." Here the punctuation is not only altered in one place, and a word supplied in another, but he has put in the word actually, in place of accurately. This is a word of a very different meaning. It appears that he has done so, with a design to bring a stigma of infamy upon said work, and sink its reputation before the public; as what he observes on the words, would not have answered well, if he had given a fair quotation. An accurate trial is conducted with care, in a just manner according to law and evidence produced to convince the person tried, of his guilt; or if no proper evidence can be got, to acquit him. But any trial, if it have the form, is an actual trial. Such as the trials of the sufferers before Judge Jefferies in England, and the trials in Scotland before the high commission court, in the time of the persecution, of a similar description. What base conduct is it then for Mr. Brown to foist in a word of a quite different sense, in quoting said work, to make his readers believe that the old dissenters were so ignorant about trials, as that they would be contented with the mere form!!!
What evil could there be in the authors of said deed mentioning the negligence of such as were in authority, in not seeking out, and accurately trying such, in order that they might be brought to punishment? Would the divine and wise Legislator of heaven and earth have given such express injunctions respecting the punishment of this crime, if he had never permitted it to have an existence? Or would he have ordained the punishment thereof to be death, if there had been no way for the children of men to come to the knowledge of it; so that those who were guilty might be accurately tried and made to suffer the desert of their crimes?
He says, "The enclosing of lands is also mentioned as a very high offence." This is not a fair statement of the matter. They never viewed it as a moral evil to build dikes, and enclose land. They would have had no objection to enclosing their farms, providing they had been permitted to retain and possess them. It was because of landlords putting the poor out of their lands and houses, taking these into their own hand, enclosing them in order to graze cattle, or putting a number of small farms into one, by reason of which many were deprived of their livelihood; thus depopulating the country after the union with England, many were reduced to great hardships and distress; there was so little trade and commerce in the land at that time.—It may be objected, that a landlord may do with his land what he pleases. I answer, that every man is accountable to the Lord of the whole earth for his possession; and it is his duty to use it for his glory, and the good of his fellow-men. He, therefore, is not at liberty, without sinning against the Giver, the Supreme Jehovah, to drive men from their habitations, if they can give him a competency for it. Therefore, it is not simply the building of park dikes, and enclosing of land, that are here complained of, but doing this to deprive the poor of their habitations, and depopulating the country. Is not this the sin of oppression, and a breach of the divine law? If it be, it is not improper to be mentioned in an acknowledgment of sin, when renewing the covenants.
Mr. Brown comes, in page 14, to produce his strong reasons why the deed in question should not have such a prominent place in our terms; and these are because in the engagement to duties, the old dissenters engage neither to pay cess, nor stipends, nor to defend or pursue at law. This he calls a deception, as it does not agree with our practice. And he rejects all explanations and limitations that have been given by himself and others, as to no purpose. I have heard it openly declared, before the explanation and defence of our terms was published, that the Auchinsaugh deed was adhered to as a term of communion, only as it agreed with the Testimony. This might be more properly called a declaration, than either a limitation or explanation. Will he reject this way also? Whatever words might be used, the generality of dissenters understood it in this light. To be sure, this was making exceptions, and rendering these clauses anent paying cess, and going to law, of none effect, in so far as they disagreed with the Testimony. Mr. Brown and our new light party positively denied that any exceptions can be made to these clauses of the Auchinsaugh deed. Such unfair quibbling as they used on this matter in the Synod, I am of opinion, is without a parallel in either the history of church or state. They make principles for their opponents, and fix a meaning to those they dispute with, which they never intended, and absolutely deny. This is the charity of Mr. Brown and his adherents, to such as wish to abide by their old principles. They say, if we take a single word from it, it is no longer the Auchensaugh deed, but our own. Such reasoning appears not judicious. Is it not fallacious? For instance, when Mr. Brown was presbytery clerk, had he observed an improper word in the minutes of court, and altered it at home in his study, did this make it his own deed, dated from his own house, and not the deed of the court? I suppose he will not say so. Were a midwife to cut a tongue-tacked child, or any other simple operation; a barber to shave off a wen, or even a dozen of such; and a surgeon to draw a corrupted tooth, or cut off a corrupted leg or arm; would that make a person cease to be one of God's creatures, and become the creature of the midwife, barber, and surgeon? I think that none will say so. Even so, the Auchinsaugh deed may still be ascribed to its genuine authors in the year 1712, notwithstanding that the reformed presbytery have cut off two clauses from it, by the publication of their Testimony. The import of all the arguments brought forward by Mr. Brown and the new light party, in order to get said deed taken out of the terms, amount to this, that we cannot consistently acknowledge the Auchinsaugh deed for a term of communion, without adhering to these two clauses that we deny. Hence Mr. Brown speaks of our oath and superscription, just as if at every time we took church privileges, we were to make oath neither to pay cess, nor defend ourselves at law in any case whatever, nor to use the necessaries of life that are taxed.* Such arguments can serve for little purpose but to deceive the simple and unwary. Where is his boasted candour here? An evidence that such as make them, are ashamed to avow their real sentiments. Such arguments strike against the practice of the church of Scotland in the purest times of the reformation, and against the generality of presbyterians in the present day (union seceders not excepted,) as much as against those who contend for retaining the Auchinsaugh deed in the terms of communion.
