PASTOR OF THE REFORMED PRESBYTERIAN CONGREGATION,
WALNUT RIDGE, INDIANA.
First published in the Contending Witness magazine (David Steele, editor), serialized 1841-3.
The Contending Witness [magazine] comes forth in eventful times. Society, civilized and uncivilized, christian and heathen, is in a state of effervescence. Communities, civil and ecclesiastical, are shaking, in order to be overthrown, that that which cannot be shaken may remain. Heb. 12:27. And all, as must appear, necessary to render manifest the faithfulness of God. All things must be fulfilled which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms. Hath he said, and shall he not do it? hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good?—Num. 23:19. As the decree is brought forth in providence, the promise is accomplished, and renewed visible attestations of the faithfulness of God, are thereby furnished to his people. Hence the retrospective view of the christian, especially in days of darkness.—I have considered the days of old, the years of ancient times, &c.—Ps. 77:5,6.
The church has been long in the wilderness, tossed, afflicted and persecuted. But she is not left to mourn continually. Her Lord enjoins on his ministering servants: Comfort ye, comfort ye my people.—Isa. 40:1. Yea the Lord himself shall comfort Zion.—Isa. 51:3. Hence her disconsolate children, calling on their pastors for the discharge of duty, cry: Watchman, what of the night? watchman, what of the night? He must furnish information, not only that the mountain of the house of the Lord shall be established in the top of the mountains, and exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it, Isa. 2:2; Micah 4:1; but also the doings of the Lord, in order thereto. These are of a twofold character—judgments and mercy. On those [i.e., judgments] the benighted pilgrim must have his eye, and by this [i.e., mercy] the way-worn traveller shall be comforted.
As preparatory to the millennium, judgments are promised. And he shall judge among many people and shall rebuke strong nations afar off.—Micah 4:3; Isa. 2:4. These judgments and rebukes are of a mixed character—penal and disciplinary. The former penal, and the latter in import, as—I will punish you yet seven times. Lev. 26:24.
These general terms are, by an apostle, presented through the medium of symbols, by which the earnest inquirer may obtain more definite conceptions of their character, subjects and objects. The harvest and vintage of God’s wrath, with which the judging and rebuking of the prophets appear to synchronize. The apostle is presented in vision, with a white cloud, and one like the son of man sitting thereon—the Lord Jesus Christ—a priest upon his throne, in the administration of providence.—Rev. 14:14; Zech. 6:13. The angel from the temple, or the ministry of the church, call on the Lord Jesus Christ, for the desolating judgments of the earth, Rev. 14:15. The principal agencies employed in these judgments are the sixth vial, Rev. 16:12, and the seventh trumpet, Rev. 11:15. The latter betokening war, affecting directly, antichristian states; and the former, of consumptive influence, affecting directly, ecclesiastical antichristian politics; and each indifferently affects the object of the other. The harvest is emphatically the work of the Lord Jesus Christ, in providential procedure: Thrust in thy sickle and reap. The immediate instrumentalities are serving a God [i.e., providentially], whom they know not, of course, are not ministers of his ordinances [i.e., they do not hold power by God’s preceptive will], as all the excitements of the day proclaim. Yet they are all his servants, as is inanimate matter.—Ps. 119:91.
The judgments of the Harvest are but preparatory to the more tremendous, in the gathering of the Vintage, Rev. 14:18. The principal agencies of which appear to be the seventh vial, Rev. 16:17, with the reiterated sounding of the seventh trumpet. Debility, consumption and blood, follow in train, the instrumentalities of these prominent symbols. In the preceding, the faithful ministers of the divine ordinances called upon their Lord, to reap the harvest of God’s wrath: but in this, under the superintendence of him whom they serve, the more bold and determined call upon the more timid and irresolute to come to the vintage, while they thrust in the sickle and gather the vine of the earth, and cast it into the wine-press of the wrath of God, to be trodden by their blessed Lord, Rev. 14:17-20. Thus separated forever, the vine of the earth from the true vine, and given up to final ruin are the apostate churches of Christendom. Then will be realized the judging and rebuking, as made known by Isaiah and Micah. Then will the redeemed from the earth and from among men sing as in Rev. 19:1-6.
Having thus followed a series of symbols, with their hieroglyphic instrumentalities and effects, until an eternal separation is effected between the vine of the earth and the true vine, embracing, as is alleged, the period of time from 606 until 1866 [the 1260 year rise, reign and downfall of Antichrist—Lusk views it beginning with the papal ecclesiastical supremacy, but most likely should include papal civil supremacy claimed circa 756 or, perhaps, the crowning of Charlemagne circa 800—the actual beginning will only be known its fulfillment]: another series of symbols is to be traced, with its hieroglyphic instruments and effects. Or, in other words,—agents or instruments serving a God, whom they know not, in executing his judgments upon the civil and ecclesiastical, heathenized and antichristian communities of their time. To another community, running parallel with the others [i.e., the antichristian], the attention must now be directed—to a class of men not as those of the others, serving a God whom they know not; but a class of men who know God and serve him, in whom their fathers trusted, and were not disappointed. This class or company, we are given to understand, is small. Rev. 15:8, and the temple was filled with smoke, &c. The three angels of reform, in succession, or revivals, point out the true vine.
This true vine, or little company, must be ascertained by its faith and practice. By faith, because man is an intelligent creature; and by works, because faith without works is dead. The scriptures of truth are a complete rule of faith and practice.—2 Tim. 3:16; Shorter Cat. Q.&A. #2. To the law and to the testimony, is at all times obligatory on the christian, both from the authority of God and his own voluntary engagements.—Isa. 8:20; Ps. 119:106, verse 59. But to go forth by the footsteps of the flock is equally binding, Song 1:8. Whose faith follow, Heb. 13:7. Examples, admonitory and instructive, are to be regarded, 1 Cor. 10:11; Phil. 3:17. In days of darkness, the works of God, in the light of history, are peculiarly interesting, Ps. 77:11,12. To see grace bestowed, embodied in human form, influencing the individual, so that, Enoch like, he walks himself with God, is surely worthy of consideration. Yea, influencing the social body, to act as a company of horses in Pharaoh’s chariots, is attractive, Song 1:9.
Though at present we are concerned with the second Angel of revival only, yet a glance must be had of the first, in order to ascertain the second and properly estimate his achievements—the attainments of the church.
Prophecy limits, as to time; and the lights of history point to the application of the vision. The Waldenses and contemporaries are the people who had to betake themselves to the valleys, in order to escape from the idolatries, pollutions and tyranny of the mother of harlots [i.e., the Romish church]; and that, free from such annoyances, they might worship the God of their fathers. Even here, the true church degenerated. Here doctrine and worship became corrupted by as appears pagan dogmas and fashionable popish ceremonies. Hence the necessity of reform—a time of refreshing from the Lord, Acts 3:19—of giving them pastors according to his own heart, Jer. 3:15. The court of Rome continuing and increasing her impositions, the celebrated Bernard having gone to his rest, roused Peter Waldo, a rich layman of Lyons, to action. With the word of God in one hand, a sketch of the professed faith of the fathers in the other, and a heart imbued by the grace of God, from the walks of private life, he went forth as the messenger of the Lord of hosts, to instruct the people and revive a languishing cause. He prayed and he preached, and translated the word of God into the vernacular tongue. A time of refreshing from the Lord accompanied and followed—the hearts of the people were made glad. Thus commenced, as is apprehended, the first revival, 1160, and the appearance of the first angel of Reform; whose work, according to the vision, was especially to restore doctrine and worship to their pristine purity and simplicity, Rev. 14:6-8.
Religion again languishes, the church deteriorates, a second revival takes place, and a farther reformation is effected. The second angel, commencing where his predecessor had left off in attainments, takes the beast by the horns, and from confidence in his cause, exclaims: Babylon is fallen, is fallen, Rev. 14:8.
The protestant reformation marks the second revival of languishing integrity; and the great men, whose instrumentality by the grace of God effected it, constitute the second angel of reform:—Zwinglius, Luther, Calvin, &c. with their faithful associates and followers in the work. These worthies, guided by an invisible hand, silently and without consultation, yea, personal knowledge, in a certain respect, prepared combustibles, which, when brought together, were tremendous in the explosion, and in the effects, extensively beneficial.
The work thus begun was carried on, and, as may be supposed, was completed, so far as the second angel is to be considered, in the formularies of the church of Scotland, which were ratified in her full and free assemblies, and sworn to in covenant form, and renewed by all ranks, with the confession of sin and engagement to duties, anno 1648. This period marks an important era in the history of the church, as it respects attainments in general doctrine, and an extensive application of the same. The church of Scotland was an object of admiration to the intelligent and pious of Europe, and a model for England and Ireland, as contemplated in the Solemn League and Covenant. So the true church, the true vine, the little flock, is to be traced from that period. It only will weather the storms which are ahead, and reach in safety the millennial rest.
The Christian has his troubles and his joys in his individual sojournments, that through much tribulation he reaches the place of his rest. Without are fightings and within are fears. The true church of Christ is similarly characterized. She has trouble from within, and from without. In the last days, or New Testament dispensation, she is represented by her Lord, as particularly assailed by a confederate and organized body, which aims at her utter destruction. Rev. 12:7. The duration of this inveterate hostility, and the issue thereof, have been long since made known. Dan. 7:22,25.
The parties engaged in this deadly conflict, should be well known and their character and claims familiar to every mind, that disappointment be not experienced by the warrior, on ascertaining in the end, as it respects himself, that he had fought on the wrong side. His having been deceived will not be sustained as an apology. A knowledge of the hostile armies, the time and the state of the war, are necessary, as pointing out what Israel ought to do. 1 Chron. 12:32.
The antagonist powers are Christ mystical and the Devil incarnate. Rev. 12:7. And there was war in heaven:—Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon fought and his angels. Verse 9th. The dragon is the Devil—that old serpent, called the Devil. The time or duration of this war. A time, times, and the dividing of time, Dan. 7:25. Forty-two months, Rev. 11:2, and 13:5. Twelve hundred and sixty days, Rev. 11:3. A day for a year. Each of these specifications is significant of the same number and period of time, 1260 years.
As the grounds of hostility, are truth and righteousness; a nearer view must be had, that the component parts of the contending and adverse hosts be clearly understood.—On the part of truth and righteousness, is the Lord Jesus Christ, Michael, captain of the Lord’s hosts—Michael and his angels fought. Rev. 12:7. The great Prince, which standeth for the children of God’s people. Dan. 12:1. The Archangel, who contended with the Devil, Jude 9.—And those who are with him, are called and chosen and faithful—Rev. 17:14. These stand with their Lord on Mount Sion, chap. 14:1. The true church of Christ, in their day, 1260 years, chap. 12:1. It is the measured temple of God, in its New Testament organization, chap. 11:1. To this true church, or host of the Lord, in the contest for 1260 years, pertain rulers and ruled—officers and privates, chap. 11:1,3. Notwithstanding I will give power unto my two witnesses &c. Hence the witnessing church—defending truth and righteousness and opposing and condemning the opposite.
These witnesses, as it respects their name, place and work, merit consideration. They pertain to the called and chosen and faithful. To the measured temple; yet are a distinguished and distinct class, as their title, place and work declare.
The term witness, in its general acceptation, is that which manifests the truth of any matter. It may be inanimate, Ps. 19:1,2—or rational, Isa. 43:10. It may be conventional, Josh. 22:27, or natural, Isa. 3:9; Jer. 3:3—of Divine, Gen. 9:13; 17:10,11, or human appointment, Gen. 31:44-48. The term in the present case, denotes a class of men, who expound and apply the word of God and testify against all the votaries of Antichristian superstition and tyranny. The number two, has reference to a case in controversy in law, and two witnesses, at least, are necessary to establish the truth, Deut. 17:6; Matt. 18:16, and these are witnesses in the most emphatic sense—martyrs, Rev. 12:11. Their Captain, Michael, puts forth a special claim of property, in these, as his own—my two witnesses, in reference to the cause of true religion, now before the world, and opposed by the infernal serpent, as embodied in the Antichristian confederacy.
Their place is elevated, conspicuous and commanding. They are especially near to their Lord, not only as saints, but in office, Rev. 12:5. To share in the victory, Ps. 149:9—Rev. 17:14. They are most exposed and the principal sufferers in the contest, chap. 11:5-7. They are the most dreaded by the enemies, verses 10,12. And great fear fell upon them, which saw them.
Their work. This is both common and distinguishing—Common, but especial unto them—distinguishing, as it respects the time.
1. To preach the Gospel; Prophecy, Rev. 11:3; 14:6. 2. Measure the house of God—the temple, its organization, doctrines and laws, worship and the worshippers, by the word of God, Rev. 11:1. 3. Give special attention to the magistracy and ministry, as to their institution, constitution and administration, verse 4. 4. Testify against the ungodly and their deeds, verse 5.—5. Reform and revive the languishing cause, chap. 14:6. 6. Pronounce judgment against the antichristian system and its votaries, chap. 14:9. 7. Call on their Lord to reap the Harvest of God’s wrath, ver. 18. 9. Hand the vials of judgment to the appointed agents, chap. 15:7. And 10. As their blessed Lord, having completed the work, which the Father gave him to do, said it is finished, and gave up the ghost, John 19:30—So they, having finished their testimony, declare, it is done, Rev. 16:17, and seal it with their blood, chap. 11:7. Thus terminate their work and their sufferings.
The Antichrist, or confederate opposition to truth and righteousness, should also pass under review. And the Dragon fought and his angels, Rev. 12:7. In the ninth verse, the Dragon is declared to be that old Serpent, called the Devil. Hence the Devil is the commander and chief of the confederate host. And of course the ranks, which act intelligently, must be actuated by the Spirit of their leader. These are threefold—The state, the apostate church and the papacy, or the Beast, the false Prophet and the image of the Beast.
