And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul.—Acts 4.32.

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AN

ESSAY

ON

Church-Communion;

With a DEFENCE of the

TERMS OF COMMUNION

Published by the Reformed Presbytery, 1754.

Written by

William James, Minister of the Gospel.

Printed at London-derry in Ireland, 1772.

X

TrueCovenanter.com Editor’s Introduction.

In the pages below we present the first two sections of a publication titled Homesius Enervatus, written by William James, one of the earliest ministers of the Reformed Presbyterian Church of Ireland.  Most of this publication is written in response to Mr. John Holmes, minister of the Presbyterian Synod in Ireland, who undertook to criticize the Covenanters of his time.  Neither Mr. Holmes nor Mr. James was especially careful to use endearing language with those that they clearly accounted to be brethren wilfully fallen into the ways of backsliding through scandalous ecclesiastical associations.  They take liberties which we hope others will not presume to take, after reading what is presented.  The introduction to Mr. James’ pamphlet might give a thorough explanation of his context and motivation in writing as he did, and yet still not meet with the best favour of modern readers.  At the end however, he states his purpose:

My design also in writing and publishing the following Sheets, was, to prevent those who are unacquainted with COVENANTERS, or their Principles and Writings, from being led into many great Mistakes concerning them, for which ample room is given in the various Pamphlets published by Mr. Holmes.

In that effort, and in order to convince his readers of the necessity of abiding by the scriptural principles of the Second Reformation, he discusses such topics as:

  • The meaning of the word ‘Church’
  • The variety of churches with which Covenanters might lawfully keep communion
  • The reason why a faithful Christian church is now required to implement Terms of Communion more narrow and precise than those of former times
  • Whether Christ’s direction in Matthew 23, concerning the Scribes and Pharisees which sit in Moses’ seat, requires the hearing of scandalous or unfaithful ministers
  • Whether the Westminster Confession of Faith should be a term of Christian communion for the Church, as well as Ministerial communion for its officers
  • In what sense the Reformed Presbyterian Church requires hearers to believe the Westminster Confession
  • What other standards, such as our books of Discipline, should be reckoned among the “form of the house, and the fashion thereof,” for the purpose of teaching and unifying Christ’s disciples
  • How some professing to be “Old Lights” have moderated their principles until they cannot be distinguished from “New Lights”
  • Whether regeneration ought to be accounted or used as the term of Christian communion in the Church
  • How the principles of “New Lights” and some called “Old Lights” implicate our Church’s Martyrs
  • Political Dissent and the proper exposition of Romans 13
  • How we may resist the person who is recognized as magistrate, without resisting the ordinance of Magistracy
  • The meaning and intention of our Westminster Confession, chap. 23, s. 4, concerning “Infidelity or difference in religion” which does not make void the magistrate’s authority
  • That our Reformers firmly believed in limiting offices of civil authority so that they may be held only by such as have sufficient religious qualifications.

2017.10.23::JTKer.

IT is not enough for Christian Communicants to attain to the first principles of natural theology, and confess that there is a God, but they must acknowledge the fundamental principles of Christianity, which is truly termed, supernatural divinity; otherwise we go no further than Pharaoh did, when he asked, Who is Jehovah that I should obey his voice? or than the Samaritans and Athenians did, who worshipped they knew not what.  It is generally confessed, that both Jews and Pagans, acknowledge that there is a God; yea the Turks seem to have an high esteem for Jesus Christ, whom they look upon as a subordinate deity.  Unless, then, we do intend to hold {6} Church Communion with Pagans, Jews, and Mahometans, we must require some-what more of those, whom we admit unto Christian communion, than a bare acknowledgement that there is a God, or that the Father or Holy Ghost is God.  For he who doth deny the Godhead of the Son, (as many New Light Men do) denieth the Father also, 2 John 9.  So that we can have no christian and spiritual communion with God the Father, but in his co-equal Son, and by their co-essential Spirit; as is manifest by comparing 1 John 1.3, 1 Cor. 1.9, John 17.3, &c.

To set this matter in a clear light, I proceed to consider the nature of Church communion, and offer some reasons, whence it is, that the terms of admission to receive the privileges of the House of God are now (in Reformed Churches) more in number, than was in the Church in the early ages of Christianity.

2, [I] Shall attempt a vindication of the terms of Church communion held by the Reformed Presbytery; from the unjust exceptions and cavils of Mr. JOHN HOLMES, a member of the Synod of Ireland.