For instance, in the first book of discipline, imposition of hands at the ordination of ministers, is judged by our reformers not to be necessary. The reasons they assign for it, are, that miracles are ceased,—first book of discipline, chap. 4. But in the second book of discipline, chap. 3. it is said that the ceremonies of ordination, are earnest prayer, and the imposition of the hands of the eldership. By this we see, that our reformers saw cause to correct both their sentiments and practice respecting the ordination of ministers. Although on this head, they acted according to the second book of discipline, yet they did not condemn nor set aside the first from being a public standard. Both books of discipline, complexly considered, were sworn unto in the national and solemn league and covenant, by the terms discipline and government of the church of Scotland. I never observe that any in those days found fault with our reformers for inconsistency in this matter. Hence, we may see the coincidence of our practice, in giving our adherence to the declarations at Sanquhar, the Auchinsaugh deed, and the Testimony of the reformed presbytery, with the practice of our reformers relative to the books of discipline. The practice of the church of Scotland, in acting according to the second book of discipline, and not setting aside the first, though in some instances it contradicted the second, was as glaring and gross a contradiction, according to Mr. Brown's argument, as the practice of dissenters is, in adhering both to the Auchinsaugh deed and the Testimony. The second book of discipline superseded the first, in so far only as it was contrary to it; so with as good reason does the Testimony of the reformed presbytery supersede that part of the Auchinsaugh deed, where paying of cess, and defending at law in any case, are considered unlawful. Were the arguments advanced by Mr. Brown and the new light party, against the Auchinsaugh deed, to be applied in the same rigid, unjust, and forced manner against the original covenants themselves, the Confession of Faith, &c.; they would soon appear as inconsistent, and would need to be removed from our terms, as well as the Auchinsaugh covenanting. So of course the removal of said deed from the terms will only be a beginning to clear away the rubbish, in order to lay the foundation for an entire new building, at the expence of demolishing all the terms of communion together. He says, page 15. "I have frequently observed, that keen contenders for this engagement as a term of communion, have discovered the same keen spirit in pursuing at law." I very much call in question the truth of this observation. Whoever acts in this manner, undoubtedly gives a clear discovery of their inconsistency, not only to the engagement, but also to the Testimony. However, such language comes unseasonably from Mr. Brown, or the new light party in his congregation. They contended several years at law for a meeting-house, that they, on the principles of equity and justice, could have no proper right to, and were obliged at last to give it up. "Many too (says he, page 16.) have to appear at law as witnesses on oath; a practice at variance with the letter and spirit of this engagement." But is not this practice also at variance with the letter and spirit of the Testimony, page 168, fourth edition? And further they declare, that the right of administering oaths, is competent to those vested with such authority as is agreeable to the word of truth. The Testimony makes a clear distinction betwixt such things as cannot be got, nor yet the equivalent of them, unless the person actually consents and grants them. But neither oaths, nor the equivalent of them, can be obtained, unless the person actually consents and grants them. Therefore, the Testimony excludes swearing oaths before unqualified magistrates, as well as the engagement to duties. Is not the swearing of oaths, where unqualified magistrates are the administrators, as gross a contradiction when the lawfulness of the magistrate is not owned, as the engaging not to pay cess, and yet paying it?
He says, "A change of views on this subject has undoubtedly been brought about within the last sixty or seventy years. Then, such as paid taxes, or went to law, would not have enjoyed [church] privileges." If the change that has taken place be wrong, at whose door does the guilt of it lie? Can he free church rulers from having a chief hand in the trespass? If they had exercised the discipline of the church, agreeably to the Testimony, such a change and laxness of practice would not have taken place. None, I suppose denies the change, respecting paying of cess and law processes; but I can inform Mr. Brown, that a far greater change has taken place within these thirty years. When such as did swear an oath, administered by an unscriptural magistrate or minister, or heard such ministers as they testified against, would have been called to an account for inconsistent conduct. Now the men who cry out so much against inconsistent conduct, appear to see no inconsistency in these and many more fashionable practices.
