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James Dodson


[from The Original Covenanter, Vol. III, No. 15, September 1884, pp. 452-460.]


June 4, 10 o’clock, A.M.

The Reformed Presbytery met according to adjournment at the call of the Moderator. In the absence of the Moderator, Mr. David Steele, the oldest minister present, constituted the Court by prayer. The Moderator appeared and took the chair.

Members present were Messrs. David Steele, J. F. Fulton and Charles Clyde, ministers; and J. J. Miller, Allegheny; Robert Alexander, Philadelphia; David A. Renfrew, North Union; John Tweed, Hill Prairie, and James Campbell, Rochester, N.Y., elders; Messrs. George Alexander, Allegheny, and James Anderson, North Union, ruling elders, being present were invited to a seat as consultative members. They took their seat accordingly. Messrs. Charles Clyde, Moderator, and James Campbell, Clerk, were continued in their respective offices for the ensuing year.

Minutes of last meeting were read and approved. On inquiry it was ascertained that days of fasting and thanksgiving had been observed. Ministerial appointments had been fulfilled. The Committee on the Signs of the Times, not being ready to report, were given further time.

Commission reported that no business had been required of them since last meeting, and they, viz., Messrs. J. F. Fulton and Charles Clyde, ministers, and Mr. George Alexander, ruling elder, were continued till next meeting of Presbytery. Messrs. George Alexander, and Henry M. Hartzell, who were appointed to take charge of the donation of Miss Jane Young, reported. Report satisfactory, and they continued to manage it at their discretion, and without expense to Presbytery.

Presbytery took a recess till 2.30 o’clock, P.M.

Same place, 2.30 o’clock, P.M.

Time of recess having expired, Presbytery came to order. All the members present. Papers called for. Petitions for supplies, oral and written, were received from Des Moines, Iowa, Rochester, N.Y., Hill Prairie, Ill., Philadelphia, and North Union, Pa., and Catawissa, Mo., all of which were granted, the supplies to be filled by any of the ministerial members at such time and in such measure as they and the people may agree. Petition from Messrs. George Aiken, and R. J. Shield, was received and marked No. 1. Petition from Mr. Robert Clyde, Sr., was received and marked No. 2. Petition from Hill Prairie received and marked. No. 3. These petitions being all on the subject of paying money to clear township, and precinct, from draft, were read, and laid on the table. The treasures presented his report, which was received, read, audited and adopted. The report showed a balance of $120.49 at the disposal of Presbytery. Mr. David Steele, Pastor of the Philadelphia congregation, asked to be relieved from his charge because of the infirmities of old age. With sincere regret, his request was unanimously granted. It was then resolved with equal unanimity that he be appointed Pastor Emeritus.

Papers Nos. 1, 2, and 3, were taken up, and referred to a committee; the Moderator appointed Messrs. R. Alexander, Renfrew, Tweed, and Campbell, such committee, which was directed to report on tomorrow. The court adjourned to meet tomorrow, at 10 o’clock, A.M.

Same place, June 5, 10 o’clock, A.M.

The Presbytery came to order and constituted by prayer. All the members present. The Committee on papers Nos. 1, 2, and 3, not being ready, time to finish their report was given, and Court took a recess until they were ready.

The Committee being ready, the Court came to order. The Committee presented a report. While the report was under discussion, the following substitute as amended was adopted: “Certain petitions having been presented from different parts of the Church, asking Presbytery to reconsider its action of 1865 on the subject of paying money to clear townships and precincts from draft. After earnest and protracted discussion on these papers, the Court came to the following conclusion: That the interests of truth and peace will be best promoted by ceasing to agitate this question; inasmuch as the whole subject is clearly defined in the first resolution of Presbytery in 1868, which fully accords with the action of this Court in 1865, and that the resolution of 1886 and the action of this Court in 1865 referred to be published with the minutes.


WHEREAS, It appears that members of this Court have contributed money to clear townships and precincts from draft; and whereas, the payment of such money is, in the judgment of this Court, inconsistent with our Testimony; and the members paying such money having expressed their sorrow for so doing; therefore,

Resolved, That the case be dismissed with the counsel that they be still more careful in future to act consistently with the Testimony of the Church. 


Resolved, That paying money to hire substitutes to go into military service for the support of immoral power, is inconsistent with our Testimony, because of the legal identity between the parties, according to the recognized maxim, “What I do by another, I do by myself.”[1]

Presbytery adjourned by prayer, to meet on Monday next, after divine service.

Same place, Monday, June 9th, 1884.

