[from The Original Covenanter, vol. II, no. 14, June 1880, pp. 427-433]
Mr. Editor:—Permit me again to have some conversation with readers of your Quarterly, about those things which have lately taken place among us. The oldest minister of the Covenanting name in these United States has been slandered behind his back; chiefly we believe, because of his connection with the true witnessing church of Christ. Of course, all under the inspection of the Reformed Presbytery come under the dark shadow of the same cloud; but no doubt he especially as a minister and public witness for all that uniformity of the once famous Church of Scotland.
The Lord directs his people by the prophet Jeremiah xxxi. 21. “Set thee up way-marks, make thee high heaps.”—As some of our brethren of more ability than we have raised up heaps, permit one more stone to be added to those heaps. It is worthy of notice that those who reproach us have not quoted one passage from Scripture or our Subordinate Standards to prove their assertions. Now while trying to bear witness for the truth of the gospel and to defend the character of those who faithfully preach it, we ought to keep by our profession. “To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.” Isa. viii:20. But let others do as they may, we say and stand to it that “the Scriptures of the Old and New Testament are the alone infallible rule of our faith and manners.” Let us then “go forth by the footsteps of the flock.” Song. i:8. We therefore light upon that part of Holy Writ contained in Ruth ii:19. “—Where hast thou gleaned to-day?” To give a reasonable answer to this question is our present object; as also in our humble way to prove that those who reproach us have left the true Reformed Covenanted Church.
By way of accommodating the question to our present purpose we adopt the following method: First, Boaz was a type of Christ. Second, He was owner of the field. Third, He was a Bethlehemite. “Now Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king.” Matt. ii:1. He owns all the land, for “the earth is the Lord’s and the fulness thereof.” 1 Cor. x:26, and his title deed comes from him who appointed his Son “heir of all things.” Heb. i:2. It the Scriptures be the filed in which the ministers are to dig deep and search for hid treasures, they are the Lord’s also. If the church be symbolized in this portion of inspired history, then she too is the Lord’s.
We have also Naomi asking Ruth this question. Naomi signifies beautiful, my comely one, representing the true church. “My dove, my undefiled is but one; she is the only one of her mother,” etc. Song. v:9. Then we have Ruth pledging (pigneratio) her faith to the “comely one.” Here we may see plainly the marks of the true church, for this was an agreement or covenant between Naomi and Ruth. Boaz was well pleased with that transaction and gave farther direction to Ruth. In this very instructive passage we may further see an outline of Presbyterial government and discipline. Naomi, or “my comely one” ought to be owned by all the daughters of Zion: the Session should ask, “With whom have ye wrought to-day?” and we of the Reformed Presbytery can truthfully say, we have wrought all our days in that once famous covenanted church of Christ in Scotland, a genuine branch of which spreading vine was afterwards planted in North America. In support of our position we offer the reasons following:
1. We own and adhere closely to our covenants with this “comely one,” the National Covenant of Scotland and the Solemn League, when the three kingdoms thus gave themselves to Christ in covenant. Then in a very special manner this part of the field belongs to Jesus, the Bethlehemite, with whom we have gleaned to-day. And often have we been allowed to sup with the maidens of Boaz; invited to dip our morsel in the vinegar, and the young men did not hurt us.
2. We adhere closely to the Testimony of the “comely one,” impaired and unmutilated—the old blood-stained testimony of our mother-church in North America. The truth of this statement is not questioned even by those who have wandered into other fields to glean. A true Covenanter would starve in those rival fields.
3. We adhere closely to the Westminster Confession of Faith and the other symbols framed there, as they were received by the “comely one,” or mother-church of Scotland, and in North America. But the Reformed Presbyterian chartered Church of North America, has laid aside the Directory and substituted private marriage, contrary even to plain Scripture. Ruth iv:4. They “advertise” nobody. Now we challenge all who call themselves Covenanters to point out one instance in all the Bible of a marriage in private, except among the descendants of Cain. Of course he took a wife—so did Esau. Gen. xxviii:8. And in the matter of singing God’s praise in the public congregation we adhere to the Directory, “that all may be edified,” this being the very end of “giving out the lines.” We read of the children crying in the temple in our Lord’s time. As I understand this, these children were trying to sing praises to their King; but the “Church of North America,” as well as other churches arrange matters so as to keep the children quiet in the public assembly, lest they hurt the music. So they will not read out the lines of the psalm.
All existing churches, with few exceptions, say theirs is the true church; and some ministers say “they do not think the Lord made this world all for one church.” Is this true? We read of but one church—“the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.” Acts xx:28. However fond others are or have been of their new mothers, those under the inspections of the Reformed Presbytery in North America yet cleave with affection to their old mother.