Likewise, such as supported the missionary society, and heard their sermons, would have been called to an account, and censured according to the degree of their offence. Now, a dissenter may be guilty of these, and many more inconsistent practices that were flatly condemned both in doctrine and discipline about thirty years ago, without the smallest danger of being called to an account for the same. Does not such conduct in church rulers evince a change of principles? Yea, a minister may in public maintain to his audience that Christ, as Mediator, created the world; and that there is no proper distinction betwixt the covenant of works and grace, and tell his hearers that he is the inventor of such a new doctrine, and wish them to come and dispute the matter with him, and all this come to the knowledge of his brethren in the ministry, and yet he not be called to an account for such haughty and novel conduct. Can any be so much to blame for overlooking such things, as junior ministers, who appear to pass almost all the faults of such as adhere to the new light system? They can give such as have actually become members of the missionary society, the right hand of fellowship. Of this change Mr. Brown says not a word. These latitudinarian principles begun, and fast operating among dissenters, are at the bottom of all the contentions and disturbances that have taken place. Mr. Brown and junior office bearers, have been the beginners and fomenters of the contention, in order to get their fashionable latitudinarian principles introduced among dissenters. I consider that Mr. Brown has been misinformed, in asserting that the father and brethren in the eastern presbytery unanimously agreed to the proposal of removing the Auchinsaugh deed from the terms of communion. This weak story, I am of opinion, will not stand much investigation. He further adds, page 17, "If this removal would divide a church, it would be schism with a witness." None need dispute who he would account the schismatics. The schismatics, according to his reasoning, would be such as adhere to the Auchinsaugh deed. How strange to account such as adhere to their principles, schismatics, merely because they cannot see with Mr. Brown's eyes, and follow him and new light men in their changes, that have a tendency to set aside reformation principles, and bring sectarianism into the church? Had he gone to work in a proper manner, he would have proved the deed in question to be immoral. This he has not done, but accounts all that adhere to it schismatics. Apostate and backsliding church men have always made a cry against schism. Instances of this kind are numerous; I shall only mention a very few.
When that faithful party in the church of Scotland, in the year 1650, protested against the public resolutions, they were proceeded against with the censures of the church, and wrote against as schismatics.
When the faithful party separated from the indulged, about the year 1678, they were considered by such as were indulged, as schismatics and separatists.
And at the Revolution, such as would not join the church, established by law, were considered by a number of ministers, (who were at the helm conducting the revolution establishment) as the very worst of the human race.
All along from the Revolution, to the time that seceders left the church of Scotland, such as would not fall in with their measures were considered as separatists and schismatics. And even seceders themselves were considered in this light by the established church of Scotland at the time they dissented therefrom.
And in the late divisions of seceders, the minority have been considered in no better light than separatists and schismatics, although they could defy their antagonists to evidence that they had made any alterations of their principles. And Mr. Brown appears to tread in the same path with other innovators that have corrupted the church with their tyrannical and domineering conduct. Christians are no doubt reproved for giving way to schism, and exhorted to avoid those that cause it; but the christian church is no arbitrary institution of men, nor has any particular church a promise securing her continuing in the faith, and in purity of communion; consequently, none have a right to claim a perpetual or inviolable union with her, especially with such as are relinquishing their scriptural principles, or to denounce persons schismatics, simply on the ground of withdrawing from them, and declining their authority.
I know it has been said by some of Mr. Brown's adherents, that they did not know of any separation in the christian church, maintained upon such slight grounds as the removing of said deed from the terms of communion. But what satisfaction can such an objection give to the opposite party, when such sweeping principles are maintained, as will overturn at once all the terms of communion held by the reformed church of Scotland together? Do ministers think, that people are mere blocks, that they can drag any way they please? Or do they imagine that people do not see their departure from their principles, when they start so many silly objections? This evidences both their inclination to lead people implicitly along with them, and that their tyranny seemingly would compel them, if it were in their power. I am persuaded, though said deed were far more important than it is, it would be represented as an insufficient ground of withdrawing from them. Mr. Brown's language is in effect this:—If we do not follow him and the synod, we are schismatics. This is indeed high language from one that has been the principal mean of raising the difference among us. The apostolic injunction is, Mark such as cause divisions and offences, contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned, and avoid them. Can Mr. Brown deny, that he has been the principal raiser of the disturbance among the old dissenters? I think he cannot. He no doubt professes to do it for reformation. But this need surprise none acquainted with the history of the church; as it is the beaten path of innovators. The doctrines he has maintained in some of his sermons, and in several parts of this letter, clearly shows that he has abandoned some of the principles of the old dissenters, that he gave an adherence to at his ordination. He, according to Rom. 16.17, is to be marked by all such as would adhere to said principles, lest they be led by him into sectarian and latitudinarian errors.