The State, or civil polity, is the fourth kingdom of Nebuchadnezzar, Dan. 2:40—the fourth beast, in the vision of Daniel, chap. 7:7.—A great red dragon, Rev. 12:3; called that old Serpent, the Devil, embodied in the head and horns of the fourth beast, the agent by which he acts, verse 9:—Beast of the Abyss or pit, Rev. 11:7; 17:8:—Beast of the sea, chap. 13:1:—A scarlet colored Beast, chap. 17:3, having seven heads and ten horns. The power, throne and authority of this Beast, are derived from the dragon—the Devil, chap. 13:2; 12:9.
The ecclesiastic power, or heathenized church, is Daniel’s other little horn, chap. 7:8: John’s heathenized church, Rev. 11:2: Beast of the earth, chap. 13:11:—The great whore, chap. 17:1:—a woman, verse 3:—The mother of harlots, verse 5:—Babylon the great, 18:2:—That great city, verse 18:—False prophet, 20:11. Whose origin and power, are derived, as are those of the secular beast, 2 Thess. 2:9.
The Papacy, or image of the imperial power, Rev. 13:14. This is the creature of the two-horned beast, or Gentile church, verse 14. And it gives power to the image, verse 15.
Such are the component parts, or agents, in this confederacy, against the true church—to wear out the saints of the Most High. Having the same common origin, actuated by the same diabolical principles, and aiming at the same unholy end, harmony must characterize their movements. The secular power is of various service, in the hand of the grand adversary. By it he casts down to the earth, a portion of the Stars, Ministers of the gospel, from the firmament of the ecclesiastic heaven; who prefer the blandishments of State, to serving the Lord and ministering to his saints. And by it he slays the witnesses, Rev. 11:7. It is instigated to deeds of blood by the hierarchy, or two-horned beast, chap. 13:15. Yea, it puts into motion the whole of the Antichristian machinery, chap. 13:12.
This confederacy against the city of God, was familiar to the minds of the pious from the days of Daniel until those of the apostles. With whom it was a matter of frequent conversation, 2 Thess. 2:5—2 Tim. 3:10,14—1 John 2:18; 4:3. And moreover, it is variously designated by these writers.—That man of sin; the son of perdition, 2 Thess. 2:3:—Mystery of iniquity, verse 7:—Antichrist, 1 John 2:18,22; 4:3:—2 John 7. Paul gives the moral character and end of the system and its votaries; Judas-like, John 17:12. John gives impliedly, the moral character; but directly, the attitude of the monster—opposed to Christ. Hence two systems in direct and deadly opposition—truth and falsehood; and the combatants in the field:—Michael and the Dragon, at the head of their respective hosts, Rev. 12:7. And there was war in heaven—the visible church general. With the commencement, the progress, and termination of this war, the Christian should make himself acquainted, that he be not found on the wrong side, in the contest.
The commencement. The act, whereby the war became visible, as is generally alleged, was the constituting Boniface III universal bishop by the bloody Phocas, A.D. 606. [Together with the acquisition of temporal dominion, ceded to pope Stephen by Pepin, A.D. 756.] Thereby the saints were given into the hands of the little horn. And from thence until 1866 , shall the holy city be trodden underfoot, by the Gentile or heathenized church, Rev. 11:2.
In this war of 1260 years duration, there are three interesting epochs, both as it respects the enemy of all righteousness, and as it respects the church of Christ. The adversary puts forth his claims and blasphemies, Rev. 13:6. And he opened his mouth in blasphemy against God, to blaspheme his name, and his tabernacle, and them that dwell in heaven. These blasphemies call for the special bearing and pointed testimony of the two witnesses, in opposition; which will be distinguishing marks of the true witnessing church. Hence the command, measure the temple, &c., chap. 11:1.
The attacks of the Dragon on the friends of true religion are pointed out. The first is the War in heaven, the church general, Rev. 12:7-13. The second, persecution on the earth, verse 12. The third, verse 17.
The success of the witnesses is presented, chap. 14. The first, And I saw another angel fly in the midst of heaven; the church, verse 6. The second revival and reform, And there followed another angel saying, &c., verse 8. The third revival and reform, And the third angel followed them saying, &c., verse 9.
The first period of the war and attack of Antichrist on the saints was in heaven; the nominal church. The secular power, called the great red dragon, waged this war against the woman; the true church, at the instigation of the apostate church. The conflict was long and sanguine [i.e., bloody]. The blood of the protestants, the Albigenses and Waldenses, ran in torrents. The doctrines, the order and the worship of the house of God, and the efficacy of divine grace upon the heart, they maintained at the expense of all which is counted valuable of this world. They loved not their lives unto the death. Their testimony, they sealed with their blood. Subjected to extreme suffering; deprivations, tortures and death, in every form which cruelty and malice could invent; this noble band, under Michael, their prince, with a clear, bold and commanding voice, enjoined upon them, who dwelt on the earth; “Fear God and give glory to him, for the hour of his judgment is come: and worship him that made heaven and earth, and the sea and the fountains of waters,” Rev. 14:7. The war rages, the Vatican thunders, death, banishment and voluntary exile follow. They carried with them the word of truth, exemplified its doctrines and gave evidence of the power of divine grace bestowed upon them. The sympathies of generous bosoms were excited, and the heart being touched by the finger of God, a resolution was formed to take part with the virtuous, the innocent and the oppressed. Yea, the mother of Harlots was herself convulsed; the hearts of some of her own sons, God had touched. They examine the grounds of the controversy; and although tortures and banishment and death stared them in the face; yet with fixed purpose they grasped the standard, so nobly defended by their renowned predecessors, and in assured confidence they exclaimed, Babylon is fallen, is fallen, Rev. 14:8.
The Protestant Reformation, the fruit of the work of the second angel of revival and reform, marks a distinct era, in the history and progress of this contest, between Michael and the great red dragon. The Vatican lost its power, the force of truth was felt, its power was appreciated; the dragon was driven from the citadel; the higher regions of ecclesiastical power. How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer; how art thou cast down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations, Is. 14:12. And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceived the whole world, he was cast out into the earth and his angels were cast out with him, Rev. 12:9.
Ecclesiastical fulminations thus lost their force, and since that period, are the resort of the small tools only, by wreaking personal malice, to gratify their master. Hear Luther: “After I became enabled to answer every objection, that could be brought against me, from the Scriptures, one difficulty still remained, and only one; namely, that the church ought to be obeyed. By the grace of Christ, I at last, overcame this difficulty also.”
The dragon and his angels being driven from heaven, they roam at large upon and in the earth. His malice has not ceased, nor abated toward the woman; the true church, though his station be changed and his mode of warfare different. And the serpent cast out of his mouth, water as a flood, after the woman; that he might cause her to be carried away of the flood, Rev. 12:15.
The year, 1648, as heretofore observed, is an interesting epoch in the history of the church of Scotland; of the true church; of the attainments of the second angel, of revival and reform. The little flock was now possessed of a system of doctrine and order, of various aspect and form, adapted to the different conditions, capacities and attainments of her children, according to covenant engagement. The dragon was angry, corruption became bold, the covenant was violated. Divine institutions [were] profaned, and law, civil and ecclesiastical set at naught. Such a state of affairs, as does appear, was viewed as the result of studied policy, rather than transient and evanescent [i.e., vanishing] in their kind. [In other words, the corruption and deformation was carried out purposively, not unintentionally.]
From the consideration of many being involved, in many and gross violations of the Solemn League and Covenant;—of the hands of many having grown slack in pursuing the duties contained therein;—and of the principle in human nature, on which the duty of covenanting proceeds, the commission of the General Assembly, did, October 6, 1648, appoint and ordain the renovation of the Solemn League and Covenant throughout all the congregations of the kingdom. The renovation was to be accompanied with “a solemn acknowledgment of public sins and breaches of the covenant, and a solemn engagement to all the duties contained therein, especially those relating to the dangers of the times.”
A cursory retrospective view is necessary, in order to ascertain, in some measure, the extent of perfidy, and estimate the character of the times. Prelacy, inexorable in its claims, insinuating and unceasing in its impositions, had, to those who loved religion and liberty, become intolerable, and no longer to be endured. The Presbyterians, vilified and oppressed, looking back to the days of former years, 1580, ‘81, and ‘90, did, 1637-8, resolve to cast off the yoke, under which they had so long suffered. The causes of God’s wrath, they set themselves to ascertain, and the ways and means to be restored to his favor.—They lamented the low state of Zion, they mourned over the abominations of Jerusalem, they confessed that the Lord was righteous in all his ways, and that they had sinned, by breaking the covenant made with him, in and by their fathers, and therefore was wrath poured upon them. Breach of covenant having been found an original source of all their calamities, and knowing that the Parliament and General Assembly only, could redress their grievances, they betook themselves to the means.
Grace being poured from on high, their ardor increased and their number was so augmented, that representatives had to be chosen to manage their concerns. “The petitioners divided themselves into four divisions or tables of nobility, gentry, ministers, and burgesses, which began their meetings with prayer.” [Alexander] Henderson, [David] Dickson, [Samuel] Rutherfurd; and [John] Livingston, [James] Hamilton, [John] McLellan, [Robert] Blair and [Samuel] Row, who had been driven from Ireland, were prominent in these times. In February 1638, the “tables unanimously agreed to renew their national covenant with God. A new bond was formed, after the original bond of 1581, adapted to the circumstances of the time. The articles of Perth [which inculcated popish customs] and other innovations, were referred, by the covenant, to the first free General Assembly.” The new bond thus adapted to the circumstances of the time, “was sworn on the first Sabbath of March, 1638, with great solemnity and subscribed by many thousands. In a few weeks the majority of the kingdom concurred in the covenant [i.e., the National Covenant].”
Being thus dedicated to God, and having begun the work of reform in their persons and families, they laid their grievances before his Majesty [Charles I], praying for redress. The dragon and his angels now fought. Hell was in commotion, the antichristian earth trembled, the occupant of the throne raged and dissembled; and as though the stores of the grand adversary in stratagem, had been exhausted, the council issued a proclamation for the General Assembly to meet at Glasgow, November 21, 1638, and another for a Parliament, to meet at Edinburgh, May 15th ensuing.
The man, who is conscious of guilt, and determined on forbidden objects, will give full scope to malice in the use of means, as occasion offers, to destroy the persons, or render ineffectual the influence of such, as would bring to light the one, or prevent him in the other. Such was the case with Charles, the head of the antichristian combination. The call for a General Assembly and Parliament was forced upon him. His stores of stratagems being exhausted, it was of necessity, not of choice. He knew that the Covenanters were sincere, also, that they were determined. He must therefore play the tiger or the fox, lest that which he feared most should come upon him.
The Covenanters were not ignorant of the devices of the grand adversary. Nor were they strangers to the deceit, treachery and cruelty of his angels. They lived near unto God. They were earnest, importunate and frequent, at the throne of grace. Provision was made for all possible contingencies. They were resolved on meeting the foe, whether he appeared as a tiger, a fox, or a man. The anxiously anticipated, and fearfully apprehended day arrived—November 21, 1638. The members elect were on the ground, with a host of their deeply interested and prayerful constituents. Much argument and altercation obtained, as to legal members, a moderator, clerk, order of proceeding and precedency of matter [i.e., what would be recognised as holding precedent]. The court when organized consisted of 237 members—140 ministers and 97 ruling elders.—These faithful witnesses, were on this occasion, in a new and untried situation. As a lawful meeting of the tribes—a full and free assembly of the Lord’s house, they had now to apply the measuring reed—the word of God, to the temple, the altar and the worshippers thereat, Rev. 11:1. The [General] Assemblies of 1606, ‘08, ‘10, ‘16, ‘17, ‘18, which had been packed and governed by King James, are declared to have been no courts of Christ, but null and destitute of all authority, December 4.—The power and bounds of jurisdiction, as pertaining to presbyteries, and to provincial and general assemblies, is asserted, December 5.—The innovations, as grievances referred by the four tables, are condemned, December 6.—That all Episcopacy, different from that of a pastor of a particular flock, had been abjured in the church and to be removed out of it, is declared, December 8.—The five articles of Perth, as referred by the tables, are declared to have been abjured by the church, in her confession of faith, as it was understood and professed in 1580, ‘81, ‘90, and ‘91 [this is a reference to the King’s Confession, or Covenant, which became the basis for the National Confession or Covenant, 1638], and so ought to be removed out of it, December 10.—Error in doctrine and scandalous practice, as cases came up, condemned—different degrees of censure inflicted—some cases referred to presbyteries, Bishops excommunicated, December 13.—The confession of faith, and national covenant and oath of the church, as renewed in February 1638, are allowed and approved, in all the heads and articles thereof, and ordained to be subscribed, with the determination of the Assembly concerning the articles of Perth, prefixed, December 20, 1638. Thus was the arm of the Lord powerfully revealed, and the city of God set on its own heap.
At this distance of time, it is impossible from a cursory view, to make a proper estimate of the triumph of December 20, 1638. There was no neutral ground, Michael and his angels fought against the dragon and the dragon fought and his angels, Rev. 12:7. Europe felt interested in the contest, and the interest of generations unborn, was involved. The church of Scotland, had, in her reformation from Popery, urged other rights, and put forth more extensive claims, than did her sisters, elder and younger, on the continent. She had put forth the claim, and in virtue thereof, urged her rights and her duty,—that the Lord Jesus Christ, her Lord and Lawgiver, is entitled to the Homage of his people, in their various relations, domestic, civil and ecclesiastic, and to yield this homage, the Scriptures of truth, as a rule of action and of life, in the hand of the Mediator, must be regarded. Her claims were admitted, by her Lord, to be rational, scriptural—JUST, and therefore, was she led on to victory, in open day and deadly conflict, December 20, 1638. The covenant was ratified by Parliament, June 11, 1640, and thus became the constitutional law of the land.