3dly, [I] Shall offer a few of those Reasons which the Reformed Presbytery judge sufficient grounds of separation from the Synod of Ireland, and answer some objections that are frequently brought against the members of the Presbytery.  To which is added,

4thly, Animadversions upon a Pamphlet, entitled, a Testimony, &c. {7}

That the nature of Church communion may appear in a clear light, it will be necessary, in the entry, to enquire into the nature and import of the word CHURCH, and its different acceptations in Sacred Scripture, from whence our notions are to be drawn.

This word Eclesia or Church, is derived from a Greek word, which signifies to evocate or call forth; so that its ordinary and general acceptation in the New Testament, is to denote the multitude or company of persons, who are called forth to sacred and religious services.

And so first it denotes the Catholic universal Church which is invisible, and consists of the whole number of the Elect, that have been, are or shall be gathered into one, under Christ the Head thereof, Eph. 1.22, And gave him to be head over all things to the Church; Eph. 5.23,27; Matt. 16.18; Col. 1.18; and Heb. 12.23.  This is such a notion of the body of Christ, as is not subject to an external polity or government, but is under the special and spiritual influence of the Holy Ghost.  See Rom. 7.14.

2d.  The word Church, is used to express the visible and Catholic Body of Christ, which consists of all those, throughout the world, that profess the true religion, together with their children and offspring, 1 Cor. 1.2, and 12.28; Eph. 1.21; 1 Cor. 10.32.  From which Scriptures it is manifest, that there is an universal visible church in the world, to which Christ {8} by a deed of gift, gave officers, with an external polity or government.

But as there is a Catholic church visible spoken of in Scripture; so particular visible churches denominate from some remarkable city, as that of Corinth, 1 Cor. 1.1; yea we read of the church of God in such a family or house.

3d.  The word Church is made use of in the Sacred Oracles, to express the pastors and rulers of the visible body of Christ, who are called forth to rule and govern the flock of Christ, or professors of the true religion, by assembling themselves together into an ecclesiastical judicatory; and there jointly exercising acts of jurisdiction over them.  In this sense the word is taken, Matt. 18.17, Tell the Church.  See Rutherford’s Due right of Presbyteries, chapter 1.10.  So that from this short, but comprehensive view of the Redeemer’s House, it is easy to have just and adequate notions of ministerial and christian communion, wherein ministers may have communion amongst themselves, but especially wherein Ministers and private Christians may have a communion with a God in Christ, and one another in the church of Christ in this lower world.

That which next in order falls under consideration, is to enquire into the nature of Church communion, and offer some reasons whence it is that the terms of admission to receive the privileges of the House of God, are {9} now (in Reformed Churches) more in number than was in the Church in the earliest ages of Christianity.

This Section, as it consists of two parts, so it is not to be expected that I can discuss this subject with any tolerable accuracy, it being so difficult and intricate, that were it not, that I am called forth by Mr. JOHN HOLMES, a member of the Synod of Ireland, who hath wrote several pamphlets, wherein he condemns the terms of communion held by the Reformed Presbytery: I should not have dared to meddle with it.  However, thro’ divine grace assisting, I shall freely give you my own private judgment, not imposing my sentiments on any.

And first, it is the unanimous opinion of orthodox divines, who treat of church communion, that we are carefully to distinguish, between a Church in an infant state, and a Church declining and going back again.  In the FORMER many things may be tolerated, which may not in the LATTER; as in the days of our ancestors, in the beginning of the Reformation, many did attend upon the official ministrations of Priests, and prelatic Curates: Yea, we find that Mr. Alexander Shields, writing on this subject, attends to that necessary distinction of a Church coming forward out of darkness, and a Church truly reformed.  Thus we find, that the Covenanters in the hottest time of the persecution, tho’ they would {10} not keep communion with those who had embraced the Indulgence, yet declared themselves willing to hold communion with many other Churches whose testimony was not stated in the same way as theirs was.  Thus they declared, if they were in Ethiopia, they would join with the Abyssines, whose testimony is stated against Gentilism, or in Asia with those Christians whose testimony is stated against Turkism; provided that these Churches held the fundamentals of the Christian religion, acknowledging that the Lord Jesus Christ was King and Head of his Church, professing the same one Faith, and partaking of the same one Baptism.  Thus holy and devout men out of every nation under Heaven, may be capable of joint acts of worship with edification; whether they be Parthians, Medes, or Elamites, Acts 2.5,9.

