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James Dodson


[The Rev. David Steele, Senior, has sent us a printed copy of the Minutes, so far as published, of the recent meeting of “the Reformed Presbytery,” held in Allegheny city, Pa., in May last; of which he is a member. This is the branch of Reformed Presbyterians which our former brother in a Christian profession Rev. John McAuley has joined, as will be seen by these Minutes. It has now, we learn, three ministers. As we think it will interest our readers to peruse these proceedings, we will insert the Paper entire. We have no space left in this number to offer any comments thereon, even if so inclined: we will say, however, that these proceedings will well repay perusal.—EDS.—Associate Presbyterian Magazine]

This Presbytery met at Northwood, Logan Co. Ohio, on the 4th October, 1871; and, inter alia, appointed the Moderator and Clerk to prepare and publish a short vindication of our Covenanted Reformation.[1]

The next meeting of this court was held in the city of Allegheny on the 1st of May, 1873.

At this meeting, Rev. John M’Auley, who had been brought up in the General Assembly, afterwards for many years in the fellowship of the Associate Synod, and next in the Synod of the R.P. Church (O[ld] S[chool]—[i.e., Old Lights]), finding that all these bodies, as he believed, had materially changed the constitutional principles and order of the Reformed Covenanted Church, at length sought fellowship in the Reformed Presbytery. After a full and free exchange of sentiment between the court, and Mr. M’Auley on doctrine and practice, he was cordially admitted.

A commission was appointed at this meeting to transact any business coming legally before them, and report to Presbytery at next meeting. The members are M’Auley, Steele, and elder Clyde, Robert Alexander alternate.

A committee was also appointed on the Signs of the Times, consisting of M’Auley and Steele, into whose hands two papers were given to be combined and published. The document so prepared is the following:—


I.—Romeward Tendencies.

The Romish religion is an amalgamation of Paganism, Judaism, and Christianity. It is the masterpiece of Satan, framed either to coerce or decoy mankind into an attitude of hostility to the Mediator. By “going forth to deceive the nations,” the arch-enemy succeeded early in the Christian era through the agency of popery, in corrupting the divine ordinances of church and state. Thus the prophetic complex organization, the “Man of Sin” and the “Antichrist” became fully developed. (Dan. 7:9-21; Rev. 13:1,2,11; 17:3,7.)

Against this hostile combination, the Spirit of the Lord has always lifted up a standard, as predicted and promised. (Rev. 11:3.) In our day, however, most of those churches which in times of reformation managed a noble testimony against the idolatries, superstitions, and despotism of Popery, appear to be insensible to their danger. Like credulous Trojans, they first admire, and then admit the monster replete with enemies. That the Prelatic churches of Christendom should copy the example of Rome in her sensuous modes of worship is not surprising. These never put off her meretricious attire, or were “ashamed of her lewd way:” but it is to be deplored that many of those who formerly protested against her splendid ritual are now returning to those “beggarly elements.” This Romeward tendency among Protestant, Presbyterian, and other churches may appear by such evidences as the following:—

1. In city, town, and country, Christian churches emulate each other and rival Rome, in the cost, splendor, spaciousness, and furniture of their houses of worship. The steeple, bell, stained glass, painting, organ and other instruments of music, are all combined—“to reach the masses!” So we often hear in the pious cant of the day. Will the “spiritual destitution of the poor” be obviated? Will the poor, who still retain their sense of manhood, be attracted to a place of worship, where the ground for building a house of worship costs five hundred thousand dollars, the Pastor’s salary from five to ten or twenty thousand per annum, with musical attractions at a proportionate expense?—Impossible. No, the crowning testimony to the Messiahship of our Lord is greatly obscured, if not already silenced, in such community,—“the poor have the gospel preached unto them.” (Matt. 11:5,6.)

2. This conformity to Rome is further manifested in the consecrations, dedications, and re-dedications of buildings erected or repaired for religious worship, with the pageantry usually associated with such profanity. Add to this the fairs, festivals, sociables—by which funds are too often dishonestly obtained to nurture this vanity. “Israel hath forgotten his Maker and buildeth temples.”

3. The Latin language is the only vehicle of the sacrifice of the mass. In this respect the Romish church is almost every where imitated in the present day, by the mode in which the “service of praise” is conducted. For example,—“how shall it be known what is piped” by the organ? What does it teach? How shall “one that believeth not, or one unlearned” be edified, if, entering a worshipping assembly, he hears only the harmonious voices of artistic singers, or even of a whole congregation—“without a distinction in the sounds!” “Will he not say that they are mad?” There is perhaps no part of Protestant worship in which the Romeward tendency is more strikingly evident than in continuous singing [the practice of “lining” was falling into disuse], operatic music, and vain repetition [using repeating tunes and choruses], in almost all worshipping assemblies.

