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A Letter Addressed to T—— B——, of P——, Exhibiting Some Steps of Defection in the Reformed Presbyterian Church.


A Letter Addressed to T—— B——, of P——, Exhibiting Some Steps of Defection in the Reformed Presbyterian Church.

James Dodson




“Take ye heed every one of his neighbour, and trust ye not in any brother; for every brother will utterly supplant, and every neighbour will walk with slanders.”—Jer. 9:4



Much honoured Friend in Christ:—

ALMOST seven times have passed over us, since my feeble voice from the wilderness reached your ear through this public medium. I have had comfortable evidence that my testimony under the popular, honorary title, pro-re-nata man, was favourably heard and received by many of my “fellow servants,” who continued to “keep the commandments of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ.” Of late the “sons of my mother” have favoured me with two superadded titles, equally honourable:—ultraist and insubordinate ecclesiastic! An ultraist is one who goes beyond a standard or boundary. It speaks the sense of the person who originated the term, or gave it the present location;—that the person to whom it is applied, has been at least contending; yea contending so far as to occasion some uneasy Sensations among certain characters. But it means more,—that the word of God, and our acknowledged, subordinate standards, do not require nor warrant such a degree of contending as is implied in the title.

An “insubordinate ecclesiastic,” is a person who violates the laws of the church of which he is a member, or refuses submission in the Lord, to those who are the authorized administrators of law. I leave the applicability of these terms to your own decision, after you shall have read attentively the sequel.

Nothing but your pressing solicitation and the importunate calls of many others, whose voice I am disposed in this case, to interpret as that of my princely Master, in his sovereign providence, could prevail to draw me forth from that obscurity to which I acknowledge a constitutional propensity:—that love of seclusion in the wilderness, which has been sweetened by experience and almost confirmed into habit. Take in connexion with this, the indulgence of a hope, that an outline of my contendings and sufferings may, through the divine blessing, “tend rather to the furtherance of the gospel.”

At the first meeting of the General Synod [in 1834], after she had apparently disenthralled herself from the entanglements superinduced by the craftiness and policy of brethren who proved recreant to the covenant cause of God [i.e., the “New Light” schism of 1833]; a strife arose among the members of that court relative to the conflicting claims to its patronage, put forth by the Colonization and Antislavery Societies respectively. The Rev. John Cannon, deceased, appeared to be alone in Synod, the advocate of the former [i.e., Colonization Society], and deprecated discussion; while the Rev. S.M. Willson and others gave striking evidence of having already drunk deep into the violent anarchial principles and spirit of the latter [i.e., the Antislavery Society].[1] Taunts and sarcasms were employed on the occasion, unbecoming the dignity of an ecclesiastical court, and the gravity of ministers of Christ. From that specimen, the writer conceived an opinion, which subsequent movements tended greatly to strengthen:—that the organization then existing in the Reformed Church would be jeopardized by the popular excitements with which she was surrounded.

At a meeting of the members of my pastoral charge, which took place in the following spring, 1835, some of my people, in the midst of regular congregational business, attempted to obtrude the subject of abolition on the attention of the meeting, to effect which they presented some of the publications of the Abolition Society. Being present, I remonstrated against the obtrusion,—signifying my apprehension of danger to the church from any conjunction with that association. This gave occasion to some “evil surmisings” as to my soundness on the great moral question of slavery. From that period my attention was more earnestly directed, and in a variety of ways called to the subject. Members, through the eldership, desired me repeatedly to announce on the Sabbath, that lectures would be delivered by agents of said Society at such and such places. This service I uniformly declined, as not coming within the range of ministerial duty. My warrant for so declining was taken from authority such as “be not ye the servants of men.” My people could plead,—such a minister of our church is not “so rigid as you.” “He announces their lectures, gives them his meeting house on the Sabbath, and invites his people to accompany him in returning to hear the lecture after the hours of public worship.” To such reasoning, employed by a professing Covenanter, who was evidently aiming at popularity, I confess it was not easy to return a satisfactory answer. And indeed, ever since such Covenanters have begun to use such arguments, no efforts to obtain from them a patient hearing have been successful. To a man who has taken popular opinion for his guide in morals, and practically adopted it as his standard in religion, arguments from the Bible, thc covenants, his sacramental vows are utterly unavailing. If a Hopkinsian preacher, in public fame an abolitionist, is to preach at such a place, the Covenanter feels bound in conscience to be a hearer there. If an “auxiliary society” is to meet on the same day as the fellowship meeting, the Covenanter must by all means give his attendance there. And the “tender little ones must remove from beside the shepherds’ tents,” to have their names enrolled! Thus, Dear Sir, I have witnessed the secret, silent influence of latent depravity called forth by the attraction of irresponsible associations, and, resting for a basis on the covenant of works, almost prevail to subvert the city of the Lord. Many of my fellow watchmen, standing on the battlements of Zion, have been saying in effect: go to, let us put our hand to the lever, and with the help of “all friends of temperance, human rights,” &c., we will elevate the city! When builders of Babel are saying—“let us make us a name,” God is saying, “let us confound their language.”