In short if we were in France we might join with Protestants there, contending against Popery, tho’ they do not with us contend against prelacy; if we were in Holland, we might join with the reformed there, witnessing against Socinian and Arminian errors, tho’ they do not witness with us against Erastianism; if in Germany, we might join with Calvinists there, wrestling against Lutherian divisions, tho’ they do not wrestle against these defections that are amongst us.  In a word, with all that hold fast the form of sound words, in faith and love which is in Christ Jesus.  Tho’ the Form in every respect be not the same, 2 Tim. 1.13. {11} Supposing it not contradictory.  For that golden rule must still be observed.  If any man teach otherways, and consent not to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine that is according to godliness; we must carry towards him as he is described by the Apostle by withdrawing from him. [1 Tim. 6.3,5.]

2dly.  When a Church is advancing and growing up into reformation, there may be a joining with many things, that otherwise we ought not to countenance.  Yea as a Church gradually advanceth to maturity, her terms of communion may vary, and so become more strict.  Thus we find the Apostles and Elders in the first general Assembly at Jerusalem, condescended to some things to please the Jews; in this case they observed that Apostolic rule, that all things are to be done by way of condescendency, consistent with duty and edification, to avoid offence to the Church of God, Acts 15.19,29; 1 Cor. 9.19-24.  These same decrees of the Apostles, of abstaining from meats offered to Idols, were afterwards declared indifferent, 1 Cor. chapters 8 and 10, and afterwards both that, and other indifferent observances, were condemned; as in the case of Peter’s doing the same, Gal. 2.11.  It was allowable that Timothy should be circumcised; but this would have been sinful to do it to Titus.  No, Paul would not subject to that for an hour, nor condescend to the quitting {12} the least hair breadth of truth, to pleasure them, whom yet he had pleasured before; no, the case was now altered.

Thus as Ecclesiastic History informs us, before errors and heresies became rampant in the Church; all that was necessary to make a member of the visible Church, was a serious profession of the faith of the true religion, together with their engagement to abandon their former sinful courses; accompanied with a sober profession of subjection to the ordinances of Christ.  However, as antichristian darkness prevailed, these isles being bemisted with Popish and Prelatic doctrines, human institutions, and men’s inventions, being set up instead of God’s ordinances; so that Prelacy, being the mother of Popery, having taken root in the Church of Rome; from being the Church of Christ; she had by her apostacy become the synagogue of Satan, and the faithful commanded to come out of her, not to partake of her sins, lest they should become partakers of her plagues: upon which our worthy ancestors in Scotland, took the most effectual method to reform the Church.  They considered, as union in religious sentiments is the ground and foundation of communion, so they drew up the old Scots Confession of Faith, in order to support supernatural truth, and in opposition to the various shapes that error and heresy had appear’d in the world, that both ministers and people {13} might be perfectly joined together in the same mind, and in the same judgment.  And tho’ our reformers for many years, met with much opposition, from men of wicked and corrupt minds, yet by the good hand of our God, at last that venerable Assembly of Divines met at Westminster, where that beautiful covenanted-work of uniformity in religion (carried on betwixt the Churches of Christ in Scotland, England, and Ireland) was happily finished.  At which time the Solemn League and Covenant, Westminster Confession of Faith, Catechism Larger and Shorter, sum of Saving Knowledge, directories for public and private worship, the Form of Presbyterian church government, were subscribed both by Church and State.[1]

So we their successors do own, and adhere to the purity of doctrine, worship, discipline, and government, which was attained to at that time; viz. in the year 1649, and with them do adhere to our Confessions of Faith, Covenants national and Solemn League, Catechisms larger and Shorter, and our other known, received, and approved standards, Acts of Assembly, and Parliaments ratifying and confirming the same.  One with them, in maintaining and propagating a testimony against all doctrines, tenets, and opinions contrary thereunto, and inconsistent therewith, held whether by Papists, Prelatists, Erastians, Quakers, Arminians, Independents, Legalists, Arians, or others. {14}

Thus the Reformed Presbytery may justly be considered as a remnant of the true Presbyterian Church of Christ in these Isles, who have been labouring, both in Scotland and Ireland (tho’ in much weakness and manifold failings) to cleave close to the Reformation-principles, attained to between the years 1638 and 1649 inclusive; cordially concurring in their places and stations, with such of the ministers and professors that have gone before them, and with them faithfully witnessing, both against defection and apostacy, in Church and State.  Let me refer you to their Religious Principles, published to the world, which are to be seen at large, in the Informatory Vindication, and the Judicial Testimony, lately published by the Presbytery.