4. In the modern Sabbath School may be seen revived, but in a new phase, the popish invention of godfathers and godmothers; where the children of Christian professors are surrendered to the training of strangers on the Lord’s day; and these too often such as “have need to be taught which be the first principles of the oracles of God.”

5. Watching for the entrance of the new year, erecting Christmas trees,—even placing these in houses of worship, accompanied with the usual festivities; carrying the dead into the same houses, with concomitant “religious services,” are also Romanizing and Paganizing tendencies.

6. The “lying wonders” and canonization of saints in the Romish church are only too closely imitated by the pious frauds of religious periodicals. The “six million dollars’ worth of Sunday School literature” of the day, and the more pretentious serials by which these are generally endorsed, are continually trumpeting forth the astonishing conversion of boys and girls by the reading of such a hymn or tract; and the number of such conversions is ascertained with such arithmetical precision, that one who would question its truthfulness is of “doubtful Christianity!”

“One of themselves, even a prophet of their own,” will corroborate the foregoing statements. “This witness is true.” “Fas est ab hoste doceri—Forcible is the testimony of an enemy.” Let us hear the evidence of the Boston Pilot, one of Rome’s organs. Under the graphic and trenchant caption—Romeward tendencies of the Children of Reformers, that paper rejoices to note the following:—“the observance of Christmas,—the simple meeting-house changed into the magnificent church, in fact and in name. They borrow our forms of architecture; expend their wealth upon the construction of their churches, embellishing them with statuary and painting, and try to heighten the effect of their religious worship by elaborate music. They are foregoing the use of the word “Sabbath” as applied to Sunday . . . . and are imitating our ritualistic forms.”—Surely when the children of Babylon are thus rejoicing in the co-operation of Edomites, it behooves the children of Judah to deplore the alliance.

But other churches besides Rome devise attractions for the entertainment rather than the conversion of the irreligious multitude. (1.) Choral services, the opening of a new organ—“the best toned in the city,” costing a fabulous price—are advertised as manifest substitutes for the gospel. To such entertainments the graceless throng—the “rascal multitude” of Knox, may be seen crowding, as the same class go to the theatre. Thus the broad road becomes a flowery path to destruction.

(2.) Among most denominations there is general hostility to any fixed terms of fellowship. Some openly avow this, when they say,—“It does not matter how the head is, if the heart be right;” not remembering that where ignorance and error reign, so does death also; that “where no vision is, the people perish;” and that before sinners can be saved, they must be “turned from darkness to light.” Others tacitly betray their dislike to such terms, and indifference to truth, by a zealous advocacy of ecclesiastical fellowship by compromising all Scriptural attainments: showing a willingness to sell, but not to buy, the truth. The result is the same when covenant breakers and fugitives from righteous discipline, are not only received but welcomed into the fellowship of corrupt churches, whose wide doors stand always open for the admission of all such persons. He is not the successful Pastor who “continues steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship,” but who fills the pews and augments the finances of his congregation, though he “teach rebellion against the Lord.”

(3.) God’s great ordinance of public covenanting, which was specially intended since the fall to preserve and perpetuate the true religion in the world, and also to conserve all other religious institutions, has ceased to be generally regarded. Of this deplorable fact we have lamentable evidence in the proceedings of supreme judicatories in Ireland and America, representing many of those whose renowned ancestors were honored of God to display his banner in the British Isles. At Dervock in the year 1853, and in Pittsburgh, 1871, the degenerate sons of martyred fathers basely lowered and practically surrendered the banners formerly set up. The Dervock Bond adroitly classes the Auchensaugh Deed with itself, as equal renovations of the original covenants, National and Solemn League, whilst practically adhering to neither. The Pittsburgh Bond, with less disguise, disowns the Covenants themselves, with all renovation,—offering itself as a substitute for both. “The earth is defiled under the inhabitants thereof, because they have transgressed the laws, changed the ordinance, broken the everlasting covenant.”

(4.) Many who are called Reformed Presbyterians, in the face of the fourth commandment, and in violation of vows at the baptism of their children, commit the inspection, instruction, and government of them to unauthorized, irresponsible, and incompetent guides. During much of the Lord’s day, such children are neither under the eye nor subject to the control of their parents. Add to this the corrupting influence of habitual contact with “half-heathen” associates. And no pleas from the “exigencies of the times” will justify such a breach of either law or covenant.

