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Minutes of Presbytery

James Dodson

The bush burning but not consumed symbolizing the martyr character of the Presbyterian church.

The bush burning but not consumed symbolizing the martyr character of the Presbyterian church.


“It belongeth to synods and councils, ministerially to determine controversies of faith and cases of conscience, to set down rules and directions for the better ordering of the public worship of God, and government of His Church; to receive complaints in cases of maladministration, and authoritatively to determine the same: which decrees and determinations, if consonant to the Word of God, are to be received with reverence and submission; not only for their agreement with the Word, but also for the power whereby they are made, as being an ordinance of God appointed thereunto in His Word.”—Westminster Assembly, The Confession of Faith, XXXI.3. (1647).

“Nevertheless, whereto we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us mind the same thing.”—Phil. 3:16.




1840.-1840-Reformed Presbytery.-These are the first minutes published by Robert Lusk and David Steele after the split earlier in the year. These minutes are notable for providing a compendium of charges against the Old Lights and their systemic defection from the testimony of the Covenanter church.

1841.-1841-Reformed Presbytery.-In these minutes the Presbytery take up the issue of ecclesiastical relations with some discussion of the place of the Auchensaugh renovation. There are several other interesting theological questions addressed including whether or not fear of hell is a Gospel motive to believe in Christ.

1842.—April.-1842, April-Reformed Presbytery.-At this meeting, the Presbytery turns itself to the question of the wording of the terms of communion in light of the 1807 wording. It is followed the proposed revision of terms for use by the Presbytery. There is also a general overview of the decline in matters of faith and practice presented in a declaration of Causes of Fasting.

1842.—October.-1842, October-Reformed Presbytery.-This meeting begins with several interesting matters of order and discipline in the church. Once more, they take up and discuss the question of terms of communion.

1843.-1843-Reformed Presbytery.-At this meeting the term testimony is discussed with concern for it being restored to its original meaning. The Causes of Fasting and Causes of Thanksgiving are filled with many issues that still bear consideration. This meeting also takes up the fifth and sixth terms of communion.

1844.—May.-1844, May-Reformed Presbytery.-The presbytery discusses the idea of the witnessing church. Besides some more mundane church business, they also review the terms of communion before they are to be approved for adoption.

1844.—October.-1844, October-Reformed Presbytery.-At this meeting, the question of if or how to retain Reformation Principle Exhibited is moved. Herein are contained the Causes of Fasting for the year with a number of reflections on those who are the chief actors in the declinings enumerated. Also, there are Causes of Thanksgiving which have several interesting considerations on societal changes underway.

1844.—November.-1844, November-Reformed Presbytery.-This short session consists of the moderation of a unanimous call from the Miami, Ohio, congregation to Rev. Robert Lusk.  It was accepted upon certain conditions.

1845.-1845-Reformed Presbytery.-Most of these minutes is devoted to trying to ascertain the value of retaining “Reformation Principles Exhibited” in the terms of communion. Several corrections are suggested for various chapters and sections designed to make it more acceptable.

  • With the death of Rev. Robert Lusk, Presbytery was dissolved.

1846.-1846-Reformed Presbyterian Church, General Meeting.-With the death of Robert Lusk, presbytery was dissolved but the congregation of believers continued to bear witness to the truths espoused by the presbytery. In these minutes, we see the pith of their confession, the reason for their continued separate standing from the Synod of the RPCNA and reflections on their peculiar situation. There are also causes of fasting and thanksgiving which outline the state of the church and state during that time.

  • 1847-53.—General Correspondence.—Missing.
  • With the accession of Rev. James J. Peoples, Presbytery was re-constituted.

1854.—June.-1854, June-Reformed Presbytery.-This session represents the re-constituting of the Reformed Presbytery with J. J. Peoples being added to the Presbytery. Also, James F. Fulton is taken under care in preparation for the ministry.

1854.—October.-1854, October-Reformed Presbytery.-This session sets forth the various Causes for Fasting and Thanksgiving. They also appoint a day to be held within the church for each.