A people thus in covenant with God, and each with the others, in the different relations of life, became, as Zion always should be, being the perfection of beauty, an object of admiration and attraction to the pious of England. Providence, not only, concurred but excited to action. Hence the General Assembly of the church of Scotland, was addressed by some ministers, in England, requesting the Assembly’s advice, as to the form of Government, which they should set up in place of Episcopacy, then, about to be abolished. The Assembly replied, and recommended to them;—UNITY in doctrine, discipline and government, with the kirk of Scotland, August 9, 1641.—The worthies of England were anticipated by the faithful [Alexander] Henderson, who had moved: that the Assembly should take steps for drawing up a Confession of Faith, a Catechism, a Directory for all the parts of Public Worship, and a Plat-form of Government, in which the English and the Scots, probably might afterwards agree. The motion was unanimously approved.—The Assembly is again addressed by some ministers in England, expressing their desire, that Presbyterian government be established among them; and an uniformity in doctrine, discipline and government betwixt the kingdoms—Scotland and England; one Confession of Faith, one Directory of Worship, one Public Catechism and Form of Government; and soliciting the Assembly’s advice, as to the means to advance that work and their assistance therein. The Assembly—shewing their earnestness with God and the endeavors used by them, both with his Majesty and Parliament of England, for the foresaid unanimity:—and that the work be prosecuted by the joint labors of some Divines [i.e., theologians] of both kingdoms, August 5, 1642. Another letter—craving the help of their prayers, in their present danger from a popish and prelatic party; and advice as to what should be done, to have peace with God and the Protestants united more firmly against Antichrist. They are encouraged to go on in the Lord’s work, and to enter with the church of Scotland, in a perpetual covenant with the Lord for themselves and their posterity, August 19, 1643.
A declaration from the Parliament of England—shewing their desire to have an uniformity in Church Government betwixt the kingdoms. The Assembly replies—pressing the same by various arguments, August 3, 1642. An Ordinance of the Parliament of England, for the calling an Assembly of learned and godly Divines and others, &c. June 12, 1643. Also, a declaration and propositions to the General Assembly and Parliament—shewing that they had called an Assembly of Divines, which was then sitting at Westminster.—That they had sent commissioners to Scotland, to treat with the Assembly concerning the interests of both kingdoms, furthering the work of Reformation in England and a nearer conjunction betwixt both churches: desiring the Assembly, according to promise and resolution, to send some godly and learned Divines to the Westminster Assembly, and use their influence in procuring aid to the Parliament of England against the army of the Popish and Prelatic party. Also, entreating for assistance, that the two kingdoms be united into a Strict League for effecting the same, and that Scotland send forces to assist the Parliament against the combination of Papists, Prelates and Malignants, August, 1643. The Assembly replies—That they had sent commissioners to propound, treat, and conclude with the Assembly of Divines and others, in all things, that may conduce to the utter extirpation of Popery, Prelacy, Heresy, Schism, Superstition and Idolatry; and for the settling the so much desired union of the whole Island, in one form of Church Government, one Confession of Faith, one Common Catechism, and one Directory for the Worship of God. Also, their desire to be united with England in a League and Solemn Covenant for maintaining the true reformed religion, and unity and uniformity therein, August, 1643.
For the objects desired, a covenant was proposed. The English commissioners, at first, were for a civil League, and the Scots, for a religious Covenant. Mr. Henderson gave them a draught of a covenant, which he had composed. This at length obtained the “consent of the three committees, of the English Parliament, of the convention of Estates of Scotland and of the General Assembly.” The Solemn League and Covenant being adopted by the three committees, was transmitted to the General Assembly and Convention. “In the Assembly it was received with great applause and adopted with tears and much joy. On the afternoon it passed the Convention of Estates, with the same cordial approbation, and was ordered to be transmitted to the English Parliament for their approbation,” August 17, 1643. “The covenant having been approved by both houses of the English Parliament, and by the Assembly of Divines at Westminster, the members of the latter, with those of the House of Commons, convened in Margaret’s Church, Westminster; and having first solemnly sworn, afterwards subscribed it.” Thus the Solemn League and Covenant became CONSTITUTIONAL LAW in the three kingdoms.
The covenant having been sworn, the ends or objects thereof, were steadily kept in view. The means contemplated for preserving and propagating the true reformed religion and covenant union and uniformity therein were, one Confession of Faith, one form of Church Government, one Directory for Worship and Catechisms.
The Solemn League, as already observed, which contemplated the other formularies, was approved by the General Assembly, August 17, 1643, and by the Parliament, July 15, 1644,—Directory for Worship, approved by the Assembly, February 3, 1645 [by Parliament, February 6, 1645]—Form of church Government, February 10, 1645, approved by the General Assembly—Confession of Faith, approved by the Assembly, August 27, 1647, and by the Parliament, February 7, 1649. The Larger Catechism, approved by the Assembly, July 20, 1648, and by the Parliament, February 7, 1649. The Shorter Catechism, approved by the Assembly, July 28, 1648, and by the Parliament, February 7, 1649. Thus the platform of Doctrine and Order, was completed, as contemplated in the Solemn League and Covenant, whereby the true Church, was distinguished, in organization and purity, from the Mother of Harlots and all her spurious daughters of the time; also, in attainments, from the different companies on the continent, who were pressing forward, from one degree unto another, in Christian acquisition; and moreover from the Dragon and his Angels.
However perfect, may have been, the purgation effected in 1638 and ‘39,—faithful, the application of the measuring reed, to the temple and altar; and complete, the system of doctrine and order:—Zion’s warfare was not yet accomplished:—the 1260 years of trial and of trouble, were not ended. When the camps of Israel, of old, were formed, and the Sanctuary of God, in the midst: that God might, in very deed, dwell among them; orders were given, to put out the unclean, Num. 5:2,4. So also, at the time, under consideration. A leprosy had been spreading from 1639 until 1645, under the influence of Montrose, who, regardless of personal obligations, and of the means, (whereby the mantle of Zion is to cover the earth, viz.: Divine ordinances), beat up for ‘voluntary associations,’ to effect carnal ends, in violation of solemn covenant engagements. The command was then to the faithful watchman:—Rise, measure the worshippers—put out the obstinately unclean. But still did the leprosy spread under the mask of religion, by another leader, the Duke of Hamilton, from 1644 until 1648. The principles in both cases, were the same. In the former, was more candor. In the latter more deceit and treachery—under the mask of religion and the authority of a corrupt Parliament. Again, was the command: put out the unclean, according to the laws of the house. These manifestations of deeply seated and widely spread corruption, gave occasion for the renewing of the covenant, as a mean, by the blessing of God, whereby the progress of corruption might be arrested, and he be not provoked to depart, and give his strength into captivity, and his glory into the hands of the enemy.—The convictions of the pious, were clear and their hearts were in unison, as to the duty and the necessity of renewing their covenant with God, and each, with the other, that God may delight to dwell among them.
The Commission of the General Assembly, did, as stated above, appoint and ordain the renovation of the Solemn League and Covenant, Oct. 6, 1648. Which, on the 14th of the same month, was approved, and its observance enjoined, by the Committee of Estates. “Which was universally subscribed and sworn through all the land.” The parliament soon after met and ratified the approbation of the renovation of the Covenant, by their committee. The parliament moreover enacted, (Charles I being off the stage): “That before any future king shall by oath, and under his hand and seal, declare his allowance of the National Covenant and of the Solemn League—pursue the ends of the same, in his station; and for himself and successors, agree to acts of parliament enjoining the Solemn League and Covenant and fully establishing Presbyterian Government, the Directory for Worship, the Confession of Faith, and Catechisms [Larger and Shorter], as approved by the General Assembly and Parliament.” And that “all civil matters be determined by the parliaments of this kingdom, and all church affairs, by the General Assemblies.” The general assembly approved and ratified the deeds of their late commission, July 7, 1649. The covenant being now renewed—the breaches thereof solemnly and publicly confessed, and the contrary duties engaged to, in the strength of promised grace, under formal oath; a time of refreshing from the presence of the Lord, was to be expected, by those who were sincere in the work. Not the swearing of the covenant but the application of the act of Classes, in church and state, with that for purging the army and judicatories, brought fully to light the extent of corruption and made manifest the faithful. See Informatory Vindication.
However many laudable acts may be justly attributed to the Convention of Estates and General Assembly of ‘49, it must be confessed that they both gave too much encouragement to their malignant opponents. On the 30th of Jan. ‘49, justice had been executed on Charles I; and on the 5th of Feb. following, his son, an exile in a foreign country, and excluded from the throne by the British House of Commons, was proclaimed king, by the Scots. The assembly did, Aug. 6, ‘49, send a complimentary letter to the exile. It is true, they honestly apprise him of the errors of his life, their detestation of the sectaries against his father, and exhort him to reform!! What feature of moral character did he possess, that he should have been thus regarded? A vile incestuous debauchee, in every sense of the phrase. Alas! the force of habit and the cozening efficacy of circumstances. Mine eye affects my heart is at all times important. Charles, proclaimed by the parliament, as above, was, by the general assembly, on certain conditions, invited home, July 27, ‘49, the faithful Adam Kae only, protested against it. Livingston served as commissioner to Breda against a reclaiming conscience. Instigated by his malignant advisers, Charles dissembled and returned to Scotland. Before landing he swore and subscribed the covenants, June 23, 1650, as the church and state had prescribed. Having sworn the Covenants, he however refused to subscribe and publish his own and his father’s wickedness, and declaration of his future resolutions, offered to him by the proper authorities. The commission of the assembly and committee of Estates, by an act, Aug. 13, `50, precluded his being admitted to power, but on rendering the required satisfaction, and stated the ground on which the army was to fight—on their former principles, apart from malignant and sectarian views.—Disappointed in getting to power his malignant friends, he published at Dunfermline, Aug. 14, ‘50, a declaration, confessing his own sins and those of his father and mother, as regarded the Reformation.
Let us trace the consequences on admitting this malignant and incendiary [i.e., Charles II] to familiarity and power. The army, but partially purged [of those who were not Covenanters], and the head of the malignants influential in its movements, forced from strong entrenchments by the committee of war, was defeated by Cromwell, at Dunbar, Sept. 3, `50. This was matter of satisfaction to Charles, and furnished an occasion for another effort to get his friends into power. Accordingly, by his parliament he packed a quorum (17) of the Commission of the General Assembly at Perth, Dec. 14, ‘50, and required of them, “What persons might be admitted to rise in arms to assist the standing forces against the armies of the English Sectaries [i.e., Cromwell’s troops]?”—The packed quorum gave their sibylline response—THE PUBLIC RESOLUTIONS.
Cromwell, distinguished in his days, for covert design, habitual duplicity and successful enterprise, had furnished an example, worthy of imitation for the deceitful and ambitious, who might come after. His maxim, in order to effect conviction, was, to disarm nine and put the sword in the hand of the tenth. Practising on this maxim, he NEW-MODELED the army, and by it, NEW-MODELED the parliament of England. Charles II., a leagued enemy to truth and righteousness, availed himself of the successful example. The acts of Classes, of church and state, stood counter to his object. These must therefore be rendered unavailing or rescinded. The resolutions of the packed quorum of the commission of the General Assembly, opened the way for rendering the former nugatory, so that the army was soon under the control of Belligerents, and was thus new-modeled. By the Delphic response [i.e., a response which contains strategic ambiguity] of the commission and the prostitution of the discipline of the church, the army was now [made according] to his mind. The parliament must also be new-modeled. But the act of Classes excluded from civil office, the malignants [i.e., those who were not Covenanters, either because they were barred from the oath due to moral deficiency, or refused to subscribe due to difference in religious belief]. Accordingly, the commission, April 1651, are interrogated relative to rescinding the act of Classes, in order to carry out fully the resolutions of December 14, 1650. As in the former case, so in this, a sibylline [i.e., Delphic] response was given.—The act of Classes was rescinded, the parliament new-modeled; and the power, both civil and military, placed in the hands of those, who were known to be enemies to the civil and religious liberties of the kingdom. Thus were the rights and liberties of Zion’s children, delivered up to the enemy, by her own professed and sworn sons.
These public resolutions eventuated in obliterating the co-ordinate and inverting the relative, standing of church and state; and rendered void their covenant standing and obligations: They occasioned heart burnings, anger and strife; and effected a schism in the body of Christ: And they opened the way for all the suffering, tyranny and blood, which followed.
So soon as the anti-resolutioners were apprised of the Delphic response of the pro re nata meeting of the packed quorum of the commission, did they stand upon their watch, and betake themselves to their tower, to watch and to see, what they should answer to the interrogatories of the lambs of the flock, in this eventful crisis;—when calling ‘watchmen what of the night, watchmen what of the night?’ They sounded the alarm in clear, distinct and well defined expressions. They condemned, in unequivocal terms, the public resolutions; and claiming neither to be prophets nor prophet’s sons, cast a glimmering light on the scenes of suffering and distress about to ensue. The commission at its regular stated meeting was met by many, with grounds of dissatisfaction with, and opposition to, the public resolutions, from Synods and Presbyteries. In a short time, the grounds of dissatisfaction became matter of solemn public protestation. The resolutioners meeting as the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, 1651, ‘52, proceeded to, and established as law, and a term of communion or qualification for office, the public resolutions. That those, who desired to be faithful might not be turned aside through fear, from phantoms of law, and forms of prostituting the order of the house of God, the protestationists published their solemn protest against both meetings, as not being lawful meetings of the tribes of the Lord, nor free courts of Jesus Christ. They rendered their judgments, in the case, obvious, by facts bearing on established law. Hence the appellations, Resolutioners and Protestors, whereby the parties were distinguished.
That the Reformed covenanted church of Scotland, in visible organization, previous to the schism in 1650, was the true church of Christ and the purest of the time, professing and sworn to hold the doctrines and order—the profession and attainments of the second angel of revival and reform [Rev. 14:8], is a position taken for granted. A corollary will therefore necessarily appear. The different organic ecclesiastic bodies of that time, or since, standing in open, avowed and determined opposition to the doctrines, order and organization of that ecclesiastical body, cannot as such, reach the Millennial rest; but must be viewed as sects—things which can be shaken, in order to be removed; on the side of the dragon, in the great contest of 1260 years duration; opposed to Michael and his angels; angry with the woman and her witnessing children;—and exercising hostility against the remnant of her seed.
The parties in the schism of 1650 demand a careful consideration. Which was schismatic, and which, if either, continued the identity, and remained the same moral person. Or, whether both became synagogues of Satan?