(5.) Man in his fallen condition still craves enjoyment. Necessarily a religious being, he vibrates between superstition and scepticism. German and English Rationalism is largely imported into this country; and it is to be deplored that these ravings of “men of corrupt minds” get currency in modern systems of divinity. It is doubtful if the attempts at confuting the atheistical speculations will countervail their baleful influence on the minds and hearts of theological students,—especially when these systems are extravagantly eulogized by professed covenanted teachers.

II.—Sins in Civil Society.

1. Men rather glory in, than deprecate the evil of civil division and discord. By many these are considered rather as a blessing than a curse. They tell us one faction will watch and counteract the schemes of another.

2. Men, carnal men, do not see the true origin of existing discord among the nations,—that all the tumults and commotions among them have their origin in the spirit of the world,—the angry passions and unsanctified ambition of ungodly men; which are symbolized in Scripture by the “four winds of heaven striving upon the great sea,” making civil society “like the troubled sea when it cannot rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt. There is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked.” (Isa. 57:20,21.)

3. Ungodly nations cannot see or understand the real character of the evils among them, because “they know not, neither will they understand—Evil men understand not judgment—none of the wicked shall understand—they love darkness.” And because they are darkness itself, they do not see that their constitutions are anti-scriptural, and their administrations corrupt. They cannot see that they are enemies to God, “walking according to the prince, of the power of the air, the spirit that worketh in the children of disobedience:” and that therefore all ungodly and Christless nations—officers and citizens, are sitting in darkness—gross darkness, “in the region and shadow of death, where there is no vision, and where the people perish.”

4. The nations, being ignorant of the moral maladies of civil society, are also ignorant of the remedies for them. The maladies are the corruptions of the officers and citizens; of the Constitution and administration. The only remedy for these is to be found in the “Balm of Gilead—the leaves of the tree of life, which are for the healing of the nations.”

5. Perhaps one of the worst signs of the times is, that most of the ministry, being identified with the rebellious multitude who “make war with him that sat on the horse, and with his army,” (Rev. 19:19.), do not obey Christ’s command when he says,“—Go, teach all nations”—do not teach them their duty to “endeavor the defence and preservation of the true religion:” to show them that it is their duty, as well as that of the church, to take hold of God’s covenant of promise, and give themselves to him in a covenant of duty: that “the nation and kingdom that will not serve Zion shall perish; yea, those nations shall be utterly wasted.”


1. Notwithstanding the prevalence of error, sin, and crime in the world; we are assured that this state of things is only of temporary duration. We have the consoling promise that “the rod of the wicked shall not rest upon the lot of the righteous.” Dark providences are designed not only to try, but also to strengthen the faith of God’s people. Even the apostasy of some, is for the establishment of others. “Now I tell you before it come, that when it is come to pass, ye may believe.”

2. God has not left himself without witnesses. As yet there are some who ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and are desiring to walk therein; who are not ashamed of their habiliments of sackcloth, but are willing to go forth unto Christ without the camp, bearing his reproach,—“men wondered at” for their singularity.

3. We are called to thanksgiving, that when God has removed a standard-bearer in a distant land [i.e., Dr. John Cunningham], who for years had “strengthened our hands in God;” another [i.e., John M’Auley], of large experience in past conflicts for divine truth and order, has been brought to take part of this ministry, thus co-operating with us in displaying a Covenanted Banner with all its inscriptions legible to the world.

4. Many continue to run to and fro, and knowledge is thereby increased. Learning, art, and science are preparing the way of the Lord. The Holy Scriptures, in many languages, as before the coming of Christ, are carried into almost all nations; so that they may hear in their own tongues the wonderful works of God.

5. The dogma of papal infallibility is opposed and rejected by many of the most learned men in Europe, and the Jesuits are expelled from the cabinets of princes.

6. The bow in the cloud continues to witness the faithfulness of God, who still crowns the year with his goodness, providing for the subsistence of man and beast.

7. Prophecy and promise guarantee the universal prevalence of Messiah’s kingdom, when “the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it.”

The last Thursday of next November was appointed for Thanksgiving, and the last Thursday of February, 1874, for Fasting.



[1] This action was deemed necessary to counteract the obloquy so generally cast upon the Covenants, National and Solemn League; but especially the indignity offered to these Scriptural Deeds by the “New Covenant” adopted in Pittsburgh the preceding May. The “Vindication” was accordingly published and extensively circulated.—Clerk.