In the year 1836, with my approbation and concurrence, my congregation, in remarkable harmony,[2] memorialized General Synod, praying, not as “they have been slanderously reported, and as some affirm that they said,”—to “make it a term of communion, that all our people be enjoined to connect themselves with the A[merican] A[bolitionist] Society;” but, praying that the “resolutions requiring the members of the Reformed Church to patronise and support the Colonization Society, and to give the church’s testimony more point and publicity against the national sin of slavery.” Here, Sir, I refer you to the original, on file in the hands of Synod’s clerk, because my veracity has been questioned in this matter. If the Synod cannot or will not furnish that document, (which, by the way, ought in faithfulness to have been published,) then the truth of the matter at issue may be ascertained by other legal testimony—experience having taught me the necessity of preserving copies in such cases. No man can better interpret the import of that document than the writer. It conveyed the memorialists’ desire to be released from legal obligation to “Hold communion with immorality.” A similar paper from Rygate, Vermont, called Synod’s attention to the same subject. It was entitled a “petition.’’ Rev. James Milligan, aided by Dr. [James R.] Willson and others, warmly opposed the reading of the paper, asserting that persons under censure had no right to petition! These illegal and tyrannical attempts were promptly resisted by the friends of the doctrines and order of the Reformed Church. This paper was returned. The memorial was given into the hands of a special committee, of which Mr. Milligan was appointed chairman by the Moderator, Rev. S.M. Willson, both of these ministers having been already committed,[3] as was afterwards understood, in unholy combinations of diverse kinds. The report of committee was such as might be expected, coming through such a medium; so foul that members at that period could not give it a patient hearing. When a motion was pending to recommit the report a third time, the chairman declared lie could not make it better! i.e., he would not say otherwise than that it was the “duty of Covenanters to join the A. A. Society,” &c. The court then set about amending the document for adoption. The seventh resolution, after amendments and substitutes proposed, was at length adopted, containing the clause, “cause of abolition.” From this clause I dissented, because, although its advocates often declared they did not intend it as a warrant for our people to “associate with ungodly men;” yet I questioned their sincerity, believing then, as I now am sure, they intended to practice deception. Some of the very men who averred in court that this clause was not intended as a warrant for such association, did afterwards resort to that very clause as a source of argument to seduce the unwary—saying they never had clearness to join in said associations till after the passing of that resolution by General Synod. The whole history of the church’s ministry for the two succeeding years, proves the correctness of my opinion, and evinces both the duty and necessity of dissent.

Now, Dear Sir, I must tell you further, that I was not the only minister in Synod, who dissented on that occasion. In the face of all the publications in the United States, in which my solitary dissent was posted up before the world, as evidence of my opposition to emancipation, I now fearlessly and solemnly declare that several ministers and elders rose to ask that their dissents be marked; but by a legal technicality they were deprived of the exercise of their right. Is it to be thought strange, that my confidence in brethren should diminish, who to curry favour with the “elite of society,” thus got me posted feloniously, as an enemy to emancipation; i.e., as they often interpreted in private, a “proslavery man,” “a slaveholder in heart.” The feelings of indignant humanity would have burst the bond of fraternal and ecclesiastical fellowship ere now, but for the pacifying influence of lingering hope, that my brethren would hereafter be more faithful to their Master, and honest in their dealings with his people. My hopes have been disappointed. “Every day they wrest my words: all their thoughts seem against me for evil. They gather themselves together, they hide themselves, they mark my steps.”