The continuing to profess and maintain the received formularies of the church, may be taken as evidence of the soundness of faith, as to doctrine and order, and a due regard to the oath of the covenant and ecclesiastic statute. The Resolutioners, in exemplifying the doctrines contemplated by the resolutions, infringed their plighted faith, as embraced in the oath of the covenant, as it respected the union with England; bringing the enemies of the reformation to places of power, civil and military; aiding and abetting illegal and proscribed unitive and corporate bodies; the doctrine concerning the civil magistrate; express provisions in the Solemn League and Covenant; their own profession of repentance and engagement to duties at renewing of the covenant 1648, and the several acts of the assembly and parliament for keeping pure the church, the army and the councils of State. In a word, the public resolutions were the prime and leading step of defection; approved of, and put in execution with the consent of the corrupt part of the ministry of the church. The Protestors were sincere, uniform and determined, in preserving, maintaining and transmitting pure and entire, the doctrines, order and reforming statutes of the church, & exemplifying the same, as occasion offered. The Montrose association and the Hamilton expedition, had brought fairly before the General Assembly in 1644 and ‘48 the leading principles of the resolutions, and tested the integrity of members, as to their covenant engagements, in relation to the union of the kingdoms, immoral confederacies, &c. A bond or constitution was framed and subscribed at Oxford, by the Scots malignant Lords, to form combinations, such as that under Montrose to act against the Covenanters, in favor of Charles I., the head of the malignants. The combination consisted of Papists, Prelatists and Malignants. The association bond was condemned by the General Assembly, June 3, 1644. And declared to be a perfidious bond; the association, an unnatural confederacy; and the subscribers and those accessory to the framing of it, deserving the highest censures of the kirk [i.e., church].
The Hamiltonian expedition against England, was composed of similar elements, and conducted on the same principles, as that of Montrose, but under the authority of a corrupt majority in parliament. Against which Argyle and 56 others, members of parliament protested. The commission remonstrated, and urged the parliament to make manifest the grounds of the war; and that if lawful, that it should be carried on without any concurrence with Papists, Prelatists or Malignants. They insisted for satisfaction as to the grounds of the war and the lawfulness of the means for carrying it on. They declared it to be, as things stood, inconsistent with the union of the kingdoms; contrary to the word of God, and their Solemn Covenants;—and that zeal was pretended against the sectarians [i.e., those who were not Papists, Prelatists or Presbyterians], merely for a cloak to the favor, which they intended for Malignants. The General Assembly July 1648; approved and ratified the proceedings of their commission. Thus corruption was working and gaining strength in the church, but as yet the wicked feigned submission. The public resolutions, however, gave the ascendency to corruption—Hence the schism, and the schismatics, the majority. The Resolutioners were therefore the covenant breakers—the schismatics.
But as the leaves of a profession, and the avowing of doctrine and order; are not in all cases conclusive evidence, that the community is the true and the pure church of Christ, on the side with Michael against the dragon and his angels, so in the present case, faith without works is dead. The parties must make manifest their faith by their works.
In connection with the profession,—the avowing of doctrine and order must be taken, the lively apprehensions entertained, by the parties, toward God; and toward each other. In days of prosperity, the people of God rejoice, and devote of secular time, a portion, for thanksgiving and praise: but in days of adversity, they consider—they look to their ways with earnest inquisitiveness, they request of him, who rules over all, with intense feeling, to shew, wherefore he is contending with them. They will entreat, with inexpressible solicitude, to shew them the right way. For these purposes, these earnest inquirers will devote, of secular time, for humiliation and fasting,—to afflict their souls before God—rending their hearts and not their garments.
In the aspect of living near to God, let the parties be viewed. In the attitude of giving thanks unto God, because of success in measures pursued; or humbling themselves before God, because of disappointment and disaster.
Previous to the defeat at Dunbar, September 3, 1650, many of the Scots horse[men] were drawn out to skirmish with the English, by whom they were, with loss and shame driven back to the trenches. These unsuccessful sallies caused much disheartening and astonishment through the whole army. This gave occasion for the commission to search out and inquire of the Lord for the causes of the disaster.—After some pains taken therein, it was found, that there had been a malignant design, for bringing in again, the malignant party, of a long time hatching, and carrying on, by sundry in the judicatories and army; and that it was far promoted and advanced. They enumerated several particulars, of moment and consequence, as grounds of humiliation, and presented them to the committee of Estates, to be kept by them and the army. The committee of Estates rejected the grounds of humiliation, with whom they were left by the commission, declaring that they would be answerable to God, who was contending for these things. Did the committee of Estates ordain thanksgiving? No.—Again. After the defeat at Dunbar, the presbytery with the army, drew up causes of fasting and humiliation, which were approved by the commission of the General Assembly,—stating, as to the crooked courses pursued in the treaty with the king:—obstructing the purging of the army; of the judicatories, civil and ecclesiastic;—of the king’s family: not distinguishing of instruments of employed in public trust, in the judicatories and armies. Yet [these causes] were rejected, and not so much as read or intimated, by many ministers in their congregations; and refused to be acknowledged, by sundry statesmen and officers in the army, and others who were guilty of them. Did they appoint a day of thanksgiving?—No: as in the former case, their joy they covered.
Also [they rejected], the remonstrance of the gentlemen, ministers and forces of the west [of Scotland], who had refused concurrence with the measures of the times. The testimonies of Synods and Presbyteries to the commission, relative to the resolutions concerning the levy [i.e., the making of war]—all rejected.
From the foregoing facts, it must be obvious, that corruption had extensively leavened the body. That those who desired to be faithful in the house of God, were unable to measure the worshippers, so as to purge the church of the unclean. This gave occasion to the famous James Guthrie, faithful unto death, to declare, among his last words, his own experience in the case: “That he was hated for his endeavors to get the church of God purged of corrupt ministers and elders.” The church having become unable to purge herself by her own laws, her glorious Head took the business into his own hand, to effect, in providence, by judgments, what his servants, by the laws of his house, had been unable to accomplish. The resolutions were the special instruments, in the hands of designing and unprincipled men.
Though a packed quorum of the commission, at a pro re nata meeting [i.e., a meeting convened due to occasion, rather than previously stated purpose], had draughted the resolutions; though these resolutions were sanctioned by the commission, at its regular meeting; though these resolutions were approved by the packed General Assembly; notwithstanding, even in the corrupt and treacherous commission were found men, who were still faithful in the house, and who dared to shew unto Jerusalem all her abominations. Hence “the causes of God’s wrath.”
The causes of God’s wrath were draughted by the faithful of the commission of 1650, with the counsel of friends from different parts of the kingdom, and completed, October 1651. They were laid out before the Lord, by the Protestors, on several days of humiliation.—This document is still entitled to regard, both as an evidence of faithfulness on the part of those, who draughted it; and as a pattern to follow in subsequent times. The faithful should contrast it with the causes of fasting, in modern times. Hear a Resolutioner on the subject, “Such as had been appointed members of the commission by the Assembly of 1650 and sundry of their friends, who disliked the public resolutions, soon after drew up a representation of the causes of God’s wrath against the nation, and an acknowledgment of the sins of the ministry, the most full and candid, perhaps, that ever was published in the christian church,” [John] Brown [of Wamphray]. The testimonies and causes of humiliation and fasting from time to time, clearly distinguish this people from the Resolutioners; evidence the sanctified power of the doctrines professed, and the identity of the moral person—the Reformed Presbyterian Church.
The Resolutioners, as it appears, however affected by the changes of the times, were not disposed to ask counsel of God, in order to know the right way, or to ascertain the grounds of his controversy with them.
But this is not all. As would appear—they were, not only a prayerless people, as it respected the causes of God’s wrath, but they gave full scope to the exercise of the innate depravity of the human heart, against the Protestors, as occasions offered. They hated them with a deadly hatred. “And ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake,” Matt. 10:22. “If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you,” John 15:18. When the meetings of the General Assembly were prohibited by Cromwell, observes the pious Brown: “It did the less hurt, as the Resolutioners, in their courts, chiefly aimed at supporting their own authority, and crushing their protesting brethren.” And further: “Deprived of civil assistance from Charles and his malignant favorites, to persecute the Protestors, by fines, imprisonment, or death; the public Resolutioners persecuted them with manifold reproaches.” The same historian adds: “That it is hard to say, if the prelatic persecution made their (Protestors) circumstances a whit worse, than the Resolutioners would have made them.”
The principles which actuated the Resolutioners, are farther discovered by the agent employed to manage their business with Cromwell, and with Charles after the Restoration. SHARP, a Presbyterian Resolutioner, was their agent to Cromwell, 1655. This Sharp, as history informs, had murdered his own child, cast off its mother, his real wife; and lived in open and habitual adultery with another woman!!! Being unsuccessful with Cromwell was no ground to demur from paying court to Charles. Sharp betrayed his constituents, and slandered them to Charles, by declaring that not so much as twenty of the Resolutioners would oppose the establishment of Episcopal government. Still, under another aspect, is hatred manifested—Under the mask of office. The Assembly of 1651 [i.e., the Resolutioner Assembly], [which was but pretended and] ‘null,’ by the standing acts, the practice of the church, and by natural law [i.e., principles common to human societies], deposed three and suspended one of the ministers, because they had protested against the validity of their constitution. Whether official perjury was chargeable, from these acts, is not difficult of solution. Nor would a conscientious, intelligent man, linger in forming a judgment, of the relative desirableness of the places occupied, by the perpetrators of the deeds and the subjects thereof. The same principles continued to operate, though malice was more covert, until the Revolution, after which they appeared in all their former forbidding aspects. See covert malice in the cases of [Donald] Cargill, [Richard] Cameron, [Robert] M’Ward, [Alexander] Shields, &c.—Again, after their [i.e., the Resolutioners] political establishment [i.e., after the Revolution, 1688-9], undisguised, in open day. See the cases of [John] Hepburn, [James] Gilchrist, [John] Taylor, [John] M’Millan, [John] M’Niel, [Ralph & Ebenezer] Erskine, [Thomas] Nairn, &c. [These cases all involved the Assembly’s censuring and attempts to silence those individuals who testified against the Church's backsliding from its biblical, constitutional principles.] Discipline exercised under the influence of malice, is more frequently to be viewed as official perjury than as an ordinance of the house of God.
The principles of the public resolutions, as carried out by the Resolutioners, present in bold relief, to the contemplative mind, the Protestors, as the true church of Christ, whose real members ‘partook of the root and fatness of the olive tree;’ as distinct from all other fellowships, as the camps of Israel appeared to Balaam of old. They render visible the graphic portrait of the Apostle, Rev. 13:3. And all the world (antichristian earth, 17:8), wondered (made courtship to, fawned, flattered and submitted to, Jude 16, Rev. 17:8) after the beast (immoral power, Dan. 7:3).
The Protestors, were signally distinguished, by their days of humiliation and the causes thereof:—Their pointed testimonies, as occasions offered:—Their unconquerable attachment to the doctrines and order of the church:—Their unceasing care to stand distinct from the infidel and the heretic in a unitive or corporate capacity: Their zeal for divine institutions, and opposition to the contrary, as substitutes: Their integrity, choosing rather to suffer affliction with a good conscience, than yield the cause of God to the enemy; yea, to seal their testimony with their blood rather than submit to the enemy and transmit to their children a mutilated testimony.
In their distinctive principles and practice they stood at an observable distance from communities, which can be shaken and overthrown; and constitutions which are to be destroyed. They had days of joy and of sorrow;—times of refreshing from the presence of the Lord; of dimness and weakness; of side influences and the effects thereof.
Of the times and prominent actors, from 1650 till 1712, certain periods and persons are strikingly marked, and calculated to command attention. When iniquity abounds, the love of many waxes cold; and when coldness obtains, apathy, as to distinguishing points, will intrude. Such appears to have been the case, 1679. When the indulgence was issued, a deep sleep had fallen on the ministers, to a certain extent. [John] Welwood and others preached against the indulgence; [John] Kid pointed it out as a duty, to separate from them [i.e., the Indulged ministers]; but [Richard] Cameron, the Athanasius of Scotland in the case, preached against them, their abettors, and the abominations of the time, and exemplified his doctrines by practice. Hence his followers are honored with the appellation, Cameronians, which declares them to be a distinct people, separated by well defined lines, from all those fellowships, which avouch not the Lord Jesus Christ, as their king and lawgiver, and who alone is able to save all, who come unto God by him; and who exemplify not in practice such to be their faith.
[James] Renwick took up the testimony as maintained by and sealed with the blood of his immediate predecessors. [Alexander] Shields, after his recovery from his fall, joined with him, to maintain the testimony, and hold fast the word of Christ’s patience.
The doings and sayings of the saints, as distinguished from their faithful pastors, in those trying times, are worthy of being kept in remembrance. They will refresh the memory, as exemplifying the fact, which happened to the exile in Patmos, Rev. 5:5. And one of the elders, the saints, the common people said, &c. When Grace was poured from on high, in 1637 & ‘38, these were made to partake largely of the bounty; though few in number, comparatively, before; now they were as the grass of the field. The cause of truth and righteousness, engaged their attention and enlisted all their powers. They urged their faithful pastors to take the way and adopt the means, which by the grace of God would effect a reformation. The renewing of the covenant having been viewed as the mean, best adapted to their condition and object, and as promising success; they pressed their faithful guides to the work, which was essayed, with joyful hearts, on the first Sabbath of March, 1638. But this was not all. They would not only carry their guides in their bosoms to the throne of Grace, that their hands might be strengthened and their hearts encouraged in the great work, wherein they were engaged; but proposed to accompany them in person, to Glasgow, where danger was apprehended, when the Assembly would meet. Such men would put to flight armies of the aliens. They pressed for the renewing of the covenant.
Again, when the public resolutions were emitted, and the protestations of the faithful published, the lambs of the flock soon signified their preference. They would travel many miles to wait on the ministry of a Protestor, when the services of a Resolutioner could have been had at the door. They would not drink the waters of the sanctuary, which were muddied by the priests’ feet, Ezek. 34:18,19.
When deprived of their faithful guides, as after the deaths of Cameron and Cargill, they resorted to the exercise of their natural rights, and met by delegation to have mutual counsel, joint and well understood acts, in reference to the public cause, the manner and means for maintaining it, and their duties severally and conjointly in the case; such as those of Renwick and M’Millan.