"No person (says he) is required to say the deed is morally wrong." This is an evidence that to remove it is a step of defection. If he could make it to be morally wrong, it would be a duty to lay it aside without delay. He adds further, "But some say, grant this and there will be no end; if they remove this deed, they will remove another, and so on. This is one of the most appalling arguments, in some respects, that can be brought forth; for it will, if yielded to, put an end to every species of reformation." I cannot help being of opinion, that although it be an appalling argument, yet it is a true one. If it had been yielded to, instead of putting an end to reformation, it would help to put an end to deformation, and departure from reformation attainments. And though he thinks that the objection represents some of our ministers and people as totally devoid of conscience, this cannot be helped, since their conduct evidences the justness of the objection. When we see men seeking to remove one of their terms of communion, and laying down such general principles as would remove all the rest, if they were acted upon, and yet positively denying that they intend to make any change in their profession, can we not think in reason, justice, and equity, when this is the case, that they intend to lead people insensibly from their former principles? Who that considers the conduct of new light ministers since this business began, can be persuaded of better things of them, than that they intend to lead their hearers into the sectarian camp? Is not this the native tendency thereof?
Mr. Brown, in the concluding paragraph of his letter, page 18. avows his friendliness to reformation principles, and wishing the covenanted cause to prosper; the testimony of the martyrs and their spirit to revive; and their professed successors, whatever it may cost them, to keep by the word of God, and the Testimony which they hold. There is much ground to fear, that this is only his sense of these principles, as he modifies them, that he so friendly wishes to be revived; And not in the sense that they have been understood by the old ministers of the church, and the compilers of our subordinate standards. I am much afraid that his design in bringing his letter to the public was with a view to counteract the influence that he supposed might attend the publication of the Auchinsaugh deed, and to be a support to his own party. As some parts of his performance are stated in direct opposition to some parts of the covenanted cause, and the Testimony of the reformed presbytery, he cannot be supposed to wish these to prosper and revive.
Is it not a fact, that Mr. Brown has taken every opportunity that lay in his power to disseminate his new principles? And after raising much disturbance in the party that he is connected with, he has had recourse to recommend union and peace in the church upon his own plan, and to all appearance for his own ends. And has he not displayed such a keen spirit in church courts, as was rather a disgrace to the ministerial character? since the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God. His conduct at two different sacramental occasions, last season, clearly evidences what he would do to his opponents, if he had the power in his hands. It appears but too evident then, that instead of adhering to the principles of the reformed presbytery, he seems resolved to adhere to the new system that he has adopted, whatever it may cost him.
These remarks I thought proper to make on this letter, in vindication of the doctrines of our subordinate standards, and the profession and practice of dissenters in still adhering to these. Many others, with propriety, might have been made, especially on the title page and the notes, but I defer these at this time, and conclude, by heartily wishing that Mr. Brown may see the evil of his innovating conduct, and return to defend the principles of the reformed presbytery in every article, as he endeavoured to do before the year 1815, and be an instrument of faithfully declaring the whole counsel of God, and of turning many from sin unto the service of the living and true God.
IT was noticed in the introduction, that the synod had expunged the Auchinsaugh deed from their terms of communion, and in place thereof, substituted a general adherence to the covenants. This change in the terms, we are informed, is no dereliction of principle, or acting unfaithfully, as they still profess to be under the impression of solemn covenant obligation, following their worthy ancestors in endeavouring faithfully to maintain and diffuse the principles of the reformation. But is not this general adherence that is put in place of that particular and faithful deed, a tacit condemning of our pious ancestors for making it a term of communion, and the whole body of old dissenters for owning it as such for more than a century past? If the synod had proved said deed to be morally evil in itself, or that the sins acknowledged therein do not now exist, they might have laid it aside without either dereliction or principle, or acting unfaithfully; but this they have not done. Therefore their conduct in expunging said deed from the terms, makes them justly to be suspected of both. Is not their conduct in this matter a receding from a clear and particular testimony to a general and evasive one? The Auchinsaugh deed is a particular and faithful testimony to the covenants and work of reformation, and expressly pointed against all the steps of defection, from the decline of that work in the year 1650 to the year 1712; and it has been a term of communion among the old dissenters from the year 1712, until the year 1822, that it was cut off from their terms by the synod. Thus the profession of dissenters relative to the covenants is rendered vague and objectionable, as it contains now only a general adherence to them, without their application to existing circumstances, since the revolution and union settlements. Is not this general adherence a paving the way to let in diversity of sentiment relative to both the sin and duty, and the way and manner of renewing the covenants? Though the covenants be plain and easy to be understood, yet some have considered the national covenant to be consistent with episcopacy; and others have contended that the solemn league and covenant does not strike against toleration principles. May not the advocates for new light principles take up similar ground with such, and plead that a number of things that were flatly condemned before, are lawful now, and shelter themselves under this general adherence to the covenants? This new term, I am of opinion, has a native tendency to generalize the principles of dissenters, and make them similar to those that the court wished to impose upon our reformers in the year 1638. The reformers then renewed the national covenant with an additional bond, suited to the circumstances of that period; but the court, to counteract this faithful renovation, published a declaration, commanding all the people of Scotland to subscribe and renew the original national covenant, without the explicatory additions with which it was renewed by the reformers. A considerable number of the people of Scotland gave obedience to said declaration, and the doctors of Aberdeen took the covenant in a sense consistent with prelacy and the articles of Perth.
