Most men will proclaim every one his own goodness: but a faithful man who can find?—Proverbs 20.6

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Reasons why these who Dis-approved the Public Resolutions

Cannot Keep the Assembly Now Indicted, 1652:

A Historic Example of Dissent from Unlawful Church Assemblies,

And non-participation in Unlawful Elections in the Church.

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TrueCovenanter.com Editor’s Introduction.

Those acquainted with the history of the Presbyterian Church will be aware that one of her most crucial conflicts was what followed the coronation of Charles II as King of Scotland, and known as the “Protester-Resolutioner Controversy.”  The point of conflict was, in the first place, a matter already settled in the Church of Scotland, concerning military associations with those who were opposed to the Reformation, or scandalous in their lives.  When the Public Resolutions were passed by the civil authorities in Scotland, many leaders in the church yielded a compliance, and opposed those who would not cooperate with the direction chosen by the civil rulers of the land.  Those complying came to be known as the Resolutioners, while those who refused concurrence and cooperation where known as the Protesters.

Satan’s craft quickly brought the troubles of the Church and Nation of Scotland into a new complication however, which added to the significance of what it meant to be a Protester or a Resolutioner.  As the meetings of national assemblies in the Church continued, the Resolutioners leveraged their majority influence to bring disciplinary action against the Protesters, and to pre-limit (and pre-judge) all ensuing church courts, in order to ensure that the concerns of the Protesters could no longer have the recognition or influence that was due even to their minority numbers.  To the latter, it was evident that the Resolutioners had run themselves into one of the very corruptions that the reforming assemblies had so strongly condemned and warned against at the beginning of the Second Reformation: the holding of Unlawful Assemblies, and recognition of their judicial decisions.

Numerous papers and publications were produced on both sides, many godly Christians throughout the nation fearing what would become of their church.  More or less, both sides were possessed with this fear and concern, knowing that whichever side was in the wrong, was effectively driving the nation toward a course of Covenant-breaking which threatened to bring the Lord’s wrath on the nation.  As the conflict continued, the godly throughout the land felt the weight of the fact that such a conflict was rather the already-present reality of the Lord’s wrath on a nation that had provoked his displeasure.

The following paper appears to have been composed in June or July of 1652.  The General Assembly of the previous year had already been the subject of much debate as each side argued either for or against the lawfulness of its meeting and decisions; and another Assembly was anticipated to meet at Edinburgh in the weeks ahead.

Those who study the conflict between the Protesters and Resolutioners will find matter to learn about both the moral dilemma of the Public Resolutions, and also the Church-Government issues which followed.  Hindsight makes these things much easier than they were for even many godly individuals at the time; and the ages which followed produced new church conflicts where prelimited church assemblies again scandalized Christian disciples who expected a better demonstration of order and holiness among the leaders of their churches.  But temptations tend to cloud our remembrance and understanding of lessons which have been well learned.  So much more then, should we be diligent to study, and put in practice now, what can be learned while we are not being hurried through such a trial.  The reader should consider what is said here about bearing testimony, and about the involvement of electors in the sins of those they elect for works that are to be done according to a rule that is clogged with sin and rebellion against the Lord.  If we practice a straight course, applying these lessons to our civil conduct, by abstaining from voting in corrupt elections for “the lesser of two evils” we will be in a much better case in time to come, should similar conflicts and temptations arise on another front.

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Reasons why these who dis-approved the Public Resolutions and Acts at Dundee, Ratifying the same, and ordaining censures to pass upon the opposers and unsatisfied, cannot keep the Assembly now indicted, nor be consenting unto the Election of Commissioners for that effect.

THE chief cause of many evils which have befallen this Church in time of defection under Prelacy being clearly determined by the General Assembly at Edinburgh 1639, to have been the keeping and authorizing corrupt General Assemblies, it is of high concernment, that we take heed that we be not consenting nor concurring to the keeping and authorizing such Assemblies in this declining time, amongst which the Assembly indicted by the Commissioners of the pretended Assembly at St. Andrews and Dundee, is to be reckoned, and consequently ought not to be kept by any who have protested against, or are in their consciences unsatisfied with the Public resolutions and Acts of the Assembly at Dundee, establishing the same, as involving defection and backsliding from the Cause of God and Covenant.

To speak nothing of the indiction of the ensuing Assembly, (which can neither be acknowledged by any who have protested against, or by any who doubts of the freedom, lawfulness and constitution of the Assembly at Dundee) but allenarly [only] of the constitution thereof, insofar as it depends upon the Acts of that Assembly.  These reasons seem to warrant and require the forbearance and non-concurrence of all these (who disallow of the Acts of the pretended Assembly at Dundee) in the election of Commissioners unto a keeping the diet of the Assembly now indicted.