1855.-1855-Reformed Presbytery.-Presbytery, in these minutes, is concerned with the progress of Mr. J.F. Fulton in his studies for ministry. It contains several recommendations to see him advance.

1856.-1856-Reformed Presbytery.-During this session, the Presbytery sets forth a number of Causes of Fasting and Thanksgiving several of which pertain to the burning issue of slavery.

1857.—June.-1857, June-Reformed Presbytery.-The substance of these minutes concerns the preparation of Mr. J.F. Fulton for the ministry.

1857.—October.-1857, October-Reformed Presbytery.-This session takes up the preparation of Mr. Fulton, whose absence is not sustained, and the further trials set for him. It also sets forth the Causes of Fasting and Thanksgiving for the year.

1858.—May.-1858, May-Reformed Presbytery.-This session contains the call for Mr. Steele to become pastor of the Hill Prairie congregation, in Illinois. It contains Causes of Fasting and Thanksgiving. The former note the failure of the Second Great Awakening along with the curse of slavery.

1858.—August.-1858, August-Reformed Presbytery-This session takes up the licensing of James F. Fulton to preach and the call to pulpit supply in several congregations which were without regular ministry.

1859.-1859-Reformed Presbytery.-Besides taking several issues of pulpit appointments throughout the scattered congregations, this session sets forth Causes of Fasting and Thanksgiving for the year. In these the Presbytery laments the push for degenerative ecclesiastical union (with the newly formed United Presbyterian Church in view) and firm purpose to press the pleading for the doctrines of “historical testimony” and “occasional hearing.”

1860.-1860-Reformed Presbytery.-The Presbytery is asked to consider certain civil engagements. The Causes of Fasting and Thanksgiving are given with continued concern for the spirit of ecclesiastical union without a commensurate measure of concern for witness to the truth.

1861.-1861-Reformed Presbytery.-After reporting on various ministerial employments, the Presbytery sets forth Causes of Fasting and Thanksgiving. Of interest is the condemnation of open communion and the chronicling of the increasing laxity amongst Protestant bodies.

  • 1862.—Missing.
  • 1863.—Missing—Part of a report is found in the Minutes of 1864. The accompanying wording suggests these minutes may not have been published and may be lost.

1864.-1864-Reformed Presbytery.-This Presbytery meeting was called early in preparation for Mr. Steele’s trip to Britain. The Causes of Fasting include a concern for rising rates of “mixed marriages” and a condemnation of promiscuous dancing. The Causes of Thanksgiving register thanks for contending parties in America and Britain. This marks the beginning of the fraternal relations with John Cunningham and those associated with him, in Britain.

1865.-1865-Reformed Presbytery.-This includes some of Mr. Steele’s report concerning his mission to Britain. The issue of some members contributing money to avoid the military draft is taken up and such voluntary participation is condemned. The Causes of Fasting continue to chronicle the spiritual decline among the churches and the horrible national judgments (i.e., the American “Civil” war). The Causes of Thanksgiving note the impending end of slavery.

1866.-1866-Reformed Presbytery.-This session includes much correspondence with the Old Dissenters and Dr. John Cunningham from Britain. The Causes for Fasting include observations on the corruption of worship and the decline of vital religion. The Causes for Thanksgiving include the establishing of fraternal relations with those in Britain. There is much about faithful testimony bearing in these minutes.

1867.-1867-Reformed Presbytery.-These minutes include correspondence from John Cunningham in which, after thanking them for cordial fellowship, speaks of the growth of infidelity and its effects on the church as well as the progress of the Mediatorial reign of Christ. The Causes of Fasting contain many instructive points (e.g., asserting that faithful Bible translations are inspired); and the Causes of Thanksgiving have several reflections on the end of the American Civil war.

