Remonstrance and Petition
To the Moderator and other Members of the Synod of the Reformed Presbyterian Church, to meet in the First Church, Northwood, Ohio, on the fourth Tuesday of May, 1873.
The undersigned are members of the Reformed Presbyterian Church, who addressed you by Memorial last year at York, Livingston Co., N.Y., on the subject of Covenanting, and now address you on the same subject, by Remonstrance and Petition, and thus we would “Plead with our Mother Plead” in the use of all lawful means competent to us, in order to stop the course of defection, which has been manifesting itself in our beloved Zion, of late years, and which culminated in that unfaithful act referred to in our Memorial.
We have prayerfully and carefully considered your answer to our Memorial, contained in the report of the committee to whom was referred papers, marked 14 and 18 on your minutes; and do here in the presence of this court, and in his august presence in whose name it is constituted, most solemnly aver, that instead of our grievances being removed thereby, they have been increased; instead of giving us bread, you have given us a stone.
Dear Fathers and Brethren, we bow with unfeigned submission before the solemn caution contained in these words of your answer, viz: “To these brethren we say affectionately and earnestly, it is no light matter to put obstacles in the way of those who desire to vow and to pay unto the Lord their God.” It is because we have, and do now, most seriously believe, that Synod has put obstacles in the way of the people under her care, who (equally with them) are bound to pay those vows, clearly expressed in our fourth term of communion that we then memorialized you, and now remonstrate with you, which obstacles consist, 1st. In swearing, and leading many of those under your care, to swear a covenant, which we have shown by documents laid on your table, to be defective in its most essential characteristics. 2d. In your complying with a corrupt Erastian principle, in the management of the ecclesiastical goods committed to your care, as you have done in adopting an act of incorporation, enacted by the commonwealth of Pennsylvania, appointing and qualifying officers for this purpose, unknown to the word of God, or the standards of the Church. And 3d. In publishing corrupt doctrine, on the subject of the civil magistrate, as you have done in the Memorial volume.
I. We remonstrate against the covenant sworn at Pittsburg [sic], and with the Synod in swearing it, as being unfaithful and defective, whether viewed as a new Covenant, or as being a renovation of the Covenants, National and Solemn League. In your answer you say, “We never proposed to renew the Covenants as they were renewed—the National Covenant in 1638, and the Solemn League in 1648, in the very words of the original deeds.” This design negatively expressed when connected with the Covenant sworn at Pittsburg, places the Synod, both in preparing the bond and swearing it, not upon the basis of covenanting, as engaged in, and maintained by the Fathers of the Reformed Presbyterian Church, but upon the basis of the Secession Church, against which the Reformed Presbytery testified, whose “noble example we are bound to follow in contending for all divine truth, and in testifying against all contrary evils which may exist in the corrupt constitutions of either Church or State.” And which testimony all officers of the Reformed Presbyterian Church approve, in their answer to the sixth query put to them at their Ordination, an American edition of which was laid on your table in 1872.
A few quotations from a Belfast edition (1832) will show the justness of our Remonstrance, which is accompanied with our prayers, that the testimony of the Church of 1761 may be made effectual, by the blessing of God, for reclaiming our backsliding mother in 1873. Page 136 we read: “But further, the necessity of lifting up a testimony against Seceders, for their treachery and unfaithfulness in the matter of the covenants will appear by considering that they, after making a very solemn profession of renewing the National Covenant of Scotland, and the Solemn League and Covenant of the three lands, in place of practising accordingly have in reality made a new and very different bond and covenant, both in form and substance, which they have not only sworn themselves, but also imposed upon many honest people; and this as renewing said covenants, according to the circumstances of the times. That this bond, entered into by Seceders, (however good it may be considered, in an abstract sense,) is not a renovation of the National Covenants, as they assert it to be, but a treacherous and deceitful burying of these covenants, as to their sum and substance, is abundantly evident, from their industrious keeping out, and omitting the most part of them out of their new and artificial bond.” Again, page 137: “They have kept out that necessary clause in the second article, viz, ‘without respect of persons endeavour the extirpation,’ &c., and instead thereof say, ‘testify against Popery and Prelacy,’ wherein appears not only a difference of expression, but a substantial difference.”