1. No man ought to be consenting unto the authorizing of Commissioners to keep an Assembly which is constitute by a corrupt rule.  But in the judgment of such as approve not the Acts of {299} the Assembly of Dundee, the ensuing Assembly is constitute by a corrupt rule: Ergo,——. The major Proposition is unquestionable, the minor is proved thus: It is to be constituted by the Acts of the pretended Assembly of Dundee as by a rule: Ergo, By a corrupt rule.  The antecedent is manifest, because all the unrepealed Acts of former Assemblies that do determine the qualification of Commissioners and especially the Acts of the Assembly immediately preceding, are the rule by which the Assembly is to be constituted, as is manifest from the Acts of the Assemblies themselves, old and late, and from the constant practice of this Kirk in all her Assemblies; and that the Acts of Dundee include a corrupt rule as to the judgments and consciences of those who condemn these Acts as involving a course of defection, is manifest, because they appoint all those who do not acquiesce and [are dis]obedient to the Acts and Constitutions of that Assembly, to be proceeded against with the censures of the Kirk, and so to be excluded from being capable of being elected as Commissioners for sitting in the Assembly as Members rightly qualified.

2. No man ought to concur in any Election of Commissioners when the Election is not free, but ought rather to give testimony against the same: But the Election of Commissioners to the Assembly indicted by the pretended authority of the Commissioners of the Assembly at Dundee cannot be free in the judgment of these who do not approve of the Acts of Dundee; Ergo,——.  Nothing here needs confirmation but the Assumption, which may be proved thus; That Election which is limited and restricted unto such only as are involved in a course of defection and back-sliding, and is exclusive of all other who have not been involved in the foresaid course, cannot be a free election, but the election of the Commissioners of the ensuing Assembly is such, in the judgment of these who do not approve the Acts of Dundee; Ergo,——.  The reason of the assumption is, because illud possumus quod jure possumus. [That we can do, which we can do lawfully.]  Now, no Presbytery, Session, or person acknowledging the constitution and authority of the Assembly of Dundee, and yet testifying against the Acts thereof relating to the approbation of Public resolutions, and to the censuring of the opposers, and such as do not acquiesce and give obedience thereto, can legally choose Commissioners, contrary to a standing unrepealed Act of an Assembly.  Therefore the election of Commissioners to the ensuing Assembly {300} must be limited and unfree in the judgments of these who protest against it in their consciences, or dis-approve the Acts of the Assembly of Dundee, as involving the approbation of the course of defection.

3. No man ought concur in the election of Commissioners to an Assembly, unto which none are to be admitted Members, but such as are involved in a course of defection and back-sliding from the Cause of God, and from the Covenant, but the ensuing Assembly is to be such in the judgments of these who dis-approve the Acts of Dundee; Ergo,——.  The Proposition is granted on all hands, even the Assembly of Dundee, and the asserters of the authority thereof grant the Nullity of an Assembly, when the authors and abettors of a course of defection are admitted to be constituent members.  The assumption is proved, to wit, That Assembly now indicted, is to be such an Assembly: That Assembly unto which none can be admitted Members, but such as approve the Public Resolutions, and the Acts at Dundee ratifying the same, is in the judgment of these who dis-approve the Act, but not the authority of the Assembly of Dundee, an Assembly unto which none can be admitted Members, but such as are involved in a course of defection: But unto the ensuing Assembly none can be admitted Members, but such as approve the Acts ratifying the Public Resolutions: None but these can be admitted, because none can be admitted contrary to a standing unrepealed Law, and yet these are involved in a defection in the judgment of them who dis-approve the Acts at Dundee.

4. No man ought to concur in keeping an Assembly from which many faithful and godly Ministers and Ruling Elders be excluded for no other cause but for their being faithful in witnessing against the backsliding of the Land: But from this Assembly, many such are excluded by the Acts of Dundee, and that for no other cause but for testifying against the defection of the Land, according to the judgment of these who condemn these Acts, and therefore these cannot concur in keeping this ensuing Assembly.

5. No man ought to concur in keeping an Assembly wherein the constituent Members are for the most part such as are either authors or approvers of the enacting a persecution of many godly men, but the ensuing Assembly is to be such in the judgment of these who dis-approve the Acts of the Assembly at Dundee; Ergo——.  The Proposition will be granted by every man; the assumption is {301} abundantly proved by the clearing of these things:  (1.) That enacting the drawing forth of censures of the Church against godly men, (to speak nothing of that which is already executed) for that which is no fault in them, is the enacting of a persecution of godly men, cannot be denied by any.  (2.) That the enacting to draw forth all the censures of the Kirk against these who do not approve the Acts and Constitutions of the Assembly of Dundee, is the enacting of drawing forth censures against godly men, for that which is no fault in them, but duty, is unquestionable in the judgment of these who dis-approve these Acts.  (3.) That the Assembly now indicted, is to be made up of such, is clear from what is before spoken, and shall be further cleared immediately.

Objection 1. How doth it appear that the Assembly now indicted, is to be constituted, as all these reasons do import? can we judge of the constitution of it before we see how it is constituted?