[ Vindication of the Terms of Communion. ]

The preceding reasons being briefly considered; we proceed now to a vindication of the terms of Church Communion, held by the Reformed Presbytery; from the unjust exceptions, and cavils of Mr. John Holmes, a member of the Synod of Ireland.

That the impartial enquirer may have a distinct view of the controversy, let me in the entrance obviate some mistaken notions which seems to be the foundation, upon which Mr. Holmes, and his Brethren, build their erroneous opinions upon, viz. That the Lord Jesus Christ did actually enjoin Church communion with the Scribes and Pharisees, tho’ it is confessed {15} that the Jewish Church was extremely corrupted, many of them even denying the doctrine of a future state.  Nay boldly affirming that the horrid wickedness of Eli’s sons, remarkably punished of the Lord, did not warrant a withdrawing from their official ministrations; and maintaining, that it was the People’s duty to join with that worship as performed by such DEBAUCHEES, as Eli’s sons were, 1 Sam. 2.12, and consequently what is divinely instituted, howsoever corrupted or perverted, by whomsoever mismanaged and abused, must all be joined with.

As these are a specimen of Mr. Holme’s arguments in his writings and converse, for justifying and defending his principles, and practice, in keeping communion with the Synod of Ireland;—I would judge them unworthy of consideration, and refutation, were it not that these Achillæn arguments, are become the common cant.  Nay, some of his Brethren have used all diligence (as well as himself) to collect the heresies, defections, and scandalous courses recorded in Scripture, especially the profane practices of some of the members of the church of Corinth; as if these examples and precepts, were worthy of all due imitation, and obedience; as if these were the acts of the Holy Apostles, the glorious pattern shewn in the Mount, that all professed Christians should imitate, and copy after. {16}

In Answer to these arguments thus scraped together, made use of by these Gentlemen to extenuate their defection, evidently calculated to screen them and their way of singularity and novelty, forgetting the danger that occurs in following a multitude to do evil, [Exod. 23.2]; I would just observe, that the unprejudiced enquirer, who will allow himself seriously to peruse the Sacred oracles, will find these arguments entirely fallacious, having no ground, or foundation in the word of God.  How inconsistent are these arguments, with the precepts and practice of the ever blessed Jesus, is evident from the 23 of Matthew, from the 13th verse and downward, Matt. 12.27,28, Luke 11.42,52,53, compared with Prov. 19.27, where we are expressly prohibited to hear that instruction that causeth to err from the words of knowledge.  And does not our Lord, in the fore-quoted passages, call them hypocrites, enemies to his kingdom, devourers of widows’ houses, makers of proselytes for Hell, blind guides, fools and blind, neglecters of the weightier matters of the law, extortioners, excessively devoted to superstition, like whited sepulchers, full of all uncleanness, murderers, persecutors of the godly, yea serpents, a generation of vipers; and such as brought upon themselves, by their wicked deeds, all the righteous blood shed upon the earth, from Abel to Zacharias, whom they slew between the porch and the altar?  Does not our Lord call them five times blind guides and blind {17} fools, in that Chapter, and denounceth eight woes against them for their wickedness, which are not woes of commiseration, but condemnation?  Does He not threaten to pluck them up by the root and cast them over the hedge, because they were not plants of God’s planting, seeing he never put them into that office? whereas it is evident they not only kept, but got the Priesthood by bribery and treachery.  Men, who were violent establishers of their own righteousness, gross perverters of God’s law; denied that there were Three distinct Persons in the Trinity, John 8.19, 40, 41-45, taught that the Messiah was to be a mere man, and consequently denied the divinity of the Son of God, Matt. 22.42; yea taught, that He had a Devil, and the Prince of Devils.  And, in short, many of them were guilty of the unpardonable Sin, viz. the Sin against the Holy Ghost.  Is it not wonderful and surprizing, to hear Mr. Holmes, and his Brethren teach, that the Holy Jesus did actually keep communion with a Church that was the Synagogue of Satan, the Officers of which were the Children of the Devil, John 8.44.  Is it probable that he would give them such names and epithets, and yet countenance their worship, whose doctrine was the reverse of his?  Is it possible that our Lord should charge his Disciples and others, to let them alone, and flee from them as imposters?  Is it rational that he would practice one thing, {18} and preach another, viz. that he would warn mankind to beware of their Leaven, beware of their doctrine; and charge the world to separate from them, because they being blind, and their doctrine pernicious and damnable, People would be led into the Ditch, that is to say, into Hell with themselves, and yet at the same time countenance that way of it.  Horrid absit blasphemia.