The renovation of the Covenants at Auchensaugh, 1712, adapted to the times, and the circumstances of the Covenanters, marks another epoch in the history of the Protestors, as distinct from the Resolutioners, and like to the youthful, intrepid and faithful Cameron, 32 years before. The number of the witnesses increased, and they emitted a judicial testimony, historical and doctrinal, 1761 [i.e., the “Act, Declaration and Testimony”]. To this point the witnessing Church is easily traceable. From that period to the present eventful times, she is to be followed, so as to ascertain her standing, and character as distinct from all the fellowships of the time. Her doctrines and practice as opposed to the Resolutions of 1650, and the practice of their abettors, will be tested, whereby she may be known, until the great voice shall have come out of the temple of heaven, from the throne, saying, It is done, Rev. 16:17.
So much having been effected by the first and second Angels of Revival and Reform, it might be asked: Was there either necessity for, or propriety in, the issuing of an additional document, under the sanction of judicial authority?—From the constitution of man, as a reasonable and accountable creature—the character of the church as witnessing for the rights of her Lord; her own rights and duties, with those of her children, testifying against the doctrines and practice, and abettors, who would oppose, in whole or in part, the rights and duties of the others; it would appear not only proper, but necessary.—Her subordinate standards, of faith and practice, however extensive in their provisions, and adapted to the different capacities of the saints, are in didactic form.—Her children, represented as warriors, contending for all divine truth and opposing the contrary errors—fighting against principalities and powers, Eph. 6:12, must be taught the use of the bow: so that they dogmatise not in didactic declaration, but have arguments at command and be familiar with the modes of reasoning. From these considerations, a manual, of polemic aspect, would appear indispensable.
The Presbytery of the Reformed Covenanted Church of Scotland, so soon as in capacity, being convinced of the necessity of Emitting a judicial Testimony, to discover to the world, the principles, upon which, as a judicatory of the Lord Jesus Christ, they stood in opposition to the different professed judicatories of the land; together with the agreeableness of their principles, to the word of God and the covenanted constitution of the church of Scotland in her purest periods, did, therefore, emit their testimony; for which the reasons are assigned.—Because this duty of bearing witness for truth and declaring against all error, and defection from it; and transmitting the same uncorrupted to posterity, is expressly enjoined on the Church, Ps. 78:5; Isa. 62:10; Matt. 10:32; John 15:27; Acts 1:8.—Because such has been the constant practice of the Church, in all ages, when in such capacity, judicially to assert and declare their approbation of the truths of the Everlasting Gospel, and of the attainments of the Church, joined with the condemnation of all contrary error, Phil. 3:16; Rev. 3:3. Harmony of the Confessions and Covenants of the Reformed Church, is evidence, in the case.—Because, since the overthrow of the glorious structure of Reformation, never has any church judicatory, constituted purely on the footing of our covenanted establishment, appeared in a judicial vindication of our Redeemer’s interests and injured rights.—Because of the unspeakable loss to the present generation amidst so many contradictory principles.—To remove, or render palpable, unmerited reproach.—And, to serve as a mean under the divine blessing, for gathering again the scattered flock of Christ, the chief shepherd, to the one sheepfold, and putting a stop to the current of prevailing apostasy and defection.
In justice to the subject, an analysis of the formulary should be given.
[The Act, Declaration and Testimony, 1761,] is an instrument, which merits attention, from the time, in which it was written; the character, circumstances and faithfulness of the compilers; its parts, lucid declaration, and pointed argument.—To evidence regard to the injunction, Song 1:8; to exemplify the resolution of the psalmist, Ps. 77:12; and tell to the generation following, Ps. 48:13; 145:4, a historical view of the church, in Scotland, from A.D. 300 till 1688, is given: with a judicial approbation of the earnest contendings and attainments of the faithful, and a strong and pointed judicial condemnation of error and the promoters thereof. This retrospective view furnishes matter for the young and for the aged disciple, to contemplate their glorious Lord, in providential procedure, towards his own people;—to distinguish between the providential and preceptive will of God; to estimate his people as weighed in the balances of the sanctuary;—and their own profession, covenant and organic identity with the faithful, who have gone before. Argument of principle, arising from historical facts, follows; and the document closes with doctrinal declaration in testamentary and polemic form.
The church of Christ, in the loose and general acceptation of the term, is entitled to consideration; but the measured temple, as distinct from the outer court, Rev. 11:2, claims particular attention. Because, it is entitled, not only to the common designation, but distinguished by special and specific appellations:—The flock of the slaughter, Zech. 11:4,7.—Witnesses, Isa. 63:10,12; 64:8.—Acts 1:8—Rev. 11:3.—Little flock, Luke 12:32.—Stone cut out of the mountain, Dan. 2:45.—And in organization or fellowship, is destined to break in pieces—demolish antichristian powers, Dan. 2:45.—Survive the effects of the harvest, vintage and vials of God’s wrath, Rev. 11:11. Heirs of Abraham, Rom. 4:13. Whose kingdom shall not pass to other people, Dan. 2:44.—This interesting object was contemplated, by the Apostle, in Patmos, with no ordinary emotions, Rev. 12:1. Her clothing is wrought of gold, the righteousness of her Lord. Her head adorned with the doctrines of the Apostles, and their successors, her faithful pastors, who are ever, her stars and her crown. And in possession of the means—divine ordinances, by which her children grow in grace;—and by which, in her aggressive character, and attractive influences, she lengthens her cords, and strengthens her stakes.
The witnessing church, or flock of slaughter, was an object of no less interest to our fathers, in the days of the Reformation, than to the Apostle in his exile. They were all attentive to the divine injunction: Rise, and measure the temple of God, &c. Rev. 11:1; and that everything pertaining to the sacred edifice, be in accordance with the pattern shewn in the mount of objective revelation—the revealed will or word of God. To the law and the testimony was their constant practice, Isa. 8:20.
In general. This witnessing church and members thereof, are externally in covenant with Christ, their head;—have one and the same Lord;—profess the same faith, in doctrine and worship;—receive the same seals of God’s covenant;—and are thereby bound to hold fast the head; be subject to his authority;—keep the faith, which they have received;—maintain a holy communion and fellowship in the worship of God:—Abide by the standard of Christ, their captain and leader;—and lift up the banner of divine truth, in opposition to all their enemies:—To preserve inviolate the sacred depositum of truth;—not relinquishing any part in profession or practice:—and that the receders from any part of divine truth, which has been received and professed, are guilty of rebellion against God, and a violation of their own voluntary engagements.
As to order and government. The members are distinguished, by rulers and ruled; and the government, presbyterian, and that of divine right. The altar or matter and forms of religious worship have also, to be measured by the word of God. The worshipers, or those who have a right to, and partake of her privileges, must be measured by the same unalterable rule, as to faith and practice, in the various relations, which they sustain.
God having, for his own glory and the public good, authorized and instituted in his word, the office and ordinance of civil government and governors, the constitution investing with office, and the personal qualifications for office, must be, as required by infinite wisdom, in his word, in order to constitute moral authority. In the ordinance of ministry and the magistracy the relation between the rulers and ruled, is voluntary and mutual in the constitution thereof.
These general principles, [are, in the Act, Declaration and Testimony, 1761, displayed] in their application, according to the word of God and the practice of the church of Scotland, [and] have for objects in a witnessing church, THE truth, justifying the confessors and martyrs of Christ, in their faithful adherence unto it: Testifying against sin, and condemning the wicked for their wickedness.—Those who testified against the Public Resolutions, [and] Cromwell’s usurpation;—[Those who maintained the] Acts of Assembly and Parliament in the reforming period;—Christ’s confessors and martyrs after the Restoration, are approved. They testify against the Public Resolutions of Church and State;—the usurpation of Cromwell with those, who owned and submitted themselves to his authority, and his toleration;—The restoration of Charles 2d, and his administration;—The silence of the church through the influence of the Resolutioners;—The treachery of the covenanted kingdoms, in advancing the duke of York [James 7th, of Scotland; the same being king James 2d] a professed papist to the throne. The Revolution settlement, both civil and ecclesiastic, is condemned. William and Mary were advanced to the throne, contrary to the word of God, and in violation of covenant engagements. Many of the members of the first Parliament, in the Revolution settlement, were guilty of murder, perjury and oppression;—The constitution, because of its framers, its general character, and specific provisions.—The ecclesiastic settlement is also condemned. The General Assembly [after the Revolution] was not a lawful Court of the Lord’s house. Many of the members, were no less, if not more exceptionable than those of the state, yet dared to approach God, as ministers of the sanctuary with unwashen hands, 2 Chron. 30:3; Ezek. 44:10,13;—The constitution is Erastian, &c.—The constitutions of both Church and State were Erastian and antiscriptural, so the administration being conformable thereto, is condemned. The church and state for their sinful associations with malignants, are testified against; and the church for having on all occasions, said a confederacy with such as shewed a rooted enmity and hatred at reformation principles.—[Also] the Associate Synod [known as the Seceders], for error in doctrine, treachery in covenant, partiality and tyranny in discipline and government, is protested and argued against.—[Additionally] the Renovation of the Covenants [National and Solemn League] at Auchensaugh, 1712, is approved and homologated.
Thus, in 1761, stood separate and distinguishable, amidst the nominally christian world, the flock of slaughter,—the actually witnessing church of Christ. But further, in her specific character, her duties are pointed out,—to preserve herself pure, that God might dwell in her;—and that she might realize the promise to the father of the faithful—the heir of the world—The little stone became a great mountain.
1. As to ministerial and church communion. The Presbytery testify against all such fellowship with such as are destitute of those qualifications, indispensably required by the Church’s head;—Enter not into office, by the door, which he has appointed;—own another head than Christ;—or apostatize from the truth and cause of Christ formerly espoused.—Also, against all active owning and countenancing of such, by attending upon any of their corrupt official ministrations;—or receiving of any ordinances from them.
2. As to civil government. They [the Presbytery] reject and condemn, whatever does justly and in its own nature, imply a voluntary and real acknowledgment of the lawfulness of the title and authority of an antiscriptural civil government.—Such as praying for its continuance;—Swearing oaths of fidelity and allegiance;—accepting any office, and executing these, in their name and authority under them;—military associations, by a voluntary enlistment, for their support and establishment. These are voluntary actions,—yet care must be had, as to such actions & things, as are necessary,& in themselves just and lawful, by a moral obligation, and those that are not so;—as also, betwixt that, which cannot be had, nor the value or equivalent of it, unless the person actually give it, and that which may be obtained, whether he actually contribute to it or not.
3. [The Presbytery testify against] voluntary associations, unitive or corporate bodies to effect moral ends, or reformation:—whose members are of different and opposite principles—all religious professions& no religious profession. The church is the depository of the word of God—the rule of faith and practice, Isa. 2:3;—the agent, Dan. 2:44;—and divine ordinances, the means, by which moral reform is to be effected, Ps. 50:2; Rev. 12:2. The moon under her feet. Are these corporate bodies of divine institution? Are they, the church of Christ in her agency?
Again, they must be such, as to moral character, that God will dwell in, and prosper them, Num. 5:2,3; Deut. 23:9,10,14; Jos. 7:11; 2 Chron. 25:7.—Farther, the precept [demands such], Ex. 23:32; 34:12,13; Deut. 7:3; 1 Kings 11:2,3; Jer. 10:2; Ps. 106:35. [Otherwise], why the command? Ex. 34:13. Why destroy inanimate things? Why the prohibition, think not, Isa. 8:12? In these texts the desires and active powers are contemplated, Prov. 4:23; Isa. 1:5.
Montrose and his confederates, gave occasion for the subject to come before the General Assembly of the church of Scotland, more than once. The Oxford bond, or constitution of the confederates, is condemned, as being a perfidious bond; and the association, as being an unnatural association or confederacy, June 3, 1644. Act of Classes, whereby censure is awarded, according to the degree attaching to the confederates, June 17, 1646. Which, as would appear, repudiates the principle on which such associations are founded. Again, “that none guilty in the first class, be received into ecclesiastical charge, until the evidence of his repentance before the presbytery and congregation, be reported to the Synod, to which he belongs and to the General Assembly, and without the consent and approbation of these courts severally, he cannot be a member in any of these courts,” Aug. ult. 1647.
Duke Hamilton’s engagement, under the sanction of Parliament, brought the subject again before the General Assembly. The commission of the General Assembly insisted on the Parliament to make obvious the lawfulness of the war; and that if it should be found lawful, it should be carried on without the concurrence of Papist, Prelatists or Malignants. The Parliament, in their reply, declare that they would enter into no association, with Papist, Prelatist, or others, who refused to take the covenant. The Parliament violated their declaration. The proceedings of the commission, in the case, were approved by the General Assembly, July 18, 1648. In the same sessions, July 25, the Assembly represent to Parliament: that to secure religion, it was necessary to declare the papist, prelatic and malignant party, enemies to the cause on one hand; and the sectaries, on the other: and that all associations, either in forces or counsels, with the former, as well as with the latter, be avoided. In the same sessions, July ult. The Assembly in their declaration say: “Suppose the ends of that war be good (as they are not) yet the means and ways of prosecution, are unlawful; because there is not an equal avoiding of rocks on both hands, but a joining with malignants to suppress sectaries [the Assembly refers to Cromwell and the Independents]—a joining hands with a black devil to beat a white devil, they are bad physicians, who would so cure one disease as to breed another as evil or worse.” July 27, 1649, the General Assembly say: “that though there were no cause to fear any thing from the sectaries of England, but the gangrene and infection of their errors: yet our vicinity to, and daily commerce with that nation, may justly make us afraid.—There is a greater aptitude and inclination, in these of our land to comply with malignants than sectaries, in that they carry on their wicked designs under cover, but also, because there are many of them in our bowels.”
The following documents, with others of later date may be consulted.