But our reformers were so far from submitting to said declaration, that they prepared an excellent protestation* which they read immediately after the publication of the king's declaration; of which faithful protestation I shall transcribe a few lines, as not unsuitable to the subject. "This new subscription (say they) instead of performing our vows, would be a real Testimony and Confession before the world, that we have been transgressors in making rash vows, and that we repent ourselves of former zeal and faithfulness, and that we, in our judgment, prefer the general covenant unto this, which necessity hath made more special. What is the use of march-stones on the borders of lands? the like use hath Confessions of Faith in the kirk, to determine and divide between truth and error; and the removing and applying of Confessions of Faith are not unlike riding marches, and therefore, to content ourselves with the general, and to return from the particular application of the Confession, necessarily made upon the invasion and creeping in of errors within the bosom of the kirk, if it be not a removing of the march-stone from its own place, is at least a hiding the march-stone in the ground that it be not seen."
As the reformed synod have expunged Auchinsaugh deed from their terms of communion, is it not a real Testimony to the world that they have been transgressors in making rash vows, and that they repent of former zeal and faithfulness? and have they not by their late conduct removed the march-stones that our fathers have set to divide betwixt truth and error, and betwixt a faithful Testimony and an evasive one? Our reformers thought it unreasonable to obey the king's declaration, because popery and prelacy were then so powerful in the land. Is it not matter of lamentation that these, together with many more pernicious evils, are in some respects as powerful in the land as they were at that period? And the same reason that made a particular application of the covenant necessary then, will hold good in the time wherein we live, as not only popery and prelacy, but sectarianism also has spread its roots among us. And we have reason to fear, that it is from this root that all our troubles of late, in a church capacity, have sprung. Our reformers thought if they gave way to a new subscription, they could not free themselves from perjury and breach of covenant. They engaged in the additional bond, against all divisive motions, and either directly or indirectly suffering themselves to be withdrawn from the bond of their union. So the reformed synod having given the Auchinsaugh deed a place in their terms of communion, and engaged not to suffer themselves to be divided from the covenanted union, yet they cut off said deed without assigning a relevant reason for doing so, cannot be construed in any other sense but making defection to the contrary part, and a breach of the lawful engagements they had come under to follow no divisive course from the covenanted church of Scotland. And although it be more than a hundred years since this renovation of the covenants took place, yet it is too evident that all the evils mentioned in the acknowledgment of sins are yet chargeable on these guilty covenant-breaking lands, and that the public corruptions which have taken place since that period are still materially the same corruptions (in an incorrigible progress thereof) which are confessed in said acknowledgment. Hence the laying said deed aside, appears to make way for looking slightly on the breaches of the covenants by the nation, and to partake more than formerly of the sins acknowledged in said deed, and to be more negligent in performing the duties contained therein. This, in place of reformation, will be an inlet to laxness both in principle and practice.
A general adherence to the covenants, is not a faithful testimony in our situation against the breach of the solemn vows by the nation. Many who have been, and are active in carrying on the corruptions, and acknowledging the government of both church and state, have given a general adherence to the covenants. When said deed is expunged from the profession of dissenters, they have nothing to distinguish it from the profession of such, but the testimony, which to appearance will also soon be cut off from the terms, and either none at all, or a more vague one, put in its place.