OBJECTION.  Matth. 23.2,3. The Scribes and Pharisees sat in Moses’ seat, all therefore that they bid you observe, that observe and do, &c.

ANSWER.  A mere inadvertancy in the translation, hath misled many commentators, in opening up this passage; having taken that for a command, which is truly a reproof, while they translate the words Imperatively, which are as clearly in the Indicative Mood, (the termination being one in both,) and the whole connection of words and phrases requireth to be so understood: Thus the sense is plain, viz. “The Scribes and Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat; here is the snare and temptation, and hence ye are simply and sinfully imposed upon, so that whatsoever they bid you observe, that (so great is your stupidity) ye observe and do, right or wrong; but ye do not according to their works, for they say and do not: Tho’ they imposed upon you, whose simplicity rendereth you an easy prey unto them; yet they are not {19} such fools, and love their ease better than to put their own necks under the grievous yokes, which they wreathe for others.”  Verse 4: “For they bind heavy burdens, and grievous to be borne, and lay them upon men’s shoulders, but they themselves will not touch them with one of their fingers, &c.”  As this interpretation is not only my own private opinion, so I have many of the Ancient Fathers on my side, such as Cyprian and Irenæus, &c. so also many orthodox Divines among the Moderns are of this opinion.  See the Protester’s Vindication, and the Casuistical Essay on the Lord’s Prayer.  But that which may determine the enquirer, is, that in this exposition, the sense of the passage is evident to the meanest capacity, the phrases pleasantly cohere together, and the detection of these hypocrites, whose great business it was to make a pompous parade before men, was a fit introduction to the many woes pronounced against them.  And I would further desire Mr. Holmes, or any of his Brethren, who explains this text otherwise, to shew, what congruity may be assigned for pronouncing so many woes against these false teachers, as the worst of men, after peremptory commands to attend their ministry.  With respect to the arguments brought from Eli’s sons and the church of Corinth, these prove too much and so prove nothing at all.  Is it not evident to any one who can read their Bible, that all persons, priests or others, {20} upon committing Adultery, were appointed to be put to death; that the sons of Eli, being Adulterers, were dead in law.  Priests who made the people to transgress, by committing lewdness with some of them, and alluring others to violate the laws of God by their example, who upon the account of their open wickedness, were brought to an untimely end; provoked God to take the sword of justice in his own hand, and accomplish his dreadful threatenings, in the execution of his own law.  Upon the whole, the purport of their arguments seems to be thus, viz. That the Synod of Ireland must exceed in corruption, error, wickedness, and apostacy, not only that Church, in which Eli’s sons were Priests, and the Asiatic Churches, in whom they were, who taught to eat things sacrificed to idols, and commit fornication, &c. (for which they are long ago extinct,) but even the Jewish Church whose pestilentious doctrines were here condemned by our Lord, before any just separation can be made: And hereby our Reformers, in separating from the Romish and Prelatic Church of England, come to be condemned.  And how Mr. Holmes, or his Brethren,[2] can defend {21} their own pretended separation from the established Church in this kingdom, a Church not so grossly corrupted as these were, is what I am yet to learn.

You observe, page 7, of your first performance, “As every community or corporation hath terms of admission to the privileges of it; so the Church of God being a spiritual corporation, hath terms of communion that should be observed and submitted to, in order to be intitled to her privileges.  Some make the terms of her religious communion too wide, allowing a promiscuous admission of all sorts of christians to Church privileges; others makes them too narrow, as the Reformed Presbytery.”