Having been honoured with the appointment by the Ohio Presbytery, to draft reports for the Western S[ubordinate] Synod, the church’s danger has been in those instruments from time to time, urged on the attention of that court. I have, as the agent of said Presbytery, been pleading that when the “rights of man” are asserted, there is danger that the “rights of God” be overlooked or neglected; that Zion’s safety is jeopardized when her citizens “go down to treat with the enemy on the plains of Ono.” But alas! the leaders in that Synod as in almost every other court, were the first in the transgression. The heart becomes “hardened through the deceitfulness of sin;” and when once sin assumes the specific character of pride of consistency, no power but that of the almighty Spirit of God can neutralize it so as to issue in repentance.

These efforts to stay the progress of defection, have been occasions of irritation to my brethren. A sullen gloom has settled down on the countenances of members, so soon as the language of warning or remonstrance struck the ear. However, in private interviews with ministerial brethren, all that I plead for was frequently and fully conceded. “Familiarity with the wicked is dangerous to the Christian.’’ “It cannot be doubted that identifying with the voluntary associations of the day will prove injurious to the Covenanter.” “It is to be hoped that all our people will, ere long, stand aloof from the contagion.” Such remarks as these were freely and frequently made, while the very man who made them would, within twenty four hours after, contradict them in practice, as afterwards appeared!!

Lulled in a great measure to security by the siren song of “peace, peace,” which false prophets of old loved to sing when a “people laden with iniquity, loved to have it so,” the writer set out as a delegate to General Synod, 1838, New York. While the court was organizing, by ascertaining its members, some symptoms appeared calculated to alarm the friends of truth and order. The Southern Presbytery already become eminent, as having been for years the source of contagion and suffering to the covenanted witnesses of Christ in America, attempted to gain admission for an illegal representation in Synod. The imposition was detected, and the illegality of the representation challenged by the writer. His efforts were baffled. The Pittsburgh Presbytery, it was argued, had equally violated the law of delegation! Here then the whole proceedings which followed were vitiated, and all the acts of that meeting rendered null by the statute laws of the Reformed Church, to which we are solemnly pledged. See “Acts of Assembly of the church of Scotland.” By a favourable providence, these “Acts” fell into my hands after that meeting of General Synod. This circumstance enables me since more fully to understand the extent of covenant obligation; as also to discover and expose official perjury and outrages on presbyterial order. The violation in the above case will appear thus:—When a court admits one or more members to “consult, vote, and determine,” who have not a legal right by constitutional law to a seat, it violates its own constitution, and commits suicide; consequently must be reorganized by a new election of delegates before it can possess competent judicial powers. But an unconstitutional court cannot pass one constitutional act. Now assuming that the Synod of 1838 was such a court, which will be easily proved from the very face of the minutes, it follows that no act of that Synod is binding in the Lord, upon any of the disciples of Christ! I perfectly appreciate the sentiment recorded in a communication which I received shortly after that meeting, from a ministerial member who was present, and who then and since has manifested little sense of covenant obligation. “I do not think,” said he, “there is an act of that Synod calculated to benefit posterity!” How could its acts benefit either posterity or the present generation, when destitute alike of the authoritative sanction and promised blessing of Zion’s glorious King?

Here I might stop without entering farther in the proceedings of that memorable meeting in detail; but as my aim is through you, Sir, to be “a teacher of babes,” there may be necessity for farther simplification.