The expunging said deed from the terms, appears also to be irregular, and contrary to the act of the general assembly 1639. Said act ordains, that no innovation, which may disturb the peace of the church, be suddenly propounded and enacted; but that the motion thereof be first communicated to the several synods, presbyteries, and kirks, that they may be approved by all at home, and commissioners may come well prepared to conclude a solid deliberation upon these points in the assembly. The reports of the different sessions to the synod in November 1818, were very far from being favourable to a change according to the principles of the foresaid act of assembly. And the petitions and memorials laid before the synod from time to time since, clearly evidenced that a considerable part of the community wished to retain said deed in the terms; and the church in Ireland were unanimous for retaining it. Yet, notwithstanding of all the opposition the synod met with, at the motion of two junior members, they took courage, and cut off said deed. Such rash conduct clearly evidenced that they neither paid respect to the principles of the reformed church of Scotland, relative to alterations, nor to the people who had petitioned them to retain said deed in the terms of communion.
Would it not have been much more honest in the synod to have expunged said deed from the terms without substituting any thing in its place at all, than to endeavour to deceive the people, and make them believe that the new term comprehended or included the whole of the Auchinsaugh deed? It is evident to every person that attentively considers the matter, that said deed is given up altogether. What better is the 4th article with a few words added to it relative to the duty of a minority adhering to the covenants? This has always been included and taken for granted by such as owned them; and therefore the new term seems only intended to be a trap similar to the burghers preamble in the year 1797, to catch such as wished to retain the said deed, and to draw them off from part of their profession. What confidence can such as wish to retain the deed in question, place in the synod, when they have acted in this way, and allowed one of their members, in the open synod, to call the covenants superfluous things, laid as a bar at the door of the sanctuary, in order to obstruct the entrance of the children of God, without calling him to account, and causing him make as open an acknowledgment of his fault, as he made of his departure from these peculiar parts of his profession? Nothing, in my opinion, can be a clearer evidence that the Auchinsaugh deed was not intended to be included in the new term, by the words following their worthy ancestors, &c. by the new light party, than their opposing the following sentence, "as exemplified by our forefathers at Auchinsaugh in 1712," which the senior members wished to be added to the new terms; but it was carried against them by a majority. This, and other things, which some of them have maintained in opposition to the doctrine of their ancestors, make a clear discovery that the new term is merely nominal.
Have not such as petitioned the synod just ground of complaint against them for cutting off said deed from their terms in such a precipitant manner, especially as they had a committee appointed to prepare a new bond, with an acknowledgment of sins and engagement to duties, to be put in place of the Auchinsaugh deed? It appears by the conduct of last synod, that the bond, &c. &c. which the committee were so long in preparing, has been only intended by a number of the members to gain time, and lull the members of the church asleep, that they might get a fit opportunity for cutting off said deed.
And have not such as petitioned the synod as just ground of complaint against them, for giving no answer to their petitions and memorials? They appeared at all times to pay little or no attention to what they brought forward in defence of their principles. But when petitions and memorials were laid on their table for expunging the Auchinsaugh deed from their terms, new modelling the Testimony, &c. &c. particular attention was paid to them. Is it not a fact, that they allowed a person to read a long paper before the court after they had given judgment on his petition, which charged the Westminster Confession with erastianism? And was not the commissioner that represented the Glasgow petitioners in the year 1818, heard twice at great length in defence of their petition for new-modelling the Testimony? And was not the Crockedholm commissioners called upon at one time by a member of synod to give in a memorial? But I can appeal to the members of synod themselves, if ever they allowed the opposite petitioners to be heard in defence of their papers, as they did such as petitioned them for new-modelling their profession? And although two such petitions were laid before the synod last year for retaining the Auchinsaugh deed in the terms, yet they soon let said petitioners see that they would either be obliged to submit to them, and let go part of their profession, or be excluded from the privileges of the church.