Your experience in the construction of pamphlets, should preserve you from the absurdity of beginning your performance with a bare assertion, or even of proceeding on your superstructure, till you had secured your foundation.  You will permit me, therefore, at setting out, to remind you, that if you had acted the part of a faithful minister of the Gospel, you would have attempted to prove, that the Synod of Ireland is the true Church of Christ in this Kingdom, rightly constitute under Christ the Head; sound in doctrine, worship, discipline, and government; and consequently that the majority of her present constituent members are not chargeable with error in doctrine, and tyranny in government and discipline.  You ought to {22} have informed us, what are the terms of ministerial and Christian communion held by the Synod of Ireland;—that they are neither too wide nor too narrow, founded on the sacred oracles and right reason: And consequently that the Reformed Presbytery and their adherents in this kingdom, are guilty of schism, in departing from the communion of those who are under the inspection of the Synod of Ireland.  But this was an insuperable task.  You have already granted, that the Church of Christ is a spiritual corporation, which hath laws and officers, institutions and constitution.  You have published it again and again to the world, that the greatest number of your Brethren are flaming New Light Men, Socinians, Pelagians, Arminians, &c. that they are guilty of errors and heresies, which overthrow the fundamental principles of the Christian religion;  Nay, Sir, are you not sensible, that many of your Brethren have sworn, and subscribed the Westminster Confession of Faith, as a test of orthodoxy and term of communion; yet are at great pains to convince mankind, both from pulpit and press, that they do not believe one article of it.  Or to use your own homely expressions, “like weather-cocks they turn their docks, &c.”  And do you not keep ministerial and Christian communion with such?  Thus you bring upon yourself, the odious character of an Heretic, one condemned of himself. {23}

You proceed, page 8, to object against the terms of communion published by the Reformed Presbytery.  These terms are these,—Do you acknowledge, the Scriptures of the Old and New Testament to be the word of God, the alone rule of faith and manners? The doctrines contained in the Confession of Faith and Catechisms larger and shorter, agreed upon by the Assembly of Divines at Westminster, to be founded on the word of God?  You grant, page 9 and 10, that those are terms of ministerial, but not of Christian communion; your words are, “Their terms are very exceptionable; especially their terms of christian communion; the first whereof is, their making the Confession of Faith a term of christian communion.”

Pray Sir, would any one imagine, that you, who was looked upon by many in this kingdom as an Old Light Minister, would have thus given up your Bible and the Confession of Faith, because Covenanters have declared and published to the world, that these are the terms both of their ministerial and Christian communion?  Would your best friends imagine, that in your old age, you are running headlong into the N. L. camp?  Did not you for many years make use of the same terms of Christian communion, in your congregation?  I appeal to your hearers.  It is very unreasonable for a man to upbraid his neighbour, for a fault, that he himself is chargeable with.—Turpe est doctori culpa redarquit usum. [Quoted accurately from Disticha Catonis: Turpe est doctori, cum culpa redarguat ipsum. English-versed as, “When teachers slip themselves, ’tis double shame.”] {24}

But to proceed, your argument runs thus, “That there are many things hard in it to be understood, (viz. the Bible and Confession of Faith) and consequently all that assent to divine truths, which they cannot fully understand, are actuated by a blind and implicit faith.”  Remarks p. 8, 9, and 10.[3]

As your arguments, Sir, were work in a hurry, your mind in a ferment against Covenanters, so they do not seem to be properly digested.  I would therefore charitably hope, that you would give an assent to the sublime doctrines contained in divine revelation, tho’ you cannot possibly fully understand them: Such as the doctrines of the Trinity, the incarnation of the Son of God, and the particular way and method of the Spirit’s operations on the souls of men, all which doctrines are of the utmost importance to know, understand, and believe, and yet may be unsearchable to our reason, with respect to the particular way and manner of them.