At that meeting numerous, lengthy, argumentative, and respectable papers, from many of the Lord’s witnesses, were laid on the table, under the various captions, petition, memorial, remonstrance, &c. All these tended to bring the causes of existing trouble and growing defection under the cognizance of Synod. They charged home upon the consciences of some members of court the sin of covenant violation, by associating with the “known enemies of truth and godliness;”—leading natively to the corruption of doctrine and worship, and the exercising of tyranny in the church. The court refused to hear them, with the exception of two, to which the names of Rev. Wm. Gibson and Rev. Jas. Chrystie were affixed respectively. I urged the hearing of the people’s griefs and complaints. If groundless—show them the fact. If well founded—by all means grant redress. I pointed out the glaring inconsistency in members of Synod, who in other relations were well known to be loud advocates for the right of petition, but who as spiritual and nursing fathers, refused to hear their own children!!! As in many instances before, my advocacy of the just rights of the saints proved utterly fruitless, farther than to excite the jealousies and enmity of my covenant brethren! I sat by while four of the aforesaid witnesses for the integrity of a covenanted work of reformation, were, by an ecclesiastical court, exhibiting all the elements of tumult and violence, which constitute a popular mob, suspended from the privileges of the Church!—the aforesaid witnesses being in the exercise of their undoubted and precious rights. For the truth of the above statement, I appeal from the false caricature, contained in the so called “Minutes of Synod,” to the testimony of every disinterested spectator of that famous uproar. Indeed I had some apprehensions that I too might be subjected at the time to a similar ordeal, and be made a sacrifice to the reigning spirit of violence and anarchy. I was shielded from present danger by a singular providence of the Mediator. The tumultuous assembly was, in the wisdom of the Most High, divided into two parties. The eastern party had been for years intent upon constructing a certain imaginary creature; which, in its elementary parts, and the design of the architects, seems to be analogous to the fabled Trojan horse. If once this creature could be introduced by a breach in the walls of Zion,—the owners were masters of the city. Like the “pattern of the altar obtained at Damascus,” the projectors obtained their model among the rubbish of antichristian Rome. They call it a CONSISTORY.

While there was danger apprehended by the western members, from the introduction of this tremendous machine, my aid was not to be despised. Gladly would all the promoters of defection have contributed to my overthrow at the above date, but for the hazarding of their public standing. Of this I have had more than sufficient evidence since that period, having been already five several times, in a variety of forms, pursued with ;the censures of the church before judicatories:—in every instance, the libelous matter bearing in substance,—“Opposition to unholy confederacies.” Hitherto I have men “delivered from the strivings of the people.”

I regret no forwardness I have manifested in opposing innovation and defection, in the supreme judicatory or elsewhere. I do regret that frequently measures were so artfully contrived as to find me unprepared; and so hastily and unexpectedly launched into Synod as to take me by surprise. Instances of this kind might be specified, were it consistent with the brevity designed in this letter. I shall at present advert only to one, I allude to the report of the Committee of Discipline in 1838. To that report I agreed. I understood the following sentiment in that document: “This question the church has never determined,” as bearing upon the church in America, well aware that it did not apply in truth to the same Church in the British Isles. After all my exertions, I had never been successful in procuring a full series of “Extracts of Minutes,” published by the church in this land: and particularly that N[umber] containing the proceedings of 1821, had not fallen into my hands; otherwise I might have been apprized of the falsehood embodied in the above declaration. In that year the supreme judicatory of the Reformed Church passed an act prohibiting her members from entering into entangling associations with ungodly men.”

Not succeeding in any degree to get the General Synod to look the question on immoral confederacies in the face; I then co-operated with others in the Ohio Presbytery, in obtaining a judicial declaration by that court of the sinfulness of the practice everywhere abounding in the church, in her members identifying visibly and voluntarily with such as were known not to be well-affected to the covenant cause God.” I was induced especially to concur in this measure from the consideration that a diametrically opposite sentiment had obtained judicial sanction in the Southern Presbytery of the E[astern] S[ubordinate] Synod. It is said the editor of the misnamed “Reformed Presbyterian’’ originated the anti-reformation tenet, and of course we may account for its obtaining publicity through the medium of his sectional magazine. To test the integrity and fairness of the editor, copies of the Ohio Presbytery’s proceedings, on that vexing question, were forwarded with a request to give them insertion in his periodical. He refused! Thus the press joined with the prevailing faction in the supreme judicatory, in sanctioning error, and suppressing truth,—evidently to mislead and deceive the people. Even that charity that thinketh no evil, cannot possibly misinterpret the design. At my leisure I may hereafter dissect before the public, some of the unscriptural sentiments, detect some of the sophistical arguments, and expose some of the deceptive statements which occupy the pages of that “shackling thing.”