1868.-1868-Reformed Presbytery.-These minutes contain correspondence from John Cunningham and the Old Wigtonshire Societies expressing their warm approbation of the Presbytery’s previous warnings against incorporating acts with immoral civil governments (i.e., voting for amendments, etc.). It contains additional clarification on the Presbytery’s position on paying of taxes (a subject taken up several times in the previous five years). It also contains a Testimony against several prevailing sins with much time spent on corruptions in worship.

1869.-1869-Reformed Presbytery.-This session contains the beginning of the controversy with J.J. Peoples and the initial response of the Presbytery. In the Causes of Fasting there are many evils denounced including those irregularities of marriage and their sad consequences. The Causes of Thanksgiving note many of the improvements following the revolutions amongst the nations.

  • 1870.—Missing.
  • 1871.—Missing.
  • 1872.—Presbytery did not meet.

1873.-1873-Reformed Presbytery.-These minutes are notable for the accession of John McAuley to the Presbytery. The Causes of Fasting describe the various Romish movements in the churches (with a number of comments on Christmas keeping) and also expose the corruption covenant renewals amongst professing Reformed Presbyterian bodies. The Causes of Thanksgiving are filled with observations on the continuance of a witness for the truth.

  • 1874.—Presbytery did not meet.

Signs of the Times.-1874-Reformed Presbytery.-Although the Presbytery did not meet in 1874, this article contains the draft of the “Signs of the Times,” setting forth causes of fasting and thanksgiving in anticipation of the next meeting of the Presbytery.

1876.-1876-Reformed Presbytery.-In these minutes, there is a “Call to Repentance” aimed at the RPCNA, with particular attention paid to the “Covenant of 1871” but it also contains a call to return to the position of the original Covenanters. Of interest is the condemnation of the oath of allegiance draw up to allow members of the RPCNA to fight for the Union during the American Civil War. There are also several important comments on Sabbath observance. Additionally, there are causes of fasting and thanksgiving.

1877.-1877-Reformed Presbytery.-These minutes are notable for containing references to the “case” of Robert Clyde, a student of the Presbytery whose instability will plague the Presbytery for years to come. The cause of fasting and thanksgiving are most notable for the inclusion of a reference to the reprinting of the original Act, Declaration and Testimony.

1878.-1878-Reformed Presbytery.-These minutes contain accounts of pulpit supply as the ministers seeking to attend to various congregations. The “signs of the times” take up the necessity of corporate confession of sin. They also lament the intermarriage, or mixed marriage, of believers with unbelievers as well as the failure of Christians to separate themselves from the world. They give thanks that a remnant of witnesses remain. The Appendix to these minutes contain the reason of declinature of a number of people from the RPCNA because of the “Covenant of 1871.”

1879.-1879-Reformed Presbytery.-The Presbytery record matters of business together with a report on the “signs of the times” giving reasons for fasting and thanksgiving. Among the reasons for fasting are the introduction of organs, hymns and crucifixes together with a series of Sabbath breaking events supported by the churches. Interestingly, it is a matter of thanks that the Presbytery’s magazine is read in southern Australia.

1880.—May.-1880, May-Reformed Presbytery.-At this first session for the year, Mr. M’Auley’s health becomes a reason for him demitting regular ministry. The course of reading for Mr. Clyde, the ministerial student, is provided. This contains an overture for covenant renovation in order to counter the Synod of the RPCNA and their “Covenant of 1871.” This explains the defects in covenant renovation in Pittsburgh, Dervock and elsewhere amongst professing Covenanters.

1880.—October.-1880, October-Reformed Presbytery.-These minutes, in the causes of fasting, outline societal evils in church and state. The causes of thanksgiving speak of positive features which remained in church and state. There are also a series of emendations for the overture on covenanting which are of interest to those studying the question of covenant renovation.

1881.-1881-Reformed Presbytery.-Herein Presbytery decries the growing plague of “atheism.” They condemn, in the causes of fasting, free masonry and other such wicked connections, the prevalence of Sabbath desecration, the violations of the sixth commandment, including abortion, and the spread of dishonesty. The causes of thanksgiving chronicle positive developments with the hope for greater concern for the claims of true religion. Due to a monetary gift, the funds raise the discussion of increasing publications.