Solemn League and Covenant, art. 4, with the Confession of Sin and Engagement to Duties.—The Public Resolutions as contemplated by the Protestors;—Causes of God’s Wrath, art. 9, steps 4,6,7,8. The Resolutions of the Council of War, of the faithful , June 3 and 7, before the battle of Bothwell Bridge. “That the disaffected to the cause of God, and the scandalous, as being guilty of any of the sins of the time be excluded from the army.” Causes of fasting and humiliation after the defeat [at Bothwell Bridge].—“Admitting Thos. Weir, who had served under Dalziel, at Pentland, without repentance.—Admitting Erastians into the army and council of war, Deut. 23:9; Isa. 8:12; Ezra 9:14.—The Erastians’ declaration, as of the whole army, which ought to have been opposed and its owners rejected.—The Erastians’ opposition, and success therein, to a day of fasting and humiliation, in order to cover the sin of indulgence, Rev. 18:13, made out on the army. That the officers did not call on the faithful, and separate from the erastians, Ex. 32:26, for which Rathillet allowed no excuse could be offered, and Hamilton lamented his being so easily deceived.” Hence the phrase: unhallowed club, “discordant elements combined.” The old syllogism may be adverted to: “That which God hath appointed sufficient means to accomplish, it is unlawful for men to appoint other means to accomplish: but God hath appointed sufficient means for recommending virtue and discountenancing vice, without the Stage [i.e., theatre] &c.—And the same argument mutatis mutandus militates against these new lay societies for reformation of manners in the church.” Quoted by Stewart of Pardovan.
The Testimony emitted by the Reformed Presbyterian Church, in Scotland, A.D. 1761, as appears, was a term of communion in the R.P. Church, in Britain, Ireland, and America, till in 1806, it was superceded by another, in America [known as “Reformation Principles Exhibited”]. It then became a document of merely inferential reference. The mere fact of remodeling a document of the kind, in whole or in part, is not necessarily unwarrantable. It has however, generally, been injurious to the peace, health and prosperity of the Church. The work, as it respects such documents, or organizations, is to say the least, hazardous. That, of the ecclesiastical polity, in Scotland, by Paladius,—of the army, in England, by Cromwell,—and, of the army and Parliament of Scotland, by Charles II., are well known in their consequences.—And those of later times, as to the Church, have been equally unpropitious. In these changes, supposing the latter equal, or preferable, to, the former, uneasiness, if not parties, in fact, or in sentiment, will obtain. How much more, when the latter falls short of the former, as may appear at first sight, or by necessary inference.
For such consequences, reasons can be assigned. 1. The remodelers may have covert design, as those named above. 2. They may have pure hearts and cherish honest intention, yet from the power of words, individually and in combination, they may deceive themselves; and the adversary, in due time, will avail himself of the deception. But, on the other hand, the aged disciples, who give firmness to the community, and to whose ears, the words of their former, and their father's faith were as music; and their combinations familiar; must now sit down to study the force of words and ascertain their import in their new combinations.—An irksome undertaking for an aged veteran. Hence the youth will affect to teach their fathers, being generally, fond of novelty, right or wrong, yea, upbraid, if they be not docile. Thus it has happened, that generations have arisen, who knew not the God of their fathers, nor regarded the mighty works, which he had wrought for them.
Admitting the general principle; yet from the voice of history, being so very distinct on the subject, the call in providence should be very clear, to justify the undertaking. The compilers should feel, from obligation, the undertaking to be duty; and be conscious of cherishing no covert design, nor be influenced by any improper motive. Also, that the people, be in some measure, aware of the necessity of the work, and, that known integrity, approved fidelity, constant affection and zeal for the cause of God, characterize those on whom the work devolves. They moreover, must be in circumstance, so as to judge intelligently and conscientiously of the work, as to its parts, and their provisions respectively, that they may not declined from their plighted faith, and become chargeable with apostacy and perfidy. Thus far, as to general principles.
The substitute of 1806 for that of 1761, to whose provisions the members were all most solemnly pledged, both individually and as a body, came forth in circumstances which occasioned considerable animadversion, and gave rise to two manner of people. They were far scattered, and had not opportunity of consultation and a mutual interchange of views. And few could have recourse to the documents, which were necessary to form a correct judgment in the case, so as to go forth by the footsteps of the flock;—such as the Testimony , Informatory Vindication , Auchensaugh renovation of the Covenants , &c. Hence habit of thought, circumstances in life and the prospects of the Church, would severally influence, in forming a judgment. Those, who had maintained their integrity [i.e., had remained Covenanters] through the conflicting dogmas, which the Revolution [the author alludes to the Revolutionary War in America] occasioned, were familiar with the doctrine of civil government. Those, who had been steadfast,—when their guides had left them [to unite with Seceders to form the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church], and betook themselves to the camp of the enemy, in the great 1260 years contest,—were well versed in the nature of compromise, in articles of faith, and after adjudications, on principles already established. Others, having loose notions of the martyrs, affected with the magic of the name, Reformed Presbyterian, influenced less or more by their circumstances and prospects, too readily gave their adherence [i.e., joined the RP Church without understanding her principles]. Add to these an influx from Scotland and Ireland, who brought their principles with them and filled the vacancies, occasioned by the death of the old veterans, who had finished their course. These different classes, by some management, would naturally merge into two. Thus still two manner of people. This two manner of people existing from the first and known to exist, became avowedly so, in 1833 [the author speaks of the split into Old Light and New Light RP Synods], though still, principle properly speaking, did not distinguish the parties, nor exclusively urge to the avowal, at the time. [Here the author complains that the Old Lights, which professed to maintain the “testimony,” refused to assert their principles by corresponding practice and exercise correct discipline on those that remained after the split, 1833.]
That the new Testimony occasioned much dissatisfaction and pointed opposition, yea, to abandoning of the communion, is a fact, which cannot be denied, nor needs be dissembled. To such, taking leave of the old, was as journeying from the paternal mansion for a foreign country,—the eye lingers on the father's mansion, the paternal fields, the native country, till each in its turn, is lost in the distance, and the heart heaves with unutterable emotions. But all this may have arisen from mere habits of thought, old acquaintance or blind attachment. Very true; but each is entitled to regard;—and in patience in order to its removal, if erroneous or improper. But they had facts to argue, both general and particular, as reasons for their dissatisfaction and opposition.
The former document had been their own and their fathers’ Testimony from the time of its publication A.D. 1761. It is composed of two parts—Historical and Doctrinal, each of which is testimentary in its kind, and both are embraced by the term Testimony. But the substitute, although as to parts of it is the same, yet it excludes the historical part, as an article of faith. “It is partly founded upon human records, and therefore not an article of faith.”—The argumentative part shares the same fate. “Authentic history and sound argument are always to be highly valued, and have always been beneficial to the church; but they should not be incorporated with the confession of the church’s faith.” These statements [which are found in “Reformation Principles Exhibited,” 1806, pp. vii, viii] are at variance with our former Testimony. The historical view is represented as being in part founded upon human testimony, and that thereby, that part founded upon the Divine testimony, is vitiated. This borders on blasphemy.—Particular duties are to be regarded.—To follow the footsteps of the flock, Song 1:8.—To confess sins, not only as it respects individuals, as such; but corporate bodies—the Church, Ps. 106:6; Ezra 9:7; Lev. 26:40-42. In the great contest between Michael and his angels and the dragon and his angels, it is important to know where the battle has been fought and still carrying on, in order to be sure of the side and the cause, lest we should be found in the camp of the enemy of truth and righteousness.
The historical view appears [in “Ref. Prin. Ex.”] however, as a place of deposit for some ancient facts and distinctive practical traits of the Church, transferred from the doctrinal part, [in order] that there they should become obsolete—no term of communion.
Besides, it is a reflection on our fathers—leaving our own and fathers’ ground, and going to that of others. The Burgher committee [one faction of Seceders], 1779, presented the historical matter as of inferior importance,—that assertion of truth and condemnation of errors, was the principal and proper part of the testimony. The Ass[ociate] Presbytery [Anti-burgher Seceders] of Pennsylvania, 1784, [declared] that an adherence to the narrative [i.e., the historical portion of their testimony], can make no part of that profession required of applicants to their communion. The Gen[eral] Ass[ociate] Synod, 1804, seem at a loss to inform the reader precisely, how applicants are to understand their narrative. The Ass[ociate] R[eformed] Synod, 1799, drop the vexing question entirely. The R[eformed] P[resbytery], 1806, improving from such, declare: that authentic history, &c. should not be incorporated with the confession of the Church’s faith, and yet inform the reader, that they are resolved to stand on the same ground as formerly!! Such does not appear to be honest dealing. Query:—To follow out the principle: that the Church’s testimony should be directly from the word of God; would it exclude both the narrative and the testimony itself from the Church’s profession? Again:—From the form, as to subordinate authority, is the tendency of the American Testimony such, as to banish the didactic formularies from the profession of the Church? [This was written in 1842, anyone familiar with the subsequent history and doctrinal stance of the RPCNA may see that this concern was a justified one.]
From the time, in which “Reformation Principles Exhibited” were published [two volumes bound together released in 1807], until that of the dismemberment of the body [in 1833 into Old Light and New Light parties], two manner of people were visibly associated in the Reformed Presbyterian church, in North America. From the principles of action of the human constitution; the laws, which regulate social life; the jealousy of God, as it respects his own character and institutions; and the solemnly plighted fidelity of the members of the body, for the same object, by the one faith and similar practice: It might be inferred that partisanship would be practiced; violence and seduction resorted to, as occasions offered; and heart burnings and impositions experienced in the course of events. From the faithfulness of God, in reference to his promises and threatenings, fearful forebodings must have been felt by the parties in the struggle. God is not a man that he should lie, Num. 23:19. A prayerful regard should ever be cherished by the faithful, in reference to the doctrines, the order and administration, which pertain to the house of God.—They must see, that articles of faith be not imposed by violence, viz., unpresbyterially; nor altered, except to simplify, by rendering expressions more definite and doctrines more perspicuous. They should know, that the constitutional doctrines and order are founded upon, and agreeable to, the word of God; and in the administration, that their guides are followers of Christ, 1 Cor. 11:1. By submitting to, or acquiescing in, deeds of violence in the administration; the mutilation of former articles of faith; the substituting of general doctrine for particular, and equivocal terms for those well understood from long use in profession, they become chargeable with guilt, as abettors of crime, Ps. 50:18.
For nearly 30 years did the struggle continue, between those, who wished to go forth by the footsteps of the flock, and those, who desired to turn aside by the flocks of the companions. As the Resolutioners and Protestors, in 1650, ‘51, so the New Lights and Old Lights, in 1833, each claimed to be the true Reformed Covenanted Church,—the measured temple. The ostensible ground of separation in 1833, was of little importance in 1831 (“a difference of opinion upon some minor subjects”): yet in 1833, it effected dismemberment of the body. Principle however, or these “minor subjects,” did not distinguish the parties, as such. Each party was still a mixed people. In each party there were leaders and their retainers, as in all declining bodies,—working for a piece of bread and making a profession from mere circumstantial considerations.
The Old Light party had an additional class—those who had, for nearly 30 years, been grieved with the defection in doctrine from their fathers faith; and the prostitution of discipline in the house of God. These contended, side by side, with those, who “abhorred” their distinguishing principles—the acts of 1806—the “minor subjects” of 1831. They hoped for, and anticipated a return to the faith of their fathers; and that the discipline of the house of God would be exercised, as of divine institution. Their hopes were however, as the night visions, and their anticipations as the morning cloud.
The grounds of grief to this little band, although numerous and various in detail, may be classified, so as to be embraced under two general heads—Constitutional or organic defection, and corruption in administration.—These grounds of disaffection, whether well or ill founded, ought to have commanded ecclesiastical attention, as they arose; and thereby, the accumulation of guilt, from deception, and imposition, the painful consequences of an entangling fellowship, would have been prevented. But these in order.—And,
I. CONSTITUTIONAL AND ORGANIC DEFECTION.
1. The “historical view” [of “Reformation Principles Exhibited”] is chargeable with limiting the ecclesiastical import of the term TESTIMONY. “The historical part—is partly founded upon human records, and therefore, not an article of faith.” Ref. Prin. Ex., preface, p.7. .
2. “The argumentative part” is liable to the same objection.—“The confidence which persons may place in this part of the system, will partly rest upon human testimony, unless every one who reads it, shall have also read and known every work to which it refers. It is not therefore, recommended as an article of faith.”—“Authentic history and sound argument are always to be highly valued, and have always been beneficial to the Church; but they should not be incorporated with the confession of the church’s faith,” Ref. Prin. Ex., preface, p.8. .
The words of the measured worshippers in 1761, run thus,—“ACT, DECLARATION, and TESTIMONY, for the whole of our covenanted Reformation, as attained to, and established in Britain and Ireland, particularly, betwixt the years 1638 and 1649, inclusive: AS ALSO, AGAINST all the steps of defection, whether in former or later times, since the overthrow of that glorious work, down to the present day. By the Reformed Presbytery, Ploughlandhead, June 6th, 1761.” [This is the] title page [of the] Scottish Testimony. That the term “testimony” was intentionally limited is obvious from the following,—”The Reformed Presbytery in Scotland did, in the year 1761, publish an act, declaration and testimony.—The object of this publication, was to exhibit a correct statement of their own principles; and to defend them by just reasoning.—This publication is considered as a bond of connection among themselves, and one of the terms, upon which they joined together in ministerial and Christian communion.” Ref. Prin. Ex., pp. 100,101. .
In these two articles, the difference between the former and the present faith of the Reformed church, and her terms of communion, must be obvious at first sight. They are, moreover, organic principles.
3. The historical part is made the depository for some of the distinguishing doctrines and practical traits of the church,—such as, occasional hearing, serving on juries &c.—“They (the Reformed Church) cannot extend to anyone the right hand of fellowship in the visible church, upon any other principles than those contained in their Declaration and Testimony, nor can they consistently join, either statedly or occasionally, in the communion of any other church, by waiting upon its ministry, either in word [i.e., hearing] or sacraments [i.e., communion], while they continue opposed to these declared sentiments,” Ref. Prin. Ex., p.140. .
“Likewise, the presbytery (R.P. of Scotland) testify against all active owning and countenancing of such, by attending upon any of their corrupt official administrations, or receiving any ordinances from such,” Act, Declaration, & Testimony, p.199. .