But while the Ohio Presbytery were thus endeavouring to elevate the falling banner of the covenanted reformation, and re-exhibit the well-known motto,—“no conjunction with the known enemies of the covenants,”—a motto which has been legible on the reformation flag for two hundred years: they were not without apprehensions that some of their ownselves were practising dissimulation. One of their number was the instrument by whose agency the publication of the Ohio Presbytery’s document was prevented.[4] The spirit of the age has now so perfectly leavened the one-half of the constituent members of the Presbytery that the faithful contendings of their brethren, which they were unable to withstand in the judicatory, became absolutely intolerable. They have ever since as is usual in such cases, Jer. 38:4, John 8:48, by detraction, slander, and calumny attempted to destroy the reputation of their brethren. Congeniality of spirit has given to misrepresentation a free circulation from Illinois to New York. The ominous innuendoes, which like the Sibylline leaves, have been scattered over the length and breadth of the land, and sometimes sagely interpreted to the people from the pulpit; have at length assumed a more definite and tangible form, as placarded on the pages of the so-called “Reformed Presbyterian.” I stay not to notice farther that puerile attempt at defamation. The self-complacent scribbler who sustains the relation of “paternity,” skulks, as usual, in the dark, and “in secret aims his shot.” He may, however, be identified, “his pride being discoverable through the holes of his coat.”

But sir, lest I trespass too far upon your indulgence by digression or detail; I shall now, with all possible brevity, take some notice of the proceedings of last meeting of General Synod. To that assembly the character given to that of 1838 will very generally apply. The only material exception is,—there was no formal violence employed to give sanction to their decrees. What are called the “Minutes of Synod? as now laid before the public, are perhaps the most imperfect, and the most calculated to impose upon the people, of all the pamphlets that have been published under the ordinary caption “Extracts of Minutes,” &c. The evidence going to sustain this assertion I reserve for a future occasion.

A petition, respectable and respectful, comprehensive and faithful, from some witnesses at Walnut Ridge, Indiana, was laid on the table calling upon Synod for a “Scriptural argument on the subject of immoral confederacies; and asking that a full copy of the minutes of Synod be published.” This paper was given into the hands of the chairman of the Committee on the Signs of the Times:—the court well knowing that, as matter of course, the report would be adverse to the objects of the petitioners. Where is the petition? Where is the committee’s report? Similar questions might be put in relation to all the papers tabled before Synod on the same subject, at every meeting for four years: and the only reply that can be given in truth is—they are “held in unrighteousness.”

It will be seen by the last “Extracts,” that papers to the amount of “No. 30,” were tabled. Add to this, that most of these were connected, each, with “accompanying documents,” from four to seven, making the whole number of papers upon the table probably above one hundred! A large proportion of these contained either direct or more remote reference to the great question, which for years has been troubling the church. The witnesses of Jesus, by petition, by complaint, by memorial and appeal, have been crying out of violence and wrong; yet are they not heard. The papers which contain their complaints, without hearing their contents but in part,—are returned! and the persons whose signatures they bear are uniformly loaded with reproach! The writer has always appeared as the advocate of such papers in particular, as were calculated to lead the Synod’s attention to the causes of defection and consequent dissention in the church. Still hoping that the subject of immoral confederacies, now in so many and so varied forms laid before Synod; must come up at least for discussion; I waited until the latter part of the sessions. Convinced now that the policy of the last four years was still in active operation,—to keep back the subject from discussion, or decision, that more time might be gained to operate in private, and thus “wear out the saints of the Most High,”—I tabled a paper on the subject, bringing the whole matter directly under the cognizance of the court. This was my last effort in that connexion, “in contending for all divine truth,” and more especially for “the present truth.”

When this paper was read, giving occasion as usual to the settled gloom brooding upon the countenances of members, the writer” moved its consideration for adoption.” The motion was seconded by Rev. H. Walkinshaw,[5] and I think elder Daugherty in one voice! Instantly a substitute was moved by Dr. [James R.] Willson and carried,—“that it lie on the table,” &c. After a temporary resurrection, it was again laid over, and respectfully interred, till next meeting of Synod. Here I ask, why is the seconder of the motion, in the above case of moving for adoption, not recorded in, the minutes! Again, why is the document itself, withheld from the public, while the ascetic and modernized reformer, his seconder, and temperance paper on which Synod took no action, are spread in broad relief before the public, as a component part of the “Extracts”? “Come on, let us deal wisely with them.” Exod. 1:10—Acts 23:12, 13. During the whole time of Synod’s proceedings, the writer could not touch upon, or allude to a certain subject without interruption from the chair or some other members of the court: one crying “order,” another,—“the speaker’s design is manifest,” &c. In vain were appeals taken from the Moderator’s decisions. The court sustained him in every instance but one!