And their not taking up the charge brought by the Crockedholm petitioners against the Auchinsaugh deed, for being intolerant, renders them justly to be suspected of being either unsound on the doctrine of the magistrate's power about religious matters, or unfaithful in not vindicating said deed on that head. And from the whole of the synod's conduct in this matter, it appears evident that they have expunged said deed from their terms of communion, at the request of such as have given up some points of testimony contended for by dissenters. The anti-covenanted principles of the petition from Crockedholm in the year 1798, and the more polished one of 1815, are not unknown to a number of members of court. To gratify such men, when their petitions clearly evinces that they have abandoned principles held by the reformed church of Scotland, and some points of testimony contended for by dissenters, is doubtless great unfaithfulness, and renders them justly to be suspected of instability in their profession. But if the new term is attended to, and the causes of fasting lately published, it appears evident the synod still consider themselves as acting faithfully in the reformation cause, and that such as do not agree with their measures, are blaming them unjustly for dereliction of principle. Such are considered as making opposition to the synod, "from principles of bitterness and resentment, of anger and contention, or of pride and ambition. From these causes (say they) the injurious suspicions, and uncharitable jealousies which some are at no pains to conceal, relative to the fidelity of those who differ from them in opinion, and the harsh and unfounded charges of dereliction of principles with which they wantonly asperse the character, and endeavour to hurt the usefulness of their brethren." This is the moderation and charity that the synod have for such as cannot consent to their changes nor acquiesce in their measures. They impute people blaming them for dereliction of principle, to the very worst of motives. But I would wish to know what warrant they have to judge them in this or any other matter without evidence. It is no doubt wrong to blame church rulers or others for dereliction of principle, if there is no valid ground for it. But a just reason in the present case, I am of opinion, can easily by produced. But from the way they have acted all along in this matter, they cannot expect that people will acquiesce in their judgment in this matter. Does the synod think that church members are obliged by the unerring standard to walk in the way that they carve out for them, without examination? Ought not church members to have a judgment of discretion to know their duty, and not to be implicitly led along with their teachers, like the members of the Romish church? Will the synod divest such as cannot comply with them, of the exercise of both sense and reason, and like the head of the Romish church, bind them to believe that any thing is black which to their eyes appears white? Is it not awful work for the members of synod to make profession of mourning over, and confessing before the Lord that they are unjustly charged with dereliction of principle, when they cannot but know that the sentiments of a number of them have of late undergone a considerable change? Do the synod not know, that it is evident to such as are acquainted with their principles, that they have been verging toward the sectarian camp for a number of years past? Can they drop their zeal and faithfulness of the covenanted cause, and the intelligent public take no notice thereof? For a number of years before this disturbance took place, there was a great silence among the generality of dissenting ministers, in giving a doctrinal testimony against the corruptions of the times. This silence had great effect upon the people; it prepared them by a general smooth way of preaching, to be an easy prey to such as wanted to make a change in their profession.
The synod seem to act in this business, as if it were unlawful for church members to oppose them in any article. If they were acting an honest and faithful part, this would no doubt be the case; but it is easy to perceive that they are very far from that at present. And their publishing such uncharitable reflections on such members of the church as cannot give up their principles to them, nor see with their eyes, clearly indicates that they wish to use church authority in an arbitrary and tyrannical way against such.
As the reformed synod positively deny that they have made or are making any dereliction of principle, I shall contrast some things that are new, with their practice in the year 1796. At that period the reformed presbytery would neither allow their people to hear missionary sermons, nor support the missionary society with pecuniary aid; but a member of synod has now informed the public, that said society has a fullness and perfection of means for converting the world, and has actually preached for gathering a collection for its support; and another has actually joined said society; but none of them has been called to account for such conduct. I think no judicious person, acquainted with dissenters, will say that these practices would have been allowed among them about twenty-seven years ago. And it can be easily evidenced, that discipline was not exercised then contrary to, but in agreeableness to, the Testimony. Is there no change of principle here? are not the principles of the missionary society in direct opposition to the Testimony of the reformed presbytery on church communion? the two systems are such a direct contrast, that I am quite surprised that ever any of our ministers either joined or gave encouragement to support said society, without condemning and openly laying aside the system of principles adopted by the reformed presbytery. In former times a doctrinal Testimony was given against the sins and corruptions of the times, especially at sacramental occasions, but a person may attend the most of their administrations now for several months together, and a communion sabbath too, and not hear any more of a public testimony against the corruptions of the times, than could be heard in an independent or methodist meeting house. Is not this a clear evidence of unfaithfulness and dereliction of principle?
I shall conclude this Appendix, by heartily wishing that the reformed synod may see the evil of expunging the Auchinsaugh deed from their terms of communion, continue the testimony as it is presently stated, impartially exercise the discipline of the church, faithfully declare the whole counsel of God, and be the happy instruments of converting many souls to God, through Jesus Christ the glorious Mediator of the new covenant.
1. The Evangelical Magazine is devoted to no party, but conducted by episcopalians, methodists, presbyterians, independents, &c. The influence it has obtained over the religious public is prodigious, and it has been a powerful engine to promote the reign of indifference. Wilson's Dissenting Churches, vol. 4. appendix. [pages 555,556.]
2. See Adherence to the Missionary Society of Glasgow, defended, page 47.
3. Adherence to the Missionary Society, p. 45.
4. Whoever has read a pamphlet, entitled, "An Adherence to the Missionary Society of Glasgow defended," will observe a striking similarity betwixt it and this petition.
5. Is not their using the present tense here a mere blind. Do the petitioners imagine that dissenters at the years 1712 could punish such as lived in the year 1815, with civil pains?