“But, again, that their pretended renovation is a real burying of the covenanted reformation, appears from their overlooking, casting by, and keeping out the National Covenant, as it was renewed in the year 1638, and the Solemn League and Covenant, as renewed in the year 1648,—and what can be the reason of this? Can it be because Prelacy, and the civil places and power of churchmen were, by the explication, and application of the Covenant Anno. 1638, expressly and explicitly condemned, while they were formerly only implicitly and by way of consequence? So they have at least by this step back, both tacitly condemned our reformers of giving themselves needless trouble in their explanation of the Covenants, as condemning and abjuring Episcopacy; and also do overlook, despise, and disgracefully bury the many advanced steps of reformation attained to in these covenanted lands betwixt 1638 and 1649, (particularly the Church of Scotland’s testimony against Prelacy,) in which time reformation arrived at a greater height of purity than ever was attained in any foregoing period of this Church and nation.”
These quotations are sufficient to show the faithfulness of the Church in testifying against the errors of a former age, and also their appropriateness as a witness against the covenant sworn by Synod at Pittsburg in 1871, in many of its leading features.
Again, we remonstrate, because that while Synod acknowledges defections in the Pittsburg Covenant, and publishes the same to the church and to the world, she provides in her answer to our Memorial, a latitudinarian remedy for these defections, as witness, “Let whatever be not fully expressed in the bond be supplemented from the covenants to which we have pledged ourselves, and especially from the word of God.” Now the question arises, to what covenants have we pledged ourselves? In the bond we find “Covenants of our Fathers,” and the same in the confession of sins. This language is very indefinite. “If the trumpet give an uncertain sound who shall prepare himself to the battle?” [1 Cor. 14.8.] And neither the report of the committee on covenanting, nor the resolution passed by Synod before swearing the bond, makes it more distinct, in view of these defections. The second reason of dissent of J. W. Shaw and others, viz: “Because Synod refuses to admit into the covenant the names of those God approved and time honored Covenants, the National and Solemn League, to which we are so solemnly bound.” This taken in connection with the design of Synod, negatively stated and already quoted, proves that whatever is the meaning of the language “covenants to which we are pledged,” covenants of our Fathers, &c., do not mean the covenants definitely stated in our fourth term of Communion. And farther, this latitudinarian scheme is obnoxious to every true Covenanter, and against it we remonstrate, because if we may swear a covenant so defective as the Pittsburg Covenant is declared to be, and supplement it from other sources, even from the word of God, then it follows as a necessary conclusion, that we may swear any defective instrument by supplementing it, and our refusal to swear the oath of allegiance to the Constitution of the United States on account of its defections, is not a duty, but the contrary; of this every true Covenanter will see the absurdity.
Now, dear Fathers and Brethren, we beseech you by the love of God, we beseech you by the memory of our martyred Fathers; we beseech you as you would promote the purity and peace of Zion, in the faithful administration of her ordinances, that you renounce the unfaithful and defective Covenant sworn at Pittsburg, and go before the people, leading them “by the footsteps of the flock,” and engage in renewing the Covenants, National and Solemn League, as they were renewed at Auchensaugh in 1712.
II. We remonstrate with Synod in seeking for, complying with, and adopting an Act to incorporate the Trustees of the Synod of the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America, enacted by the commonwealth of Pennsylvania, exercising an Erastian power over the Church, which is manifested: First. In appointing by civil authority for the church a class of officers unknown to the word of God or the standards of the Church, contrary to 2 Timothy 3.10. Second. In regulating by civil authority the number of officers who shall attend to this business, contrary to Acts 6.3. Third. In limiting by civil authority their term of office, contrary to Book of Government and Discipline, page 24. Fourth. In controlling the action of church officers and of Synod in the exercise of its functions, as a court in the house of the Lord Jesus Christ, to whom alone she is subject, and by whose authority alone she should, and can legitimately, act in the management of all her affairs. But by this act the State of Pennsylvania says, “It shall be the duty of said corporation to act according to such instructions, provided that the said instructions shall not be repugnant to the Constitution and laws of the United States or of this Commonwealth,” viz of Pennsylvania. Against this Erastian act we remonstrate, in the language of our approved testimony, Belfast edition, 1832, page 167:
“They further reject and condemn that Erastian opinion that the external government of Christ’s house is left unto the precarious determination of sinful men, or hath its immediate or mediate dependence upon the will and pleasure of the civil magistrate, according to the import of the claim of right, the anti-scriptural basis of the revolution settlement; this being evidently an impious reflection on the perfect wisdom of the Church’s head, subversive of the beauty of his house, and fertile of disorder therein, laying the kingdom of Christ obnoxious to spiritual tyranny and oppression, when strangers, enemies, or such as have no call or warrant to build the house of the Lord, put to their hand, to model the form of her government as best suits their perverse inclinations and secular views, in express contradiction to the will and law of the God of heaven. Exodus 25.40, and 26.30; Ezekiel 43.11; 1 Chronicles 15.12,13; Neh. 2.20; and many other texts above cited.”