Tho’ probably in your next [pamphlet] you may grant, that an assent to the Holy Scriptures ought to be a term of communion, yet still you’ll object against the Confession of Faith to make it a term, because it is adopted by the Reformed Presbytery; or perhaps make use of your N. L. Brethren’s arguments, “this is to exalt the Westminster Confession to an equal authority with the Scriptures;” or renew your old theme, “there is in it many things hard and difficult {25} to be understood.”  To convince you, Sir, and the rest of mankind, let me set before you a specimen of our doctrine on this head.  We profess, teach, and believe that the Scriptures of the Old and New Testament are unquestionably the only rule of faith and manners, containing not only a plain revelation of all truths that are necessary to be believed and practised, in order to salvation; but also a clear refutation of all the errors, that ever have been, or shall be broached in the world; but then these are so scattered thro’ the volume of this Holy Book, that the collecting and digesting of them, under proper heads, is necessary for the edifying of the Church of Christ, and convincing gainsayers.——And therefore the Westminster Confession, which is nothing else but a collection of divine truths, by comparing of one Scripture with another, cannot but be the eye-sore of men of corrupt minds, who cannot endure to come to the light of God’s word; lest their deeds and principles should be made manifest.  To the unprejudiced enquirer, the ministers of the Reformed Presbytery make no other use of the Westminster Confession, but what is scriptural and rational; they never did, nor cause their hearers to declare that they fully understand every article in the Confession, or that there are no errors or mistakes in said book, being compiled by fallible men; but only that they believe said book to be a system of truths founded on the sacred oracles, which {26} they acknowledge to be the confession of their faith.[4]  And in this way they are not singular; having on their side the Prophets under Old Testament times, together with the Apostles and disciples of the ever blessed Jesus under the New, together with the practice of the Church of Christ, in all ages and all countries, even to this present time.——For proof see Ezek. 43.10,11: Thou Son of Man, shew the house to the house of Israel, that they may be ashamed of their iniquities, and let them measure the pattern.  And if they be ashamed of all they have done, shew them the form of the house, and the fashion thereof, and the goings out thereof, and the comings in thereof, and all the forms thereof, and all the ordinances thereof, and all the forms thereof, and all the laws thereof: and write it in their sight, that they may keep the whole form thereof, and all the ordinances thereof, and do them.  Compared with Rom. 6.17, and 2 Tim. 1.13,14: Hold fast the form of sound words, &c.——from whence it is evident, that the form and fashion of the Church of the New Testament, among the Gentile nations, is reckoned by God such a sacred thing, and of so great importance, that the Prophets, and consequently all ministers of Christ, are commanded expressly to shew the form from the pattern described in the mount of divine revelation; and not only so, but to write it in a book, that they may keep the whole form thereof, {27} and all the ordinances thereof, and do them.  I do not know if in any nation under Heaven, this precept has been more literally and expressly obeyed, than in these isles of the sea.  The form of Doctrine, is drawn out of the Scriptures, in the Confession of Faith; The form of worship, Church-government, and ordination of ministers, and books of discipline, all drawn out of the Scriptures of truth, and written in a book, and the whole land brought under the bond of a Solemn Covenant, to observe and do accordingly.  That this was the practice of the Apostles and Primitive Christians, is plain from Heb. 5.12, and chapter 6.12.  For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God, &c.  However, Sir, it appears from the drift of your reasoning, that You are infected with that leaven of error which prevails amongst your N. L. Brethren, who explode all the supernatural mysteries of the gospel, making reason the standard of revelation; and whatever their reason cannot comprehend, must be set aside as a piece of enthusiastic nonsense, that nobody can comprehend; these professing themselves to be wise, become fools.

That we are not to assent to articles of faith, upon the testimony of men or ministers, is readily granted——But the question in debate is, whether we shall assent to truths which make up these articles of faith, because there are {28} many things in them hard and difficult to be understood, tho’ they bear the stamp of divine authority; and have this for their foundation, thus saith the Lord.  This you say “is to be acted by an implicit faith, and is the essence of Popery.”  In this you are a Catholic Christian, a very Cameronian,[5] a true disciple of the wise Greeks and learned Athenians, who styled the preaching of the Gospel vain babbling, and the mysterious doctrines therein contained foolishness.  Consider, Sir, that our reason is frail and imperfect since the fall.  Beware of worshipping that Idol Dagon.  Be persuaded that the Almighty hath endowed the believer with different faculties, suitable and proportionable to the different objects that engage them; we discover sensible objects by our senses, rational things by our reason, and intellectual things by our understanding, but divine and heavenly mysteries are for the exercise of our faith.

