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James Dodson

“OUR BANNERS SET UP,” is the title of a sermon published by Rev. J.W. Shaw. The author was one of a minority who, in the year 1871, dissented from the action of his brethren, adopting by “an overwhelming majority” an “American Covenant.” Mr. Shaw and others insisted that the Covenants, National and Solemn League be expressly named, and the obligation of those deeds recognized in the New Covenant. In this object they utterly failed. Hence their dissent. It is an obvious assumption that the author of the Sermon under consideration is thus carrying out his dissent. His brethren of the majority will not discover much, if anything, in his published sentiments, to which they will take exception. On the other hand, some, while approving the general sentiments of the sermon, will be unable to endorse it as a whole. For my part, I am very much displeased with the author’s views on association or co-operation with other denominations, and with the men of the world. His views are essentially the same as those of the New Covenant on the same subject.

He says,—“Co-operation with good men, in promoting the moral and social welfare of the race, and with Christians in the furtherance of the interests of the kingdom of Christ, where no sinful compromises are required, we do not oppose; but this is not what is known as ‘Christian and ministerial fellowship,’” (p. 14.) Now, a sound and intelligent Covenanter cannot unite in organic fellowship with any one holding and avowing such sentiments, because they are not one,—they are as wide apart as the poles on this subject. It was just this “heresy,” small as it still appears to many, that “destroyed” the “Second Reformation,”—pleading for association with “incendiaries, malignants and evil instruments.” This is the verdict of history.

That like causes will continue to produce like effects, let the following arguments be considered:—

1.—To co-operate means to “work together.” Then Mr. Shaw’s doctrine in the above sentence is a plea for so-called Covenanters,—all sects, and the men of the world, to work together,—to “co-operate.”

2.—By “good men,” he means good men of the world,—good men having “carnal minds at enmity against God,” that are “not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.” These good carnal men are such as Mr. Shaw supposes can “co-operate” with Covenanters and Christians of all sects,—he makes no exceptions,—“for the moral and social welfare of our race.” These “good men” are contra-distinguished from the Christians named in the next clause of the sentence, who can co-operate with each other,—“for the furtherance of the kingdom of Christ.”

3.—The author of this Sermon admits that the co-operation of Covenanters with so-called good men of the world, and schismatical Christians, is not Christian and ministerial fellowship,—is some other kind of fellowship for which Christianity makes no provision; for if Christianity did make provision for such fellowship, then it would be “Christian fellowship.” This fellowship was devised by carnal men, heretical sects and backsliding Covenanters, without the aid, sanction or co-operation of Christianity. Truly this is not a Christian confederacy; if it were then “co-operation” would be Christian and ministerial fellowship. No, this is the kind of confederacy that Christianity forbids:—“Say ye not, A confederacy, to all them to whom this people say, A confederacy.” (Is. 8:12.)

Again, there is much bad theology in the sentence under review, of which the following are samples:—

1.—It teaches that there, may be “good men” without Christianity. But the Holy Spirit says,—“The whole world lieth in wickedness.” (1 John 5:19.)—“good men” outside of the Church of Christ; although the same authority says,—“Without are dogs, and sorcerers, and whoremongers, and murderers, and idolaters, and whosever loveth and maketh a lie.” (Rev. 22:15.)

2.—It teaches that the “moral and social welfare of our race” may be promoted without Christianity,—by a mongrel “co-operation,'' where there is no Christian and ministerial fellowship, and, of course, where there is no fellowship with Christ, nor communion with the Holy Spirit. And if this “welfare of our race” can be promoted without Christian and ministerial fellowship, then it is effected without faith, without love or good works, without Christ, without the Holy Spirit, and without a saving knowledge of the truth. “Promoting the moral and social welfare of our race” implies deliverance from the present evil world, reconciliation to God; being found in Christ, not having our own righteousness which is of the law, but that which is through the Faith of Christ; that we are sanctified by the Holy Spirit, and that we have Christian and ministerial fellowship with Christ’s mystical body,—the Church. Without these things “our race” must always be “like the troubled sea when it cannot rest; whose waters cast up mire and dirt.” Backsliding Covenanters may have anti-scriptural fellowship with the men of the world,—the “good men” of the world,—and with schismatics, in “casting up mire and dirt:” but the men of the world can have no communion with faithful Covenanters in “furthering the interest of the kingdom of Christ.” Backsliding Covenanters may have fellowship with sectaries,—with “pious men of every name,”—in marring the purity and peace of the kingdom of Christ—in corrupting the doctrine, worship, government and discipline of the Church of God, and in breaking his covenant: but such persons,—“pious men of every name,” cannot have fellowship with faithful Covenanters in “furthering the interests of the kingdom of Christ,” in maintaining the unity of the church, or in keeping the everlasting covenant. There can be no true Christian communion between the sects and the witnesses in maintaining the unity of the Church of Christ; because it is impossible that there can be any scriptural co-operation, or working together, between the sects and the witnesses. To be a scriptural co-operation, all who co-operate must be one in doctrine, worship, government and discipline,—“all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among them; but that they be perfectly joined together in the same mind, and in the same judgment.” (1 Cor. 1:10.) Anything short of this is unscriptural and sinful co-operation,—is not “working together,” but against each other,—against the “moral and social welfare of our race.”