Now, dear Fathers and Brethren, we beseech you to clear your
skirts of this ungodly, Erastian Act of incorporation, an Act so dishonoring
to Zion’s Head and Exalted King, an Act which clouds the
honesty of Synod in swearing, even, the Pittsburg covenant, as “We
Ministers, Elders and Deacons,” an Act which will have a corrupting
influence on congregations under your charge. If Synod may manage
its ecclesiastical goods by incorporated trustees, then why not congregations?—and
an Act by which Synod renounces the position, and
forfeits the rights; while she claims the name of the “Reformed
Presbyterian Church of North America, (Old School.)”
III. We remonstrate with Synod for publishing and disseminating erroneous doctrine, on the subject of the Civil Magistrate, as is done in the Memorial volume, at page 167, in the following language, viz:
“Thus the existing government of this nation, be its religious character what it may, is acknowledged as the only human power having rightful civil authority over us, and obedience is cheerfully and conscientiously yielded to all its commands, which do not conflict with the supreme law of God.”
Here by one fell swoop of the pen, based upon the perversion of several passages of Scripture, one distinctive doctrine of the Reformed Presbyterian Church is abandoned, that doctrine which alone makes it consistent for her to prohibit her members from sitting on juries, joining in military and other associations with the ungodly, and from swearing oaths of allegiance to, and from voting under, immoral institutions of civil government; and the doctrine of the Secession Church, adapted to the United States Government, is published in its room. Thus is that “Banner, which our Fathers set up in the name of our God,” and for which they were banished into exile, were hunted upon the mountains and moors of Scotland, and into dens and caves of the earth—that Banner which encouraged them while they endured the tortures of the thumbscrew, the boot, the pinchers, the scaffold, and the stake—that Banner which they floated aloft while they defended it, by remonstrances, declarations, protests and testimonies—in the fire, in water, by the sword, and in death—that Banner which, though torn by enemies, and stained with their own precious blood, they preserved, to the torment of the men that dwell on the earth, and at last floated it upon the battlements of our Zion in 1761, is now torn down from these battlements by its professed friends in 1871, and the banner of the Secession Church is flaunted to the breeze, to the sorrow and the shame of the true friends of righteously constituted civil governments. But though cast down, we are not in despair. Again, “In the name of our God we set up our Banners.”—Psalm 20.5. Beloved! Beloved! because they exhibit the truth of God; that truth which is yet destined—and by the Spirit of God will be made effectual—to disenthral a Satan-deceived and sin-stricken world from the dominion and power of the great red dragon, who has given to every immoral civil government “his power, and seat, and great authority.”—Rev. 13.2. Then shall be “Great voices in heaven, saying, the kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ, and he shall reign for ever and ever.”—Rev. 12.15. Encouraged by this prospect, we will display these Banners as we find them preserved in the Act Dec[laration] and Testimony  of the Reformed Presbyterian Church, Belfast Ed. 1832, at page 123:
“The Presbytery testify against the Associate Presbytery, now called Synod, for their wronging, perverting and misapplying the blessed Scriptures of truth in many texts, in order to support their erroneous tenets, namely, that the word of God requires no qualifications as essential to the being of a lawful Christian magistrate, but that whatsoever are set up, and while they continue to be acknowledged by civil society, are lawful magistrates, though destitute of Scripture qualifications, and acting in a manifest opposition to the revealed will and law of God.”