1882.-1882-Reformed Presbytery.-After considering the business of pulpit supply, the “signs of the times” are marked. Under the causes for fasting are disregard of parental authority, assassination and violence and violations of worship and the Sabbath. Yet, the Presbytery is thankful over several small things which they hope portend greater blessings.

1883.-1883-Reformed Presbytery.-In these minutes, mention is made of the declining health of Mr. M’Auley and the need for augmenting of the ministry. The Presbytery decides in favor of ordaining Charles Clyde sine titulo for purposes of serving the scattered members of the church. The causes of fasting lament the corruptions entering into familial and church societies.

1884.-1884-Reformed Presbytery.-These minutes record David Steele demitting from regular ministry due to the infirmities of old age. There is a notice concerning the sin of paying for substitutes to commit immoral acts on behalf of payer. The causes of fasting, as usual, group sins of the day around the various commands being violated.

Outline of Proceedings in the Reformed Presbytery Since June 4, 1884.-1885-Reformed Presbytery.-This Outline is mostly concerned with explaining the background and causes of the secession of Peoples, Campbell and Clyde from the Reformed Presbytery. This contains minutes from 1884 and 1885.

1886.-1886-Reformed Presbytery.-These minutes contain a number of items relating to the secession of Peoples, Clyde and Campbell from the Presbytery with animadversions on their respective characters. The causes of fasting are structured by the breach of each of the Ten Commandments; the cause of thanksgiving are for mercies and sustaining power.

1887.-1887-Reformed Presbytery.-These minutes contain causes of fasting in family, church and state. Amongst the sins listed are neglect of family instruction of children, absence of mothers due to their participation in moral reforms, funeral sermons, “Sunday-schools,” and the corruption of the state. There is also an enumeration of causes of thanksgiving including: the mercies of an overruling God, the maintaining of a small visible church and the renewal of covenants several years earlier. The minutes close with a discussion of the recent secession of several prominent members, in 1885 and the troubles it entailed. These minutes are most notable for being the last occasion upon which David Steele would attend a meeting of the Presbytery.

1888.-1888-Reformed Presbyterian Church, General Meeting.-This meeting begins with a paper stating the reasons for refusing to join the RPCNA after the death of David Steele citing their many defections from the Covenanted Reformation until that time. Afterward, they insert a brief but moving memorial giving thanks for the life of Mr. Steele and his aid in contending for the truth. Next, they take up causes of fasting, which decry everything from hymn singing, the women’s liberation movement and birth control; followed by causes of thanksgiving, including what they perceived to be a renewed interest in Psalm singing amongst some. Finally, they correction certain printed assertions about the life and ministry of David Steele that were simply untrue.

1889.-1889-Reformed Presbyterian Church, General Meeting.-These minutes mainly consist of cause of fasting and thanksgiving. The former includes condemnation of the keeping holy days and the proliferation of new-fangled holy days, promiscuous dancing, drunkenness, violations of the prescribed worship of the Presbyterian Church and the introduction of deaconesses into the RPCNA. The latter includes certain improvements in public Sabbath keeping and a growing concern for Psalm singing.

1890.-1890-Reformed Presbyterian Church, General Meeting.-The causes of fasting include: crying down voluntary associations, criticism of the Bible, the use of grape juice in the sacrament of the Lord’s supper and the general ignorance about terms of communion. The causes of thanksgiving include: the mercies of sufficient food, interest in the Psalms for singing and more biblical notions of temperance emerging toward the end of the century.

1891.-1891-Reformed Presbyterian Church, General Meeting.-These minutes have causes of fasting and thanksgiving. The causes for fasting include the national disregard of Christ as Mediator, the corruption of worship, especially amongst professing Reformed Presbyterians (and the observance of holy days), attacks on Sabbath keeping, abolition of the death penalty, the rise of pornography and dangerous reading. Causes of thanksgiving include plentiful harvests and peace.