Similar was the treatment experienced from the court by my present co-presbyter, who had been deprived of the rights of a delegate in Synod, by management and meanness, equally discreditable to his rival and the Moderator of Presbytery, who gave the casting vote for his own son.

After the paper was disposed of, as above related, the two parties who had stood in an attitude of formal antagonism, for nearly two years, now ceased hostilities, and by the powerful attraction of the “spirit of this world,” coalesced to admiration. Luke 23:1:2. The remaining business of Synod was transacted in perfect harmony, consisting in laying taxes, uniting the Theological Seminaries, craftily covering the retreat of the principal professor, from his “scattered and peeled” pastoral charge, by the formality of translation, &c. In these proceedings I took no part, having taken my stand where the Synod, in a manner sufficiently explicit, refused to “consider her ways and her doings, to turn and repent.” And here, Dear Sir, it is my deliberate determination, through grace, to maintain my position, occupying the broad ground of the whole doctrines and order of the covenanted reformation; till the judicatories, whose communion and authority I have declined, shall have decided on the matters tabled before General Synod, in accordance with the Scriptures, the Standards, and statute laws of the Reformed Presbyterian Church, and acknowledged their defection from the same, &c.

The above may suffice, for the present, as a sample of the warrantable causes of separation.

But Sir, you may inquire,—“in what manner was the separation effected? Did you enter your protest and declinature, assigning your reasons in the constituted court?” Such inquiries are perfectly in place and ought to receive answers satisfactory to every covenanter who loves even the forms of the house of God. There are two principles laid down in the word of God which will apply in this case. In external order forms may be waived, in order to retain the substance, when both cannot be obtained. 2 Ch. 30:18. There are some things also which are left to the exercise of Christian prudence to determine, when nothing is concluded or transacted in contravention of either the laws or the forms of the sanctuary. 1 Cor. 10:23.—14:26. Keeping these principles, but especially the latter in view; my answers will be intelligible and satisfactory.

Well, then, I answer,—there was no formal protest or declinature given to the court, because, 1st. The attempt to exercise that right would have subjected the writer at least to the semblance of censure. How does this appear? From two sources of evidence: First, from the former tyranny of the preceding Synod, of which I was a witness in 1838, as above related. Second, the reiterated declarations of the Moderator, and other members of the court, that no party had the right of protesting against their decisions, or declining their authority!” These illegal decrees were uttered repeatedly and publicly, “with all authority,” in the cases of D. Kenan and James McKinney. Hence it is manifest that the right being denied, it could not be exercised without exposure to censure, i.e., tyranny by the Synod.

2d. Experience teaches that an unbelieving world, and carnal professors, are much more affected by the outward form, than by the divine sanction which accompanies censure. Even some of the real disciples of Christ are tempted to deny him for a time, when “smitten with the palm of the hand,” in the members of his mystical body. More than a hundred years may not wipe off the “iniquity cast upon” a witness of Jesus, who may sinlessly, yet imprudently, subject himself to the semblance of censure at the instance of a backsliding judicatory![6] The manner of declinature did not proceed from a hasty resolution; it resulted from reflection and serious deliberation, and had been exemplified by some of the most faithful witnesses, whose example the members of Presbytery judge it still safe to follow. I am sure the most guilty members of Synod, will exceedingly reprobate, because they most heartily regret, that the above method was adopted. Had I only thrown myself into their hands by attempting the exercise of right:—then, inasmuch as my official standing and ministerial reputation, had been in measure destroyed in private, by the agency of minions, who rode post for their masters through the church for the last two years:—there wanted but a pretext to make a sacrifice in public to the Diotrephean genius of aspiring ambition.

After the final adjournment of Synod, I retired to the house of the friend whose hospitality I had enjoyed during my attendance at Synod; and in conjunction with a competent number, who were willing to “go forth unto Christ without the camp, bearing his reproach,” concurred in constituting the Reformed Presbytery, on the principles and declarations embodied in the “Deed of Constitution,” already before the public.