“The texts of Scripture used by them do prove this general proposition, viz, that it is the duty of the people of God to obey and submit to lawful rulers, in their lawful commands; and that it is utterly unlawful and sinful to oppose such lawful authority. But none of these texts quoted by them prove that it is the duty of the people of God, blessed with the knowledge of his revealed will, to submit to, and obey for conscience sake, an authority that is sinful, and opposite to the revealed will of God, both in its constitution and general course of administration; nor do they prove that a Prelatical, Erastian or Popish (and, we add, Infidel) government is a lawful government, either expressly, or by right of necessary consequence, over a people, who either do, collectively considered as a church and nation, or are bound to profess all the parts of the true religion, and to maintain all the divine ordinances in their purity; nor do they prove that any can be lawful rulers over these Christian and covenanted nations, who want the essential qualifications required by the word of God, the covenants and the fundamental laws of the kingdoms; or that it is sinful in the people of God to say so much in testifying against the joint and national apostacy from God, and the purity of religion.” The texts of Scripture thus perverted are Prov. 26.21; Eccles. 10.4; Luke 20.25; Rom. 13.1-8; Titus 3.1; 2 Peter 2.13-17.
Further we quote from page 110 and 111 to show the inconsistency of Synod in maintaining that the existing government of this nation is a rightful civil authority over us, while refusing to swear allegiance to it, and that this inconsistency is not new to those outside of the Reformed Presbyterian Church, but it is novel to be proclaimed within her walls, and exhibited from her ramparts. [Pages 119-120 in the 1876 edition.]
“Seceders, in consequence of this contradictory and self-inconsistent system of principles, declare they cannot swear allegiance to a lawful government. They maintain the present to be lawful, yet, (in Declaration of principles, page 55th) they say, ‘The question is not, whether it be lawful to swear the present allegiance to the civil government? which Presbytery acknowledge they cannot do, seeing there are no oaths to the government in being, but what exclude the oath of our covenants, and homologate the united constitution.’ But seeing they acknowledge that every constitution of government that comprehends the will and consent of civil society, were it as wicked and diabolical as can be imagined, is lawful, yea, as lawful as any that is most consonant to the preceptive will of God, having all the essentials of his ordinance; and seeing, because of the will and consent of the people, they own the present to be lawful, it is most surprising why they cannot swear allegiance to it; their reasons cannot, in a consistency with their principles, be sustained as valid. That the present oaths of allegiance and the oaths of the Covenants are inconsistent, is readily granted; but seeing the oaths of allegiance bind to nothing more than they confess they are bound to for conscience sake, namely, to own the lawfulness of the government, and to maintain it according to the constitution thereof, (which is a duty owed by subjects to every lawful sovereign); And seeing that whatever is in the oaths of allegiance contrary to the covenants doth not flow from them, abstractly considered, but from the constitution to which they bind, (which constitution is sanctified by the people’s acknowledgment of it.) If, therefore, the covenants forbid a duty, to which they are bound for conscience sake, their authority in that ought not to be regarded. But certainly, Seceders, who have found it duty to model the covenants according to the circumstances of the times they live in, might have found it easy work to reconcile the oath of the covenants with allegiance to a lawful government. The other part of their reason is no less ridiculous and self-contradictory, viz:—‘They cannot swear allegiance to the present government, because it homologates the united constitution.’ But is not this constitution according to the will, and by consent of the body politic? and is it not ordained by the providential will of God?—therefore, according to them, has all the essentials of a lawful constitution, which claims their protection under pain of damnation. How great the paradox!—they cannot swear allegiance, because they would bind them to acknowledge and defend a lawful constitution. Is not active obedience, is not professed subjection for conscience sake, an homologation of the constitution? Certainly they are, and that not in word only, but in deed and in truth. And what is the allegiance but a promise to persevere in what they do daily, and what they hold as their indispensable duty to do? To grant the one, then, and refuse the other, is, in effect, to homologate or acknowledge the constitution, and not to acknowledge it at the same time, which is a glaring absurdity.”
The same doctrine is presented in Reformation Principles, last ed., page 237, sec. 7, [formerly sec. 6]: “Christian rulers, appointed to office according to a righteous civil constitution, have authority from God to rule in subserviency to the kingdom of Christ, and are to be conscientiously supported by the persons, the property and the prayers of the ruled, in the maintenance of peace, the safety and the honor of the nation.” The converse of this will appear on the principle laid down in the Larger Catechism, 4th section of the answer to Ques. 99: “Where a duty is commanded, the contrary sin is forbidden.” Therefore, Anti-christian rulers, appointed to office according to an unrighteous civil constitution, have not authority from God to rule in opposition to the kingdom of Christ, and are not to be conscientiously supported by the persons, the property and the prayers of those they assume to rule, in destroying the true peace, or in maintaining a false peace to the destruction or endangering of the safety and honor of the nation.