4.—It is also implied in the sentence in question, that Covenanters and the so called “good men” of the world, “pious men of every name,” can co-operate in promoting the welfare of our race, without making sinful compromises. This, however, is not the fact, never was nor ever can be. “Can two walk together except they be agreed?” Faithful Covenanters and the world are not, and never can be one until worldly men are transformed into Covenanters; then they can co-operate, or walk together, because agreed; and can agree because one in doctrine, worship, government and discipline: and they are all one in these respects, because they are all taught of the Lord; all are partakers of the nature of Christ, and of the Spirit of Christ. And when all are become one in Christ, there can be no parties or factions; and where there are no parties, there can be no compromises. All compromises made between Covenanters and the world are necessarily sinful, the same is true in regard to all compromises between the witnesses and the sects. Unity and uniformity are required by the law of Christ, often enjoined by his apostles; and the same is solemnly pledged in the Covenants of the Second Reformation. Were all Covenanters answerable to their holy profession, it would be impossible to find any one to desire a compromise with the world or sectarians; and none would for a moment entertain such a proposition. The utter corruption involved in all compromises with the world or the sects in religious or moral things, may be evinced by such considerations as the following:—(a) The man of the world has a carnal, but not a spiritual, nature. (b) The believer has both a carnal and a spiritual nature. (c) The carnal nature of the man of the world can co-operate with the carnal nature of the believer, because they are one. (d) The carnal nature of the worldly man cannot co-operate with the spiritual nature of the man of God; for they are not one, but two, separate and distinct, they are antagonisms. “For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other.” (Gal. 5:17.) (e) It is impossible for the carnal or natural man to make any concessions in favor of that which is spiritual: “for the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness unto him; neither can he know them, for they are spiritually discerned.” They are foolishness unto him, if a Greek; a stumbling block, if a Jew. (1 Cor. 1:23.) (f) The carnal nature of the believer can make sinful compromises with the carnal man, because the moral character of the nature in both is the same: but the spiritual nature of the believer cannot make any compromises with the men of the world; neither can it co-operate with them; for “what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? what communion hath light with darkness? what concord hath Christ with Belial? what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? and what agreement hath the temple of God with idols?” (2 Cor. 6:14-16.) Thus it is apparent, on divine authority, that between the spiritual and carnal man there can be no co-operation in the prosecution of spiritual and moral objects; because there is no fellowship, no communion, no concord, no part, no agreement. Such is the emphatic decision of the Holy Spirit.

Mr. Shaw admits that the co-operation, which he “does not oppose,” is not Christian or ministerial fellowship, is not a fellowship for which Christianity makes provision; then it is here admitted by him that Christian and ministerial fellowship is compromised for one that lays no claim to Christianity. But what Christianity does not enjoin, either expressly or impliedly, it prohibits: then in this co-operation, Mr. Shaw is giving up, compromising a fellowship that is commanded for one that is prohibited, a fellowship of divine origin for one of human invention. Is not this a sinful compromise? (g) Finally, Mr. Shaw teaches that co-operation with other denominations “in furthering the interests of the kingdom of Christ is lawful, ‘where no sinful compromises are required.’” No denomination is excepted. This is one of the heresies combated by George Gillespie, Hugh Binning, and all the learned and godly men called Protestors, and against which the Covenants, National and Solemn League were framed and erected as standing public barriers. These famous Covenants continue to this day as bulwarks of defence against all the assaults and intrigues of anti-Christ: pillars of light to guide the weary pilgrim through the wilderness. It is fondly hoped that even Mr. Shaw, through the grace of the Most High “will not suffer himself, by whatsoever combination, persuasion or terror, to be divided from that blessed union and conjunction” contemplated in those solemn deeds.

And now, when an “overwhelming majority” of his brethren have virtually disowned those scriptural documents; when some of his brethren wish them “buried with the body of Moses,” vilify them as “long since rotten,” with which they desire to have “no more to do than with a covenant of Germany,” &c., does it not seem as if our angry Lord were about to take the covenanted inheritance from the natural heirs, and give it to others? Our fathers’ covenant God “is able, even of stones to raise up children to Abraham.” When the levity, ribaldry and other concomitants of the scenes enacted in Pittsburgh, May, 1871, occur to the mind and depress the heart, it is refreshing to find in the pages of a secular magazine such “honorable mention” of our Covenants as the following:—“It was a covenant (the Solemn League) to defy papacy and prelacy, and to maintain the church of the Scripture: but it was, too, the appeal of a free people against the claims of every form of despotism. Nor can it be doubted that this fervid outbreak of independent thought helped largely to rouse the people of England, and to secure the liberties of Europe and America, the signal for a revolution whose waves are still swelling over the earth.” (See Harper’s New Monthly for December, 1872, p. 106)

Paul says,—“We can do nothing against the truth, but for the truth:” and John says,—“I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth:. . . . we ought to be fellow-helpers to the truth.”