Agreeably to adjournment, court met and was constituted by prayer. All the members present. The committee on the signs of the times presented their report, which was received, read article by article, and adopted as follows:


The existence of manifold societies for moral reform confirms the language of the prophet, that “All the foundations of the earth are out of course.” This is true, now as it was, when first delivered to the church; and when “The sweet Psalmist of Israel said, the Spirit of the Lord spake by me, and his word was in my tongue. The God of Israel said, the Rock of Israel spake to me, he that ruleth over men must be just, ruling in the fear of God.” Even then it was true; and this condition of moral and social reform, this departure from the right ways of God, has prevailed ever since representative Adam transgressed the covenant, and our first parents discovering their nakedness, strove to hide themselves from the presence of the Lord. It becometh us who are of the degenerate children of Adam, in the enjoyment of God’s revelation of mercy in Christ Jesus; and regeneration by the Holy Spirit, to confess and forsake our sins, in accordance with the admonition and encouragement, Prov. xxviii. 13. “He that covereth his sins shall not prosper; but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy:” and 1 John i. 9. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

We confess that we are justly involved in the guilt of Adam’s first sin, the want of original righteousness and the corruption of our whole nature, together with all actual transgressions which proceed from it. And,

First. Though we are fully convinced that there is one living and true God, subsisting in the persons of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, the same in substance, equal in power and glory; yet we must confess, that we too often think and act as if there was no God; and like the heathen as well as carnal professors, around us, we glorify him not as God, neither are we thankful, but have become vain in our imaginations and our foolish hearts are darkened. This we confess and deplore.

Second. We must confess that our zeal is not up to the things required, neither do we avoid or reprove, as we should, the things forbidden, in the second commandment. Its violation in all parts of the professedly christian, antichristian, as well as heathen world, does not affect our hearts as it should, in view of the dishonor done to a holy and jealous God, by the corruption of his worship in all its parts. Had we the zeal of our blessed Master, or his faithful servant John Knox, we would with grief of heart deplore the impure acts of false worship so common in our day, as well as detest and dread even one mass, as he did, lest the wrath of God be poured out upon us.

Third. How is the name of God blasphemed! In common conversation, in courts of law, and in places of worship! In all these places, and in ways most gross, most subtle, and vain, is that most holy name by which we are called, most shamefully insulted and profaned.

Fourth. Where is the Sabbath of the Lord our God remembered and observed as of his appointment? And the answer is, nowhere, except by the few hidden ones, who recognize the Sabbath as a sign between God and his people, an who sigh and cry for all the abominations committed on God’s holy day. Even the day set apart for rest and called Sunday, by authority in the name of the people, whether in republics or monarchies, in rebellion against the Son of Man who is Lord of the Sabbath, even such days are prostituted to pleasure, to profit, to drunkenness and debauchery of every kind. And for these things the Lord will call to judgment.

Fifth. Due subordination in the Lord is sadly overlook, if not neglected and despised. We are familiar with the names, Husband and Wife, Parents and Children, Masters and Servants, Pastors, Elders and People, Magistrates and Subjects; but alas! how little are the duties of these several places and relations understood, much less observed. Truly, here is discovered that “All the foundations of the earth are out of course,” Oh that he would come, who “Shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to the fathers lest” (he) “come and smite the earth with a curse,” as “Thus saith the Lord.”

Sixth, Seventh, Eighth and Ninth. As of old the children of Israel were chargeable, so, we confess, we are, with breaches of these commandments. “For the Lord hath a controversy with the inhabitants of the land, because there is no truth, nor mercy, nor knowledge of God in the land. By swearing and lying, and killing, and stealing, and committing adultery, they break out, and blood toucheth blood. Therefore shall the land mourn, and every on that dwelleth therein shall languish, with the beasts of the field, and with the fowls of heaven; yea, the fishes of the sea shall be taken away.” And these breaches of God’s commandments, calling down such manifestations of his displeasure, are sorely aggravated by the depraved ingenuity of man, in transforming many of God’s good creatures to become means of augmenting human corruption, as in distillation and adulteration. Oh, that we may in view of the Lord’s controversy with us be enabled to say, “Come and let us return to the Lord; for He hath torn and He will heal us, He hath smitten and He will bind us up.”

Tenth. “Thou shall not covet.” Who is free from the guilt of breaking this commandment, and yet how few are sensible of its breach? Insensibility is produced, stimulated and encouraged, by forms of law, through which the marriage relation is loosely formed, and as easily dissolved by ungodly divorce, affording facility to men of unholy passions who covet their neighbor’s wife, to possess themselves of the object of their lust without compunction. The breach of this commandment is made popular also, in opposition to the authority of God, by corporations organized and authorized, by forms of law, to obtain the property of others to which they have no just right. This was notably manifest in the corporation charter sought for and obtained from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, by the Synod of the so called “Reformed Presbyterian Church Old Light in North America,” by which the property of that body was transferred to the so called, ‘Synod Old School.’ And this covetous act is successfully carried out, and but few are sensible of the idolatry committed in these and other ways. For these let us mourn.