6. The sentiments contained in page 87, were not singular in those days. I shall for brevity only give one instance. In a sermon preached before the parliament of Scotland, in the year 1706. "O that it may not seem a small thing in the eyes of our rulers and representatives, that it may not be matter of moonshine to them, for to allow persons taking upon them to preach, pretending to preach the gospel, and yet in the mean time infusing and diffusing their Arminian and Pelagian errors, whereby the souls of poor people are murdered. Certainly, as it would not be a righteous thing to see people murdering one another, and not relieve them when we could; and as it would be the worst of iniquity to make a law tolerating people to murder one another; so it is a most heinous and very gross iniquity, to tolerate (either in one respect or other) persons to plague and murder the souls of poor people by corrupt doctrine. Has there not been, and is there not to this day, a tolerating (in many respects) of many scandals, many heretics, popish priests and their idolatrous masses, and meetings of quakers and grossly erroneous persons, under the name of episcopal ministers, teaching gross arminianism, and subverting and perverting many souls. Alas! Sirs, we must acknowledge it (and the Lord knows I speak it not with respect to any person more than myself) there has been great decay of zeal among us all. I do not say magistrates only are guilty here, I do not say ministers only are guilty in this matter, but I must say all flesh have corrupted their ways as to this." Mr. Mair of Culross's Sermon. Printed 1707, page 25 and 26.
7. Do the petitioners think that ministers are infallible in their judgment in religious matters? If they do so, they may be convinced of their error, by attentively reading the scriptures, and the history of the church.
Let the petitioners evidence, that past ages have furnished us with sufficient proof of the dangerous tendency of the principles of the Confession of Faith, Auchinsaugh deed, and the Testimony of the Reformed Presbytery relative to the power of the civil magistrate about matters of religion. Till they do this, they must excuse me in calling the propriety of this interrogation to the synod in question.
8. Let them point out where the many thousands are to be found, that have already fallen a sacrifice to the mistaken zeal of such magistrates as dissenters have been contending for, since the overthrow of the work of Reformation. If these cannot do this, their interrogation is surely impertinent.
9. The Antiburghers, in their magazine at the year 1808, spoke in as strong terms relative to the magistrates suppressing open violations of the first table of the law, as what appears to be contained in this petition.
10. What purpose could it serve to plead for indulgence to act as they pleased relative to the clause in the terms, after the synod had agreed to the overture. If the overture was not to be acted upon, the synod were surely very idle in taking up time to make it. When said overture was agreed to, it natively set aside the temporary forbearance granted by the synod to the sessions in May 1818.
11. When Mr. Brown intimated his sacrament in the year 1818, he made a public declaration, that he did not intend to read the clause in the 4th article of the terms, relative to Auchinsaugh covenanting. This he punctually attended to. And next year, although an overture for a bond of union was agreed upon by the synod, yet he gave no more attention to it, than it had not been enacted. In the years 1820 and 1821, some other ministers broke through this overture. And when Mr. Anderson read the terms of communion, as preparatory for administering the Lord's Supper at Stirling, he omitted reading said clause, without either the concurrence of the session, or informing them of his intention of doing so. This was the mean of depriving many of their privileges. Was not such conduct a lordly tyranny over both the session and congregation, and in some respects similar to the prelatical tyranny exercised over the Lord's heritage in the reigns of James VI. and Charles I.
12. Was not this a real development of the scheme of the new light party, and a plain evidence that there is a party in the synod endeavouring to undermine and overturn the principles of dissenters?
13. History, page 29.
14. History, page 110.
15. Collection of Acts of Assembly, printed 1682, p. 37, 38, 39.
16. The anabaptists of the present day are so far from denying the lawfulness of magistracy among christians, or usurping a kingly authority, as some of the German anabaptists did, that they have in general (at least in Scotland) adopted the principle of non-resistance to civil rulers in all cases.
17. Neal's History of the Puritans, vol. iii. p. 126. Edit. 1759.
18. See the scriptural plan of a real reformation, in two discourses on Ezek. xliii.9. page 20. Active Testimony, p. 6. Magistracy settled on a scriptural basis, p. 214. Mystery of Magistracy unveiled, p. 71.
19. The divine that entered his dissent was Mr. Lightfoot. Neil's Puritans, vol. 3. page 258.
20. See the nine questions from the House of Commons to the assembly, in Neil's Puritans, vol. 3. page 235, 236.
21. Neil's Puritans, vol. 3. page 358.
22. Neil's Puritans, vol. 3. page 298.
23. Where will either Mr. Brown or the petitioners from his congregation find, that the sufferers in the time of the persecution, or the old dissenters since the Revolution, refused to use the necessaries of life that were taxed?
24. See a copy of this protestation in Stevenson's History, vol. 2. from page 422 to page 448; and in the large declaration, from page 157 to page 173.