[from The Reformation Advocate, Vol. 1, No. 1, March 1874, pp. 101-104.]
In addition to the defects pointed out in reasons of dissent, at Pittsburg, May 27th 1871, viz.—“That it is a new covenant—entirely different from, and a substitute for our present covenants,”—that “Synod refused to admit into the new covenant the names of the Covenants National and Solemn League”—that this refusal “will eventually necessitate the obliteration of the names of these covenants from the vows, which are now imposed on ministers, and elders, at their ordination, and from our terms of communion”—and ultimately “change our religion to these covenants, and to our covenant brethren of the British Isles,”—Now, besides these defects of the new covenant, First, it ignores the great principle of National Religion. And every church that is not for this principle is against it. Dr. Begg says, “Neutrality is impossible. Nations that are not for Christ are against him. The grand principles of national religion, therefore, never can be given up without sin.” (R. P. and Cov. Jan. 1872, p. 12.)
But the new covenant has entirely given up this grand principle; because it does not teach the nation that it is a sin not to believe and profess, practice, and defend the true religion; and also, that it is a sin not to steadfastly and determinedly oppose every false religion. Again, the new covenant gives up this grand principles; because it does not teach the nation that it is its duty to establish by law the true reformed religion, and to maintain and defend all the civil rights and immunities of the true reformed church—bound by covenant to endeavour the preservation of the true religion in doctrine, worship, discipline, and government; and that, at the same time, it is the duty of the state, by legal enactment, to withhold from every other church any establishment by law, and to judicially declare that no false religion—or one opposed to God’s covenant and religion, as established by law—has any civil rights or immunities: because false religion is hostile to, and destructive of all true government, both human and divine, civil and ecclesiastical. It is hostile to, and subversive of the divine law, the only foundation of all true government. And it is, no doubt, the very strong sympathy and affinity that exist between the synod and all false religions, that has led her indirectly, but strongly to set herself for the defence of all false religions—instead of the true reformed religion.
This strong sympathy and affinity for all—yes for all false religions, and hostility to the true religion, stands out in bold relief on the very face of the new covenant; where the synod binds himself—by covenant “to maintain christian friendship with pious men of every name, and to feel and act as one with all in every land who pursue this grand end.” That is, we bind ourselves by covenant to feel and act as one with all those names or sects in every land who pursue, &c. Now, a covenant in favour of maintaining christian friendship with pious men of every name, is virtually a covenant in favour of maintaining christian friendship with false religions of every kind. But a covenant to maintain christian friendship with false religions of every kind, is a covenant to maintain hostility against the true religion. And a covenant to feel and act as one with the friends of all false religions, is a covenant against the unity of the true church of Christ.
Again, the sympathy of the synod for false religions manifests itself in forsaking the Covenants National and Solemn League, and in adopting a new covenant, entirely different from, and a substitute for them.
In this land there is a very special reason why there should be great prominence given to this grand principle; because there is great need of a testimony in behalf of national religion, and against national infidelity. There is no principle of the christian religion that is more strenuously opposed in our day, than this, both in church and state. Now, when there is a special call for a testimony against opposition to a great Bible truth; and when this opposition comes from both church and state; it is certainly a very great sin to withhold that testimony. Both the names and general tenor of the covenants and religion of Britain from 1638 and 1649, prove them to be national. A mere ecclesiastical covenant and religion is radically defective—it binds the church, but not the state, “to believe and profess, to practice and defend the true christian faith and religion, pleasing God and bringing salvation to men; as God’s eternal truth and only ground of salvation;” as the Scottish church and nation did, in the National Covenant of Scotland, in 1638. The fact that we live in a nation that is opposed to believing, receiving, and establishing the true religion—pleasing God and bringing salvation to man—is not reason why we should cast this great bible principle of national religion into the background; but, on the contrary, it is a reason why we should be more zealous in promoting and maintaining it. The christian religion is just as much the religion of the state, as it is of the church.
1. Because it was judicially enacted by the former as well as by the latter. (See adopting acts prefixed to the Covenants, Confession of Faith, Catechisms, &c.)
2. Because the covenants were sworn and subscribed by citizens as well as church members. “Noblemen, barons, knights, gentlemen, citizens, burgesses, ministers of the gospel, and commons of all sorts” sworn and subscribed both the ecclesiastical and civil parts of the Covenants National and Solemn League. Both church and state need the true, but not a false religion; for it is not the false, but the true religion that saves from the curse of the law, and the wrath of God—without it—the true religion—both must perish forever; possessed of it, both are eternally blessed. Then the church and state being alike sinful moral agents, are also alike interested in possessing, professing, practising, and maintaining the true religion; for without this, neither can receive the pardon of their sins, nor the acceptance of their persons and services—netiehr of them can escape from the wrath to come, or be objects of the divine favour. Then the state is just as much bound to establish the true religion, as it is to establish true civil liberty; and the church is just as much bound to maintain true civil liberty, as it is to maintain Bible religion: these both being divine ordinances, both church and state are bound to establish and maintain them, but not to confound them—are both bound to see that all cases civil be adjudicated by civil courts, and all cases ecclesiastical by ecclesiastical tribunals.
These they are bound to do conjointly, not separately; they are bound unitedly to maintain the liberties of the commonwealth, and the freedom of the church. All citizens are bound to be fellow-citizens with the saints and of the household of God.
Now the church and state are bound to unite in establishing and preserving the christian religion and civil liberty, by “a full and perfect union of kirk and kingdom, by joining of all in one and the same covenant with God, with the king’s majesty, and among ourselves.” (Act of the General Assembly ordaining, by ecclesiastical authority, the subscription of the National Covenant of Scotland, Aug. 30, 1639.)
It is true the church cannot unite with the state without its consent; but, in regard to this matter, it belongs to the church to instruct the state, and not the state the church—“Go teach all nations.” But if the state will not unite with the church in professing and defending the true religion; the church is still bound to show the state its sin, and teach it its duty, whether it will hear or forbear. But if the church forbear to teach the state its duty circa sacra—if it forbear to teach the state what are the covenant obligations imposed upon it, in the word of God—or if it let the state alone in its infidelity, and neither point out its sins nor its duties—then the sin of the state becomes the sin of the church, the infidelity of the former the infidelity of the latter, and the punishment of the one the punishment of the other. Ez. 3. 18, “When I say unto the wicked, thou shalt surely die; and thou givest him not warning, nor speakest to warn the wicked from his wicked way, to save his life; the same wicked man shall die in his iniquity, but his blood will I require at thine hand. Yet if thou warn the wicked and he turn not from his wickedness, nor from his wicked way, he shall die in his iniquity; but thou hast delivered thy soul.” Jer. 51:6; Rev. 18:4.