[The occasion of the following remarks will be seen in the August number of the Covenanter, HERE]
Although not authorized to speak in the name of the Reformed Presbytery; yet in view of an inspired injunction, (1 Pet. 3:15,) and for the information of all whom it may concern, it may not be unseasonable to offer the following apprehensions:—
1. That the “practical and important end” which the Reformed Presbytery contemplates, is the maintenance and propagation of divine truth and order, which it believes to be grievously wronged in the house of their professed friends:—more especially,
2. “For the purpose of vindicating the doctrine,” not (as we have been slanderously reported, and as some affirm that we say,) “that church history is the church’s testimony;” but, that history, human history, uninspired history, is, and of right ought to be, an integral part of the testimony of the church of Christ.
3. That the church’s testimony is really a human, though not “merely human production; for the simple and sufficient reason, that “histories are the productions of men.” Although the martyrs of Jesus did not overcome their anti-Christian opposers by their blood, yet they did so in part by “their testimony”—“the testimony which they held.” Rev. 12:11; 6:9; 11:7.
4. To oppose all, whether Papists or others, who would add to “the system of faith” which the Lord Christ has prescribed in the holy Scriptures; or deny the church’s right—divine right—to fix the terms of fellowship within her own communion, Moreover to convince others if the Lord will, of their folly and impiety, in calling the Bible their confession, their testimony, &c.
5. To “direct the doctrines and reproofs, &c.,” of the Bible against emergent errors and sins; and more especially, against errors and sins watch may be organic and chronic in ecclesiastical and civil society.
These, I apprehend, are some of the ends which the Reformed Presbytery proposes to prosecute in its “separate denominational organization.”
In Conclusion, I believe that schism, in its scriptural import, is to be dreaded by all who fear God and love Christ; yea, that it is a sin really dreaded by all such; but, alas! Christ and Antichrist attach different meanings to this term and many others. Christ says schism exists in the body where the members “come together in the church,” 1 Cor. 12:25, 11:18. Antichrist says and insists, from the time of Luther to the present day, that schism consists in separation from his fellowship. Moreover, those whom I recognise as ecclesiastical and covenant fathers, as also faithful witnesses for Christ’s rights and their own, were obliged to separate, that they might escape the just charge of schism. Their authentic words are, on a certain occasion:—“To avoid schism, we must separate.” And again, “Separation is not schism.” When I have the mind of Christ, confirmed by his “faithful martyrs,” slain for their steadfast adherence to his mind, this is enough for me.
I know that diversity of apprehension among the real disciples and faithful witnesses of Christ is a fruitful source of alienation among them—apprehension I mean of their Master’s mind. Divisions and offences among real Christians are ordinarily traceable to error as their cause; but it often happens that those who cause divisions and offences are more forward to reproach their brethren than to confess their own sin. And all this is largely illustrated by the history of the church.
As a means to reach mutual understanding, and so to restore impaired confidence, I would propose, in a future article, a brief analysis of the “Preface to Reformation Principles Exhibited.”
[The editor, James M. Willson wrote: The Reformed Presbytery.—In our May number [of the Covenanter magazine] we gave a place, very cheerfully, to the minutes of this body. Still, we are no little loss to know what practical or important end it designs to secure by maintaining a separate denominational organization. It surely cannot be, as we have heard, for the purpose of vindicating the doctrine that church history is the church’s testimony. Until we have more positive evidence to the fact, we shall think better of their judgment than this. If history is the church’s testimony, then must the church’s testimony be merely human, for histories are the productions of men: or there must be in the church a power to add to the system of faith, or more correctly, to make terms of fellowship for herself, which is Popish. The Bible is the sole fountain of the church’s faith; from this she gathers her creeds, &c.: and her testimony consists in directing the doctrines and reproofs, renunciations and denunciations of the Bible against emergent errors and sins. We fear the sin of schism is not dreaded as it ought to be.]