Answer.  (1.) It must be constituted according to the acts and rules constituting, which are not yet repealed, and therefore according to rules of the Assembly at Dundee, in the judgment of these who acknowledge the authority of that Assembly, and these acts cannot be repealed before the constitution of another Assembly.  (2.) That it must be so constitute, may appear from the tenaciousness of Synods and Presbyteries, to maintain the authority and acts of that pretended Assembly, who being involved in the approbation of the same, have given good evidence, that the ensuing Assembly must be so constitute. If it be urged as for instance the Letter of the instant Commissioners, which doth appoint the place of meeting of the future Assembly, do desire Presbyteries to choose Commissioners according to the known and ordinary rules of election; but these known and ordinary rules cannot be supposed to include the acts of the Assembly at Dundee.  (1.) Because these acts are not known, the same not being published, yea not extant, neither can they be called ordinary, being once only done, and being questioned much by many, it is answered, These are poor shifts:  [1.] Because these acts were formally concluded and voted, and do yet stand unrepealed.  [2.] Because if the authority of the Commission who wrote this Letter, ought to be acknowledged and submitted unto, then ought these acts which flow from the same authority to be acknowledged and submitted unto.  [3.] These acts are public, and in the hands of the Presbyteries up and down the {302} Land, and registered in sundry of their Books, as also in the Books of some Synods; and some Presbyteries have processed some persons upon these acts, and they cannot be excluded from the ordinary rule, because but once done, because the meaning of the ordinary rule in this place must be, that these only are to be elected, when no standing act of the Kirk doth exclude, and yet it doth not make it cease to be a rule, so long as the authority of the Assembly stands, and the act itself stands unrepealed, how much soever it be questioned by some.

Objection 2. But we may probably suppose, that the Acts of the Assembly of Dundee, shall not be tenaciously stuck to in the constitution of the Assembly now indicted, but that Protesters against the constitution or Acts at Dundee, shall be admitted as Members in the constitution of this Assembly.

Answer. (1.) Probably that may be the judgment of some godly and moderate brethren; but how few such are to be found, and how unequal to carry it so, against many that are otherwise minded.  (2.) If one malicious instrument that desires not the healing of these differences (whereof there is no penury) shall object the act of the Assembly of Dundee, It is impossible that any who acknowledge the authority of that Assembly, can repeal the exception as irrelevant, as long as that act stands unrepealed, which cannot be before the constitution.  (3.) How improbable is that, considering the temper of the late Meeting at Edinburgh, the 12 of May, the instructions given by Synods to such as were sent thither under a pretence of endeavouring the Union of the Church, but really to carry on a design to have an Assembly depending on the authority of the pretended Assembly of Dundee, and constitute as that was, and considering the articles that came from the Commission, viz. that no Union could be, except the authority, constitution, acts, censures and Commissions issued from the said Assembly be acknowledged by all, and the Declinator past from, which articles are magnified by these men, and some Synods have not been so cautious as others to keep back a Synodical instruction, to do nothing in order to an Union, without the advice aforesaid.  (4.) If such a concession had been intended how easy had it been to the pretended Commission that takes upon them to indict this Assembly to have given some grounds in their Letters to expect it, and not to have wrapt the rule of elections in ambiguous words, to say no {303} worse.  (5.) Suppose a possibility of constituting the Assembly otherwise not according to the acts at Dundee; yet how can any that have born testimony against the Public Resolutions and acts ratifying the same as involving defection, sit with the authors and promoters of that course, and not propone that exception which is on all hands acknowledged to be relevant, and that such as are guilty of it, ought not to be admitted to sit in an Assembly; or if it be propounded, how shall it be satisfied since there is such difference of judgment about that matter.

Objection 3. But is it not better to keep that Assembly, and bear testimony against unlawful acts, and labour to keep off ill, than to forbear and let things be carried on without opposition?

Answer. If any can satisfy his own conscience, that he may with clearness concur, notwithstanding these and the like reasons, he may do so, and we shall rejoice to hear of his testimony and standing against a spate [flood] of backsliding; but if he shall through casting himself in a temptation, be drawn a further length than he intended, or shall approve himself in afterward, he shall sin against a Warning.

Objection 4. By this means we shall have no Assemblies.

Answer. The reasons will indeed conclude, that we should have no corrupt Assemblies, such as are prelimited in the elections, corrupted in the constitution exclusive of many of the godly for their faithfulness, and made up for the most part, if not only of such as are authors or approvers of the late defection, and to want such Assemblies is no ways prejudicial, but is a mercy to the Church in the judgment and language of the General Assembly, cited in the beginning of this Paper, neither is the running with the spate of defection the way to retain and preserve the privilege of useful Assemblies, but on the contrary the giving of testimony against a course of declining in the time thereof, hath by experience often proved a mercy and, in the wise and gracious providence of God, the best ground of hope, and an open door for free Assemblies.

FINIS.