Historical part, [of Reformation Principles Exhibited,] page 106: “The practice of Seceders and the whole nation, during the contest for throwing off the British yoke, determined the point, that in some cases it is lawful to disown the constituted civil authorities. This was an explicit declaration that christians are not under obligations to submit to every civil ruler who providentially possesses power; that in some cases the constituted authorities are not the ordinance of God. It was a full concession to the Reformed Presbyterian Church, of the great principle in relation to a constitution of civil government, that it is not the fact that it does exist, but its moral character, that determines whether it be the ordinance of God or not.” [Found several paragraphs into Chapter 3 of R.P.E., Part 1, Book 2.]
Again, pages 118 and 119: “The Reformed Presbyterian Church approves of some of the leading features of the Constitution of Government in the United States.” “Such a Constitution must, however, be founded on the principles of morality, and must in every article be moral, before it can be recognized by the conscientious Christian as an ordinance of God. Were every article which it contains, and every principle which it involves perfectly just, except in a single instance, in which it was found to violate the law of God, Christians cannot consistently adopt it. When immorality and impiety are rendered essential to any system, the whole system must be rejected.”
Now, dear Fathers and Brethren, what shall we more say, in reviving “the stones out of the rubbish of the heaps that are burned.”—Neh. 4.2. We have laid before you our Remonstrance, and some of the grounds upon which it is based, from which it is evident that the Synod has made a transition from the principles of the Reformed Presbyterian Church so palpable and perspicuous, that all may see it; even the editors of the Associate Presbyterian, Sept. 1872, at page 106, say, in an article on the Reformed Presbyterian Church and Covenanting, in answer to Mr. Shaw in Hephzibah Beulah: “As the majority of his church have come all right on this important subject, we do not despair of his being reclaimed.” Our prayer to our Heavenly Father, our Covenant God, is, that he may be enabled to “Hold fast.”
And now, dear Fathers and Brethren, we have done in our places what we could to prevent these sad desolations, and, by these presents, do what we can to reclaim the Church from them; and our prayer to our Covenant God, the God of our Fathers, is, that he would grant you repentance, that he would “turn again our captivity.”—Psalm 126.4. In order to this, we most humbly beseech you to “Remember, therefore, from whence thou art fallen, and repent and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent.”—Rev. 2.6. “Surely, as a wife treacherously departeth from her husband, so have you dealt treacherously with me, O house of Israel, saith the Lord.”—Jer. 3.20. “Only acknowledge thine iniquity, that thou hast transgressed against the Lord thy God, and hast scattered thy ways to the strangers under every green tree, and ye have not obeyed my voice, saith the Lord.”—Jer. 3.13. “Turn, O backsliding children, saith the Lord; for I am married unto you: and I will take you one of a city and two of a family, and I will bring you to Zion.”—Jer. 3.14. Which may God in his mercy grant, is the prayer of your Remonstrants.
We hereby appoint JAMES CAMPBELL, Elder, to forward this our Remonstrance and Petition to Synod, at its first meeting in Northwood (now called West Geneva), Ohio, on the first Tuesday of May, 1873.
MRS. JANE E. CAMPBELL,
THOS. PERCY, Deacon,
MISS JANE E. CAMPBELL,
MRS. CATHERINE PERCY,
MRS. MARTHA DITTY,
MISS AGNES HUNTER.
MRS. JOHN LOGAN.
The undersigned approve of the above brethren in their Memorial to Synod at York in 1872, and do hereby unite with them in this Remonstrance and Petition, and in the appointment of their delegate to Synod as above.
JOHN LOWRY, Deacon,
This Remonstrance and Petition being printed, a copy having been approved by members of the church in Pittsburgh and Alleghany [sic], was signed by them, and Mr. Crozier appointed as their delegate to bring it before Synod and act in their name.
The remonstrance from Rochester was regularly transferred through Session and Presbytery to Synod. It did not pass through Session, however, without much opposition, and opposition too which manifested much ignorance of the subject, as most of the objections were made to quotations from the testimony, to which all rulers in the Church are pledged at Ordination; their opposition was both useless and groundless; transference was refused in wrathful spite, and it was taken to Presbytery under protest, where it was transferred to Synod without further trouble.
Both of these Remonstrances were laid on the table of Synod, and marked Nos. 1 and 2, and referred to the committee of Discipline.
See also: Other Resources Relating to the 1871 Covenant sworn at Pittsburgh.