But some say to us, “Your mother is so old it is time she was dead. She has served her generation well, we admit; but she is too old and gray for this enlightened age, therefore, let her die out and be buried out of our sight. Just see how many new mothers are ready to embrace you with open arms; and you will be so happy—escaping from all your present troubles and disabilities. Why all this nicety?” Such temptations have no doubt beset a great many of the posterity of our noble ancestors, and caused great searching of heart. But the mother of harlots is very old too, therefore her deluded children love her, and still more on that account; and shall we despise our mother when old, and like unnatural children in the days of Job, pull away her feet to make her fall? We will not do so, for we still love the good old mother’s house. We “take pleasure in her stones and favour the dust thereof.” Ps. cii:14. None of these new churches have stood the burning stake, the torture of the iron boot, the spoiling of houses and lands; yea, their own lives also, for the truth and glory of God, as our mother’s children did, that they might transmit to their posterity, after the example of the “comely one,” the priceless legacy of civil and religious liberty. But some question the truth of this. Well, we ask those who say otherwise to prove the contrary; for we can prove our identity with the Church of the Second Reformation, as handed down to us by our valiant ancestors in their scriptural attainments.
Dr. A. M. Milligan addressing students of divinity, among other things calculated to prejudice and mislead their youthful minds said, “D. Steele left the church,” etc. We ask, what church? No doubt the new “Church of North America.” Let people read and examine for themselves the following in Memorial Volume, page 204. Dr. M. says—“Bride of the Lamb! this covenant is your marriage certificate. Children of the Church! you need no longer ask for the bill of your mother’s divorcement: she has returned to her first love. Citizens of Zion! here is your declaration of independence—the magna charta of your liberty. Soldiers of the cross! here is your muster roll—Reformed Presbyterian Church of America. You are now in covenant with God and this is your bond,” etc.
Now christian readers can see for themselves in these utterances that there is no connection between this new body and the covenanted Church of Scotland in North America. This is quite a new field. The American church differs in many respects from the mother one of the Covenants martyrs. First, she is new—newly sprung up, nowhere known in history, so far as I have read, till the year 1871. Second, she has two bonds, the Pittsburgh covenant and the civil charter; the commonwealth of Pennsylvania by charter “empowering” her to make the former. Third, she has also two charters—the covenant of 1871, and the civil corporation act from Pennsylvania, and Fourth, she has married again, “embraced the bosom of a stranger,” and so broken her engagement to her former and only lawful husband. Now I ask, was Rev. David Steele a minister or member of such a church? And if not, how would he leave her?
“D. Steele left the church!” How shall Dr. Milligan answer, when he must stand before the judge of quick and dead, for this ungodly expression? What moved him thus to address the young students? Perhaps there might be another young Foster among them. This Mr. Foster, in his published views of the Covenants and the unity of the church, has set all D.D.’s a looking around them. If anymore of this stamp gets up, the snare of their boasted and worshipped covenant might have to be broken and its body buried, as Dr. M. wished in the case of our fathers’ Covenants. But how Dr. M. gets free from these Covenants is something too hard for us to find out, and how he and others carried away Dr. Sproull with their dissimulation, as Barnabas of old, is matter of wonder to many.
Dr. Milligan injures himself and reflects discredit on the sacred office, when he misstates facts and assails the character of an aged minister of Christ, because he still adheres closely to our despised Covenants, and to prove his sincerity in this, has forsaken friends and brethren, subjected himself to privation of worldly honors and emoluments, and endured the reproaches of former false brethren for the sake of the whole truth. He has hitherto maintained and manifested his unwavering attachment to the true Presbyterian Covenanted Church of Scotland. He has shown to the church and the world that he has wrought all his day in the field of Boaz—all that Dr. M. and others have said to the contrary notwithstanding. The young American church so called, has out herself off from any right to glean in the field of Boaz, by her Sharon oath; by refusing in many cases to hear petitions for redress of grievances; by illegally abolishing Synod’s organization; by rejecting authentic history from her terms of communion and countenancing exchange of pulpits—and in other ways.
But I must conclude by saying, “this comely one” is now much despised. Readers! please “lift up a prayer for the remnant that is left.” Our gracious Master is yet on the throne, and we are yet on pleading terms with him. Each one of us ought to think of the self-denial of ministers who continue in fellowship with this “comely one.” Her wilderness position has made her black, yet she is comely. Her mother’s children have been angry with her. Let us all regard the divine counsel—“Then said Boaz unto Ruth—Hearest thou not, my daughter? Go no to glean in another field; neither go from hence, but abide here fast by my maidens,” etc. The Lord enable us to do so.