Serving on juries. “The act of presbytery respecting serving on juries, is absolutely prohibitory,” Historical Part, Ref. Prin. Ex., p. 136 . “An oath may be made before the constituted authorities (American gov’t), if these authorities are given to understand, that it is not made as a recognition of their official right of administration.”—“That the oath is an act of homage—to the supreme being, and by no means a recognition of the magistrate’s authority, or an act of communion with him in his official capacity.”—“If these terms are not admitted,—the Covenanter cannot comply,” Historical Part, Ref. Prin. Ex., pp. 135,136. .
The Reformed Presbytery, 1761, “reject whatever in opposition to the covenanted principles of the church of Scotland, does justly and in its own nature, imply a voluntary and real acknowledgment of the lawfulness of the title and authority of an antiscriptural—government-swearing oaths of fidelity—accepting any office,” &c., &c. Act, Declaration & Testimony, pp.196,197. .
Thus by transferring these practical traits of character from the doctrinal, to the historical part, they become [according to the Preface of Ref. Prin. Ex.] “no articles of faith.” It matters not on what testimony they are founded; the very location renders them “no articles of faith”—no term of communion.
4. The “Historical part” [of Ref. Prin. Ex.] comes to the members of the church, and to the world, devoid of presbyterial authority [In 1980, the RPCNA replaced Ref. Prin. Ex. with a new “Testimony”]. It has not come before the people in overture, in order to presbyterial action—examination and ratification. To members of the church, its provisions are therefore no articles of faith. They may be true or they may be false, in whole or in part. They may be founded upon testimony, divine or human, in whole or in part: it matters not, to the members they come devoid of presbyterial authority—a popish imposition. The reader is referred to the following authority:—
“That no novations, which may disturb the peace of the church, and make division, be suddenly proponed and enacted; but so as the motion be first communicated to the several synods, presbyteries and kirks, that the matter be approved by all at home, and commissioners may come well prepared unanimously to conclude a solid deliberation,” &c.—General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, Act 13, 1639, ‘40, ‘41.
5. Equivocal terms were used in stating practical doctrine. When [S.B.] Wylie’s report relative to occasional hearing, was under discussion, 1823; [Alex.] McLeod declared in positive terms, that “the language (viz., in the Historical part [of “Reformation Principles Exhibited”], referred to in synod by the friends of the principle) was equivocal.” Hence the petitions from Walnut Ridge [Indiana] and Princeton congregations to synod, 1825.—“That the language of the Historical part of the Testimony, concerning occasional hearing, be defined and published.”
6. In the Declaratory part [of “Ref. Prin. Ex.”], all the provisions of which are articles of faith [it is an exposition of doctrines]—“divine truth”—“The church’s Standing testimony;” [thus claims the Preface of “Ref. Prin. Ex.”] it is stated as a general truth and article of faith—That civil rulers have a right to call the nation to public fasting and thanksgiving; and holds them in error who profess the contrary.—“We therefore condemn the following errors, and testify against all, who maintain them,—3. That civil rulers can have no right to call the nation to public fasting or thanksgiving,” p.92. .
The Covenanters at Auchensaugh, 1712, account such unqualified right in the “civil rulers” among the corruptions of the time.—“Such as indulgence, the toleration, the magistrate’s appointing fasts, without advice and consent of the church, dissolving assemblies,” &c. Auchensaugh Deed, marginal notes.
The worthies of 1761 [i.e., those who framed the “Act, Declaration and Testimony;” the “four Johns” of the Reformed Presbytery—John M’Millan (secundus), John Fairley, John Thorburn and John Courtass] express themselves on this subject—“A fourth piece of Erastianism exercised since the commencement of the Revolution settlement, against which the presbytery testify, is, the civil magistrate, by himself and his own authority, without consulting the church, or any, but his parliament, privy council and diocesan bishops, his appointing diets and causes of public fasting and thanksgiving.” “As this church (the Revolution church) did then submit, so since she has made a resignation and surrender of that part of the church’s intrinsic right to the civil power. See Act 7th, Assembly, 1710 and Act 5th, Assembly, 1725.” “From which acts, it is manifest, that the Revolution church hath declared the power and right of authoritative indicting public fasts and thanksgivings for ordinary, even in a constitute settled national church, to belong, at least equally to the civil magistrate as to the church.—The sinfulness of this Erastian practice is evident from the Scriptures of truth,—The power of appointing fasts belongs—not to magistrates, but to the spiritual office bearers in his house, Jer. 13:18, ‘Say unto the king and queen, humble yourselves,’ &c. Joel 1:13,14; 2:15,16 with Num. 10:8-10; Matt. 16:19,” &c. Act, Declaration and Testimony, pp. 83,84. .
Notwithstanding these defections, as claiming presbyterial authority; the faithful through the force of habit and of truth, were accustomed to designate the whole document by the name testimony.
II. CORRUPTION IN ADMINISTRATION.
First, as it respects doctrine.—And,
1.The terms of communion. The first term is mutilated [in “Ref. Prin. Ex.”]. As it originally stood, it contained two distinct propositions—That the scriptures are the word of God,—and, that they are the only rule of faith and practice. In the revised terms, the latter proposition is struck off. From the fourth term, the renovation of the Covenants at Auchensaugh, is excluded, and thereby, the organic bond thrown back from 1761 till 1648. To effect the same mutilation in the fourth term of communion, cost the synod of the Reformed church in Scotland seven years’ heartburnings and strife, and in the end, this object was unpresbyterially obtained [i.e., it was excised in 1822]. In the sixth term, a prominence is very illogically given to obedience to ecclesiastical authority. Its injurious tendency, from its location, has become matter of history. The terms thus revised were illegally forced upon people.—They were not consulted in the matter, contrary to official obligation. See above; General Assembly Act 13, A.D. 1639, &c.
2. The doctrinal practical traits of character—Whereby the people dwell alone, and not reckon themselves with the nations, Num. 23:9.
Occasional hearing and serving on juries, being constitutional and organic doctrines, could not be dispensed with in practice by any of the judicatories; nor be altered or rendered void; but, in order to ecclesiastic action, must come before the people in overture. And even then, the principle must be shown to be erroneous, in order to presbyterial action. Hence the vote on Wylie’s report concerning occasional hearing, manifests a total disregard to order; as well as the defection of the synod (save four members) from the faith of their fathers, and their own solemn obligation to this organic doctrine and practice.
Serving on juries being “absolutely prohibitory,” falls under the same considerations. The move for expunging it with others from the second edition of Ref. Principles Exhibited, presents in unequivocal terms the faith of the synod on this point.—Three only [stood] for the faith of their fathers and their own solemn engagements.
3. As it respects discipline.
In the causes of fasting, which passed in synod, 1823, were the following confessions in substance:—That the church was distracted within from vanity of opinion and schemes of designing men. Her doctrines too generally misunderstood, falsified or little regarded.—Her government not fully and extensively appreciated.—Her discipline lax, and too frequently, either an instrument of personal vengeance, or overlooked for carnal ends. The church of Scotland, to keep obligation constantly in view of her officers, had it annually put in presbyterial visitation—“Is he careful to keep his oath of admission taken before God in the face of the congregation?” &c.
From the items of constitutional and organic defection, and the cases of corrective discipline, in the administration, which have been referred to; can the number of the sins and the amount of guilt be estimated? These moreover, have been matter of lamentation and complaint by the faithful, as they occurred, since the publishing of “Reformation Principles Exhibited.” But the amount of guilt attached to the church, from the facts referred to, falls far short of the accumulated mass under which she suffered. Studied apostacy to be carried out gradually requires various instrumentalities.—Such as one sided enactments, secret consultations, deception practiced on the weak or unsuspecting, snares laid for, and combinations formed against the opposer of innovations, posts dispatched in all directions to slander, &c.
These numerous and various instrumentalities in active operation, to effect the apostasy, which commenced in the compromise of 1806 [i.e., replacing the “Act, Declaration and Testimony,” of 1761, with the defective “Reformation Principles Exhibited.”]; guilt accumulated and still augmenting; obstinacy to retrace the steps of defection—confess sin and engage to the contrary duties, persisted in, and the prayers and tears of the faithful for upwards of 30 years, set at naught: the crisis approached, and schism must cease in the body, 1 Cor. 1:10, & 12:25. But who is to be the instrument, thus honored in providence, as regarding his own vows, and feeling the force of moral obligation; having confidence inspired from the consideration of the faithfulness of God, and assured that the prayers of the faithful which had been ascending for 34 years and the sufferings of the persecuted would not be disregarded; would put himself in the front of the reclaiming band, put measures in train, to bring the hypocrite to the light, iniquity to open day, and the Reformed Covenanted Church to be set on her own heap, and the palace after the manner thereof.
This arduous and responsible post, in providence, was allotted to an individual, who was a Saul among his compeers; for a mind, under literary discipline; powers, trained and equalized; a knowledge of theology and the laws of argumentation. He laid before the synod, 1840, resolutions, which required the condemnation of membership, by any Reformed Presbyterian, in the associations of the day, composed of all professions of religion and no profession:—To institute an inquiry, to ascertain the extent of guilt contracted and chargeable on the community:—To confess the sins and engage the contrary duties:—and called for the immediate action of synod, upon the three distinct and separate resolutions. The action of the synod relative to the resolutions, and the time, was suspended on the will of one man, and that too at his own instance!
A committee, as would appear, had been packed, and its well known designation prostituted in advance, to meet apprehended contingencies. The well known work of “the committee on the signs of the times,” is, to draft causes of fasting and thanksgiving. To this committee, at the instance of its chairman, had been committed the petition [of three resolutions] from Walnut Ridge [congregation]; from the recommendation of the same, were the resolutions laid on the table, until he thought proper to report on the petition from Walnut Ridge. As to the action of synod, there was no direct affinity, between the petition and the resolutions: time however, was gained. The report lingered and the resolutions were stayed; and when the report did appear, it was much blamed for slurring the prayers of the petitioners. The reporter moreover, according to presbyterial order, had no vote on one of the resolutions, nor on two of the requests from Walnut Ridge. And surely, no right whatever, to report on any of the points, in which he was a notorious transgressor.
The resolutions had now, according to compact, a right to be heard. The last step from the treasures of thought was taken, to prevented their being discussed. Accordingly, it was moved and seconded, and carried—that they lie over until the next meeting of synod [an effective means of crushing a protest]. It had been alleged in 1833 [the year of the split into “Old Lights” and “New Lights”], that the movement was premature by three years. In 1840 [the year pastors Robert Lusk and David Steele declined the judicatories of the synod of the “Old Lights”], sixteen short months were deemed sufficient.—For what? To effect the desired corruption.
Much self complacency was felt and congratulations passed, when the two firebrands [Lusk and Steele] (as they were termed) were extinguished. [David] Steele was timid, meek, &c., so they would never more be heard of. For such exultation and assurance, several facts should be ascertained. 1. That what had passed in private, relative to the resolutions, had not got beyond the combination: viz., that confession of sin and engagement to duty, would not be made. 2. That the promise of synod would be relied on, notwithstanding her unfaithfulness, as to promises, for upwards of 30 years. 3. That packing a committee in advance, and prostituting a well known title [i.e., the “committee on the signs of the times” is not the proper depository of such protests as were contained in the resolutions], had escaped notice, and excited no suspicion. 4. That the simple fact of the character of the mover [i.e., the alluded to “chairman,” who was a known enemy of the proposed resolutions], did not awaken suspicion, as to sincerity in the case:—He had been, underhandedly, abetting a licentiate of another presbytery, against the presbytery, which had canceled his license for [because of] heresy:—He had sustained a protest in synod, and in the following night associated with others, as a presbytery, without [outside] the bounds of their own jurisdiction, to ordain the person, against which the protest, in presbyterial order lay—heretical and on whom the suspension still lay:—He had proclaimed the purpose of marriage on the Sabbath evening and on the next morning solemnized the marriage [an act contrary to the Directory for Publick Worship, which directs marriage “banns” be proclaimed three consecutive Sabbath days prior to the solemnization to avoid the contracting of unlawful unions]; and for the same, escaped the penalties of the civil law, by a very humiliating consideration. And that the fierceness of the seconder [i.e., the person who seconded the shelving of the protesting resolutions] in the track of apostasy and heresy, had not gone abroad—That his freely slandering of the proposer of the resolutions had reached no great distance.—And that his indecent haste in seconding the motion, did not betray dissimulation and hypocrisy. Assurance on all these points, with others of a similar kind, was necessary to the mind of a philosopher, for exultation in the case.
As theologians, in order to exult at the extinction of the firebrands, such points as these, ought to have been carefully studied. 1. That the Heavens do rule, Dan. 4:26.—2. That the dissembler will be overtaken in his ways, Num. 32:23.—3. That the prayers of his people, God will hear, and their groans he will regard, Ex. 2:23,24. Besides, the extremes of Christian character should be studied. Elijah, at whose voice, kings trembled, and idolaters were filled with dismay, trembled himself at the threats of a vile woman, and betook himself to the wilderness, 1 Kings 19:3.—Jeremiah was peevish, plaintive and given to lamentation, yet when duty urged, he could say: I am full of the fury of the Lord; I am weary with holding in; I will pour it out, &c., Jer. 6:11. Luther was timid and fearful—feeling his way: yet when once “assured of the mind of Christ, Earth and Hell in combination, daunted him not.”—Such facts ought to have been well weighed, in order to a rational exultation in the success of extinguishing the firebrands.
The intruders, from the time of the compromise, 1806 [the year “Reformation Principles Exhibited” replaced the “Act, Declaration and Testimony,” of 1761], were making inroads more and more upon the liberties of the city [i.e., our Covenanted Zion]. They laid the foundation for a new citadel, which was very different from its genuine constitution. The virtuous still opposed the new erection, in all the steps taken for its completion.
The last effort, in visible fellowship with the wayward, had been put forth, with full intimation, that the citadel must be abandoned, and that the ancient city must be occupied, defended and maintained at all hazards: and the schismatics not allowed to enter, but in accordance with its laws, Rev. 11:2. Leave (cast) out. Num. 23:9. Not be reckoned (not reckon nor connect themselves with) among the nations—communities.