The attempt has been made, I cannot say it was unexpected, to destroy the character and influence of the Presbytery, and my influence also, by striking at both over the shoulders of my co-presbyter. As he can, and no doubt will, sufficiently vindicate his character and conduct in the face of his accusers and slanderers before the public, it is superfluous for me to be forward in essaying the vindication of either. For his integrity and zeal in the maintenance of truth and order, he has been subjected to detraction by time-serving brethren. Hoping that the church had been purged from corruption by the process of 1833, after a lapse of ten years of voluntary exile from her pale, he again sought her communion. His hopes have not in five years been realized. Again would he “retire into a corner and keep silence in an evil time,” bewailing the desolations of Zion, were it not for the importunate cries of her destitute children. Already for Christ and truth he has “suffered almost the loss of all things.” “He bears in his body the marks of the Lord Jesus.” I hope never to be “ashamed of the testimony of Christ, nor of those who are set for the defence of the gospel,” though they be “accounted,” by a lukewarm and backsliding generation, “as the offscourings of all things unto this day.”[7]

Identified with the renowned McMillan, the Reformed Presbytery of Scotland, the laborious and faithful biographer of the Westminster Divines,[8] and the Father of the church in America,[9] the Presbytery of which I am a member, has nothing to fear, while keeping by the “landmarks which these fathers have set,” and “walking in the footsteps of the same faith.”

But, as I must not trespass too far upon your patience, allow me to say in conclusion, that while I have no desire that the Reformed Presbytery should become a centre of attraction to carnal professors, or to Covenanters in name without principle, I heartily invite all, who, like you, Sir, refuse to “believe every spirit;” but who are willing and desirous to have means whereby to “try the spirits, whether they are of God:”—all such I invite to cast in their lot with us, to make choice of affliction with the people of God, rather than the pleasures of sin for a season.” “Come out from among them, and be ye separate,” saith the Lord, “and touch not the unclean thing, and I will receive you.” “Associate yourselves, and ye shall be broken in pieces; take counsel together, and it shall come to nought; speak the word, and it shall not stand, for God is with us.” “Ephraim compasseth me about with lies, and the house of Israel with deceit; but Judah yet ruleth with God, and faithful with the saints.”

I have no greater joy than to hear of thee walking in the truth. “Peace be with thee,—Greet the friends by name.”

Yours at all obedience in the

Maintenance of Christ’s

Covenanted Testimony,


Brush Creek,
August 7th,[10] 1840. 


[1] “Anarchial,” &c. The writer has no feeling of hostility to the object proposed by the A. A. Society: but as a Covenanter, he must in judgment and conscience oppose the use of all means resorted to, which are in their nature subversive of’ the covenanted testimony. [back]

[2] The apparent “harmony” was the result of dissimulation of many, as afterwards appeared. [back]

[3] Such appointments on the part of a Moderator betray a want of manly dignity, defect of honourable feeling and almost destitution of ministerial faithfulness. [back] 

[4] There are many other “hidden things of dishonesty,” homogeneous with the above, which might be brought to light in this connexion; but for the present I hold them in retentis. [back]

[5] This is the only minister, now in that connexion, who has made any effort in the supreme judicatory during the last two meetings, to “stay the falling banner” of the Covenanted Reformation. [back]

[6] Here I allude to the case of the Rev. John McMillan, of precious memory, who was deposed by the “apostatizing, covenant-burying, Church of Scotland;” because his faithful testimony became intolerable to his brethren. [back]

[7] I had not thought in this connexion to allude to a person whose name it is heresy to mention [i.e., Francis Gailey], and whose person it is treason to harbour—he being “put to the horn;” but that the malignity which he had acuteness to discover, and manhood to expose, has already attempted to identify the said individual with the Presbytery; thereby the more effectually, as they suppose, to expose the court to public odium. [back]

[8] Rev. James Reid. [back]

[9] Rev. William Gibson. [back]

[10] The original manuscript of the above date, was forwarded to a friend for the convenience of publication, &c.; but as it never came to hand, the probability is, that it unfortunately “fell among thieves.”

A “Reply” to Rev. Thomas Sproull’s “railing accusation,” published in the September number of the Reformed Presbyterian, was also promptly forwarded to Rev. Moses Roney, for insertion in said periodical. As it has never appeared in the Magazine, and no account of its arrival has been returned by the Editor; there is equal probability that it has unhappily met with a similar catastrophe.

The public are advertised of the facts, as furnishing matter and occasion of future caution and inquiry.

The above transcript is a true copy, without material alteration, of the original manuscript; and, although appearing “out of due time,” for the reasons assigned, it contains the sentiments of the writer, entertained at the time of writing. Subsequent movements and events have not tended to change, but abundantly to confirm them.


Nov. 10th.