For these and many other ways, by which God’s law is transgressed, and for which he is manifesting his displeasure, by many disastrous providences, by sea, and by land, in all parts of the world, whether by the agency and design of wicked men or otherwise, let us hear and obey the gracious invitation of the Lord. Joel ii. 12, 13, 14; “Turn ye even to me with all your heart, and with fasting, and with weeping, and with mourning; and rend your hearts and not your garments, and turn unto the Lord your God; for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repenteth him of the evil. Who knoweth if he will return and repent, and leave a blessing behind him?”


As profess children of God, we desire to express our thankfulness to him for his bountiful covenanted mercies. Though by nature children of wrath even as others, yet it has pleased him to grant his people the amazing privilege to be called the sons of God. for his unmerited loving kindness in restoring them to his favor through Christ Jesus our only redeemer, let us ascribe to him everlasting praise.

The divinely appointed means of grace we prize as an invaluable blessing. By the use of them in accordance with the divine order we have near access to God, and accompanied by the effectual working of his Spirit, the benefits of Christ’s purchased redemption are applied to us. And though in our scattered condition, we have not always the public preaching of the word, yet we are not left wholly destitute. From time to time we have the word and sacraments dispensed by a regular gospel ministry; and in the side chambers of his house we have our fellowship meetings, and are strengthened and encouraged by brotherly intercourse one with another, and for these we would stir up our souls and all that is within us to give thanks to our Covenant God.

While we lament our inability to send a ministry and the written word to the dark places of the earth, where there is no vision and the people perish; we at the same time rejoice that in the providence of God the heathen have been measurably enlightened by the labors of others who have translated and circulated God’s holy word enabling many nations to read and hear in their own tongue the wonderful works of God; and particularly the great work of redemption with brings glory to God and salvation to man.

We are thankful also, that in the midst of prevailing corruption there are still some to stand up for the good old ways, and advocate the purity of the doctrine and worship of God. we rejoice that some are responding to the call of our God, and are rising up for him against those who are strong and mighty in their efforts to break down the carved work of the sanctuary.

It is matter of thankfulness that some have recently turned from what are called International Lessons to the study of God’s word, and the time honored Standards of the Church. Ignorance of God’s word has been publicly acknowledged among them, so much that not a few cannot tell whether the Psalms are in the Old or New Testament; and it is thus a matter of thankfulness that their attention is recalled to the Scriptures.

We would be thankful also, that while men of learning are doing evil with both hands earnestly in their endeavor to overturn the Bible, and thus deprive us of the ground of our faith, that there are men of equal learning raised up by the Mediator to oppose and refute their learned sophisms, and ably defend the fundamental truth of our religion.

We are thankful that the various means of communication between distant parts of the earth are in some measure available for the spread of the Gospel.

The Lord is good to all, and his tender mercies are over all his works. He has been good to us in bestowing so richly the good things of this life. The land in which we live enjoys outward peace and prosperity; and we participate in these blessings. The earth yields her increase for the sustenance of man and of beast; and in various ways, by providential ruling, men are afforded opportunities of providing a livelihood honestly in the sight of God and in the sight of men.

For these and other reasons we appoint the last Thursday of November, 1884, as a day of Thanksgiving, and the last Thursday of February, 1885, as a day of Fasting for ourselves and all the people under our charge.

Resolved, That when Presbytery adjourn, it be to meet at the call of Moderator. The following minute on the death of Mr. McAuley was adopted:

Whereas, The Rev. John McAuley has been removed by death since our last meeting, we deem it our duty to notice this providence and humbly submit to the disposing will of God. Therefore,

First. We record our testimony to his fidelity to the covenanted cause of Christ while in our fellowship.

Second. We recognize in this solemn event an admonition to ourselves enforcing those of God’s word to be mindful of our latter end and be faithful unto death.

Third. We tender our cordial sympathy to his bereaved widow, and also to his surviving posterity.

The money at the disposal of Presbytery was distributed as follows, viz., To the Moderator $70.00, to D. Steele $30.00, and to Mr. Fulton $20.49. Elders James Campbell and Robert Clyde were added to the Commission, any three of which as now constituted, one being a minister of the Gospel, will be competent to attend to any business when called upon. Messrs. J. F. Fulton, minister, and D. A. Renfrew, elder, are appointed a committee on the Signs of the Times to report at next meeting of Presbytery.

On motion adjourned by prayer.




[1] That Presbytery never sanctioned either volunteering or hiring substitutes is manifest from the fact, that in 1865, they directed Miami Session to exercise discipline in the only case of that kind ever brought to the notice of the superior Court. Rom. xiii. 5.—D. STEELE.