Every aspect of the case furnishing evidence of studied dissimulation, and that concerted treachery would, in the end, be resorted to; it became necessary, on the part of the faithful, to inquire, and resolve on immediate duty. 34 years were in passing, and two manner of people still in the same visible community—a schism. 34 years of suffering, ineffectual contending and crying, might suffice, as to time, in continuing the schism. The numerous and various documents, which had from time to time been laid before the synod, with the numerous publications, and one-sided minutes, might suffice, as to matter. And the treatment, which these documents and their favorites received from their spiritual and sworn guides, and the synod having become a mob, might satisfy, as to the necessity of reform, in doctrine and order. The path of duty, from these considerations, would appear obvious:—The new erection must be abandoned; connection with the schismatics be disclaimed; the innovations, which had been so long accumulating, be banished; the sins committed, be confessed, and an engagement to the contrary duties be had, the contendings, the prayers and the tears, of the faithful, for 34 years, be gratefully acknowledged; the schism of 34 years standing, be terminated; so that the identity of the Reformed Presbyterian Covenanted Church be preserved, visible and continued.—Not adding herself to, nor connecting herself with, other communities—dwelling alone.
Although the flocks of the companions, are to be forsaken;—The tents of Kedar, left-fellowship with the impenitent and obstinate in apostasy, disclaimed;—and visible identity with the dragon and his angels, abandoned; a regard must be had to the manner and the time of action,—that all the proceedings be done decently and in order.—No vulgar vituperation, no brandishing of staves, no resort to brute force, &c.
The time was opportune, and the circumstances were favorable. Providence had all things in readiness. A room to meet and transact business, under the hospitable roof of J. Haslet; and individuals to unite, who rejoiced in the opportunity. They were harmonious, as to the doctrines and order of the Reformed Covenanted Church; the great and continued apostasy; the necessity of a reform; and of their right and their duty, to constitute themselves into a judicative capacity, in order to raise the fallen banner and judicially declare themselves, on the side of Christ, in opposition to the dragon and his angels; to go forth by the footsteps of the flock; feed the flock of slaughter; and affectionately invite the wayward to come out of the camps of the enemy.—Come out of her my people, Rev. 18:4. The Reformed Presbytery was accordingly constituted, in the name and by the authority of the Lord Jesus Christ, independent of the authority and jurisdiction of all the judicatories of the day [this was done in 1840].—Not reckoning themselves with these communities. But the term, reformed, contemplates the attainments of our fathers, in the days of other generations, from Popery and prelacy, and still going on to perfect their Testimony. As individuals are called on to repent, confess and forsake their sins; so also, moral persons or corporative bodies. Hence [David] Steele’s resolutions, and the presbytery’s going back to the days of compromise, to confess sin and engage to the contrary duties. Such was necessary, as it respects the identity of the moral person—to identify with, and follow the footsteps of the flock, Ps. 106:6—Dan. 9:5—Ps. 109:14. Otherwise, its existence and end, would be like the mistletoe or parasite. Constitutional ground must be examined, sins confessed and duties engaged to.
In view of the preceding facts and doctrines, it is presumed, no difficulty can be felt in applying the rule observed in presbyterial visitation, in the Church of Scotland. “Have the officers of the Reformed Church, ‘so-called,’ kept their oath of admission, taken before God, in the face of the congregation?” Or as Turretin would say: “Not to violate and cancel their oath of office.”
The guilt attaching, in consequence of casting off or setting at naught the obligation of the oath of office, the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, 1570, statutes “infamy and perjury.” Take the following long established authorities for casting off schismatics and terminating schism.—
Sinful terms of communion, antiscriptural constitution, corrupt administration and attempts for a reformation. Act, Declaration and Testimony, chap. 20, sec. 5. 1 Cor. 10:18; 2 Cor. 6:17; Rev. 11:1; 18:4; 1 Cor. 12:25.
The true Church of Christ is distinguished by three particulars, as characteristics: Truth, piety and liberty. Truth in doctrine, piety in worship, and liberty in government. So also, the false church is distinguished by three marks: Heresy, idolatry and tyranny. If any of these obtain in a community, which glories in the name, church, we should necessarily separate ourselves from it. Such a secession preserves the true unity of the church.—Turretin.
It has frequently happened, in social life, that the constitutional principles which give healthful action; vigor, life, shape, and distinction to a community are gradually sapped by designing men. The history of our own times, furnishes painful illustrations of the fact, both in civil and ecclesiastic relations; and also, to the attentive observer of the means in operation to effect the end. In such cases, when the sapping has become manifest; the working of corruption, felt; plighted faith disregarded; means to stay defection and terminate schism, unavailing; and the transgressors, bold and persevering: the claims of justice, the rights of conscience, the terms of the social compact, and the dues to plighted faith, demand of the faithful, SEPARATION from the corrupt body,—to pitch the tabernacle afar off from the camp, Ex. 33:7.
Many have been such separations from A.D. 660 until A.D. 1840 [the year the Reformed Presbytery seceded from the Synod of the RPC, “Old Lights.”]. And, strange to tell, the immediately existing cause to these, whereby schism was terminated, the schismatics cast off, and the unity of the church maintained and preserved, has been the same:—Fellowship or confederacy with the votaries of Mahomedism or Popery, either in avowed profession of doctrine, or visible confederate relationship—and thus become the ostensible agents of the dragon, against the true church of Christ, Rev. 12:7.
A schism having obtained in the body for some 34 years [i.e., from the introduction of “Reformation Principles Exhibited,” in 1806, as the new “Testimony.”], and all appropriate means to stay the defection, not only unavailing, but exasperating the schismatics to acts of brutality: the faithful seceded, 1840, from the corrupt majority, in order to preserve the unity of the church, a good conscience, and the testimony transmitted and enjoined upon them by their fathers. And although God and the constitution of every well ordered community, not only warrant, but enjoin upon the faithful, to separate from the corrupt majority; yet in the present case, as of old, on similar occasions, the adversary loads with reproach the persons, and opposes, with inveterate malignity, the organization—both of which being the objects of his innate and unceasing malevolence.
Objections are raised against the act of separation from the corrupt majority—the constituting of the presbytery and the declaration thereby, of the termination of the schism, which had obtained in the Reformed Presbyterian Covenanted Church. These objections, however numerous in detail, may be reduced to the following heads—The time, the manner, and the mode of procedure.—These objections are entitled to some consideration, lest they might, in some measure, bias the weak of the flock. And,
FIRST. As to the time. It is alleged that a sufficient length of time had not elapsed, to warrant definitive action by secession, even from an acknowledged corrupt body:
Ans[wer] 1. The particular portion of time to pass, in order to definitive action, in such cases, is not determined by law—is not recognized by common sense, nor pointed out by right reason. It depends on principles very different from the admeasurement of time, by days, weeks, months or years. Reason will say: Shun the region of deadly Miasma [i.e., dangerously infected atmosphere], and every liability of being infected from a rabid animal. The rules of morality are equally preservative of health, and the law of God is very explicit. Come out from among them and be ye separate, saith the Lord, 2 Cor. 6:17. Moses exemplified the principle, Ex. 33:7. And Paul lingered not, to enforce the duty, Acts 19:9. It does not appear, that time, as to duration, occupied the attention of these worthies.
2. The objection is unreasonable, when considered in connection with the source from which it proceeds. It is presumed, it is no secret—that the leaders had in contemplation for some time, to means in such a train, at the meeting of Synod, 1840; that, in due time, a secession would be covertly effected. The mode of operation, so far as is understood, runs thus, The maxims, as may be presumed were, that the E[astern] Sub-synod was deeply corrupted.—That the Willson faction [among whom the author should be understood to include James R. Willson, one of the early professors of the Reformed Presbyterian Theological Seminary] carried their measures at pleasure—and the whole church would suffer. What then?—The general Synod in 1840, would nullify its own existence—and give permanency to the Sub-synods, as independent organizations [i.e., able to over-rule decisions handed down from the general Synod]. The sequel is not difficult to suppose,—The W[estern] Sub-synod, by this move being independent, would receive accessions from the East[ern Sub-synod], and thus a secession would be effected from the E[astern] faction and their adherents. The ardent desire, moreover, of many, for a length of time was,—“that they (the parties) would take sides.” But,
3. Guilt had sufficiently accumulated, was still augmenting, and no rational ground to hope for a reformation, either as to doctrine or administration. The defections in doctrine, remained the same, as had been contemplated in or at the time of the compromise; and in the administration, the covert principles of the compromise were becoming more and more visible. And advert to two facts, viz.: the covert effort to unite with the General Assembly [i.e., the Presbyterian Church, USA], 1825; and in 1828, establishing a fellowship with the allies (Socinians), of the Musselmans [i.e., Moslems] and the sons of the mother of Harlots [i.e., Papists], through the medium of the Col[onialization] Society [i.e., an organization—voluntary association—established to send freed Negroes back to Africa; it was strongly supported by Dr. James R. Willson]. But more is made manifest by this unhallowed fellowship and all such.—It places the Covenanter on the side of the Dragon, in open warfare against Michael, the mystic woman and the remnant of her seed, Rev. 12:7,9,14. A transfer of the approbation and patronage previously given to the Col[onialization] Society was effected in 1836, to the cause of abolition. The transfer affected not the principle, nor did it cause the Covenanter to return from the camp of the Dragon, with confession of sin and engagement to covenant duties.
Passing the illegal and unpresbyterial proceedings of 1833 [the year of the split into “Old Lights” and “New Lights.”], and the deception practiced upon the faithful, let some of the doings of aftertimes be noticed. In 1834, the Synod refused to recognize one of its own constitutional doctrines—that in reference to occasional hearing [i.e., its ban on occasionally hearing those with whom you can not maintain organic fellowship]. Also, refused to give judgment on four very important subjects, presented by the elders of the Greenfield Congregation, Ohio. Also, a memorial from the same congregation, praying the expunction of the resolutions formerly passed by Synod, respecting the Colonialization Society, was treated with indignity—their representative insulted, and the memorialists through him, held up to scorn. [Though the memorialists were only requesting Synod to act according to its received constitutional principles!] In 1836, a cry came up and a memorial from Brushcreek, Ohio, relative to the prostitution of discipline and the abolition societies. A transfer of the Synod’s patronage from the Colonialization to the Abolition society was effected. The principle remained the same. Severals dissented, two of these dissents were put on record. The Ohio and the Southern presbyteries stood in direct opposition to each other, by their respective resolutions. And in 1838, the points at issue had to be settled by brute force and assumed ecclesiastical authority.
For the meeting of 1840, all available instrumentalities were laid under contribution to prepare for the important occasion—to carry all backsliding courses by vote. Those, who might be determined on a reformation in doctrine and order must be incapacitated by some means, so that they could not come up as delegates. A moderator of the right stamp must be chosen and committees appointed to meet all possible contingencies. The reader is referred to the doings of the Resolutioners in order to pack the General Assembly of 1651, for a full portrait of this meeting
But it is still urged: Why not delay definitive action SIXTEEN MONTHS longer?
Answer. The objection conceals two very important considerations: The protestors stifling and counteracting their own convictions, and the operation of the spirit which influenced the partisan combination. In the former case, the decree would go forth; Ephraim is joined to his idols; let him alone, Hos. 4:17. Let Shilo, Geneva, France, Scotland, South Carolina, Vermont, Greenfield, &c. testify in the case. In the latter case, time has rendered manifest, the spirit of the combination. As embodied in, and going forth from its appropriate receptacle, it was soon made visible by [Thomas] Sproull and [Moses] Roney [the reference here is to the debate which ensued between the pro-deacon and anti-deacon parties in the church.]. This manifestation was a fair exponent of what was intended by procrastinating for 16 months [i.e., other issues would have clouded the issue surrounding constitutional defection.]
It is objected moreover that a protest and declinature ought to have been given in open court. Ans[wer]. [James] M’Kinney [son of Rev. James M’Kinney], in 1840, desired to protest. His protest would not be admitted. [Francis] Gailey [whose case we omitted], in 1838, protested and declined. It was reckoned “insulting and disorderly conduct.” We state these facts, not to examine them in the light of law, but simply for information. Was the refusal to M’Kinney not a violation of the first principles of social life? And in the other case.—On what ground can Synod be justified, in violating so palpably, presbyterial order, and ecclesiastical statute, of some two centuries standing?
The terms, dissent, protest and declinature, like many others, have a popular, and a technical acceptation. In judicatories which are lawful and free, their respective provinces, import and use, are generally known. But when the court is not lawful in its constitution, to any of the members, such instruments have no proper place. In such a case another principle of law must be considered—What doest, or broughtest thou here Elijah? 1 Kings 19:9.—Try the principle. To protest, and decline the authority of a mob, in their midst, and of their number,—what would be the import of such instruments? How should the protester be viewed? As having discharged a duty?—certainly not, by such instruments. As a discreet man? No. But as having provoked to violence against his person, and rendered himself responsible for the deeds of violence.
When the church is in a healthy state, and her courts, in their organization and constitution, lawful, the rights of members are secured by such instruments; but they are not designed to effect the reformation of the corrupt body. To apprise the people especially, of his own disenthrallment, and the state of things brought on by their corrupt and irreclaimable guides, command the particular regards of the enlightened reformer. He raises his voice against the sins and the sinners—shows all their abominations, Ezek. 22:2.
No instance, is at present recollected, in which the reformer entered a corrupt and unlawfully constituted superior court, to protest and decline its authority—and relieve himself from an unhallowed fellowship, in order to preserve the unity of the church. None of the heroes of the first [Reformation], none of the second angel of reform [i.e., the Second Reformation]. And were it otherwise, it could not affect the principle. It is a mercy to the corrupters—They would with greediness commit official perjury, and the protester would be responsible—having provoked. If the corrupters will essay to exercise power, let all the guilt arising from official perjury be exclusively their own. The objection, as implied, would be criminal in practice. [Thus, pastors Lusk and Steele, together with several ruling elders, were constrained to re-constitute the Reformed Presbytery upon the original platform of our covenanting forefathers.]