[In] page 13 of your remarks, you say, the second exceptionable term of their Christian communion, is their making an acknowledgement of the perpetual obligation of the Solemn League and Covenant a term of it;—tho’ at the same time you offer a variety of arguments, in the same page and onwards, to prove its being obligatory on Britain and Ireland to the latest posterity; and own that it was adopted as such, by the Church of Scotland in the purest times of Reformation.[6]  Your pamphlets Sir, abound {29} with the foulest contradiction; you declare, page 11, of your remarks, that the Solemn League and Covenant was held by the Church of Scotland, “was a term both of ministerial and christian communion, for the space of sixteen or seventeen years.”[7]  But in your answer to Mr. Neilson, page 9, you affirm, that it was a term of ministerial, but not of Christian communion.  And in your additions, page 13, you allege that such a term of communion was a blot in the Church’s character, an unaccountable stretch of Church authority.—And to add no more, you assert, “that the Church of Scotland would have admitted any religious Bishops of the Church of England (who denied the perpetual obligation of the Covenants,) to a participation of the Lord’s Supper,” which is a glaring absurdity.  And tho’ you own, that the principles of the Reformed Presbytery, on this head, are the principles held by the Church of Scotland in her purest times of Reformation—Yet you oppose them, for this weighty reason, that you have “Light to keep communion with Prelatists and Independents, with many more who are not sensible of its obligation,”—A cogent argument.  Light and light within you.  Beware Sir, that your light is not old darkness, productive of anarchy and confusion, opening a door for error and heresy to creep in, and would render the Church a BABEL, rather than the spouse of Christ.

[In] page 16, you revile the Presbytery for asserting, the divine right of Presbyterian Church {30} government; and tho’ you grant that it should be a term of ministerial, yet deny it should be a term of Christian communion.  ’Tis granted, that Ministers may have communion in many things, wherein private Christians are not concerned; such as preaching the gospel, ordaining, and setting apart faithful men, to the work and office of the ministry.  But that private Christians should not be concerned, in asserting, and maintaining, that the Lord Jesus Christ hath a Church in this lower world, of which he is the Head, in opposition both to Pope and Prelate, is a paradox that I cannot understand.  Your arguments run thus, “Because the most part of private Christians, are not acquainted with the controversies among Presbyterians and Prelatists, and Independents, concerning the proper form of Church government.——The determination of these debates, are not essential to salvation.——Many in the Prelatic and Independent Churches are in a state of favour with God, and so should not be excluded from Communion.”

’Tis confessed by the members of the Reformed Presbytery, that there may be a partial ignorance amongst some private Christians (who are under their ministerial care and inspection) anent Church government, yet let it be considered, that there is a considerable difference between persons wilfully ignorant, and the humble Christian, addressing himself {31} to the throne of grace, “That which I see not teach thou me.” [Job 34.32.]  Yet any unprejudiced Christian, who is acquainted with the members of the Reformed Presbytery and their adherents, can avouch, that they are as well acquainted with the Sacred Scriptures, Confession of Faith, and Catechisms, together with the nature of Church government, as their neighbours.

Sir, I am bold to affirm, that there is scarce an illiterate person adhering to the Covenanters, but what could inform you of the difference between Presbytery and Prelacy.——That they are different Churches, having different Heads, different Officers, with a considerable difference in polity and government.  Do you not instruct your hearers that the KING is the HEAD of the Church in England as by law established?  That He is supreme over all causes, and over all persons ecclesiastical as well as civil?  That the Diocesan Bishop derives his office from the King, and the King professes not to be a Church officer?  That the Bishop delegates the Curate, who is inferior to him in order, and subject to him in jurisdiction?  And that altho’ the Church of England calls the Church of Rome an old withered whore,[8] yet derives their succession from her, and adopts the same form of Church government.

Your next argument, or rather assertion, (as specified above,) is, “that the determination of these debates are not essential to salvation.——Many in the Prelatical and Independent {32} churches are in a state of grace, therefore they are to be admitted to communion.”

Your extensive Charity and Moderation appears, in stretching forth your Catholic arms, to embrace your Protestant neighbours.  However it appears, you are not fully resolved how far this universal love is to be extended.  Perhaps in your next you may insert the Papists in your catalogue, and make application to the Priest for communion, and copy after the example of your Rev. and dear Brother the Catholic Christian.[9]

Sir, if your eyes were not jaundiced when perusing your Bible, you would find the visible church of Christ, styled his House and Kingdom, having form and order which is essential to the very being of it, Ezek. 43.10,11.  And tho’ his visible house or kingdom is to continue but for a short time, yet during that time, there can be nothing more indispensable, than the exercise of that discipline and government which God has appointed in his word.  This is that Hedge which encompasseth that heavenly Seed of Truth, as sown in the gospel dispensation; so that the torrents of impiety may not sweep it away, nor suffer it to be buried in the gulf of ERROR.  Yea, let men revile these externals never so much, they are of no small account with Zion’s King; for it is obvious to any who attentively peruse the History of the Church, that whenever breaches {33} have been made in Zion’s walls, viz. in the hedge of government wherewith God hath fenced her, errors in principle, and profanity in practice, rush in apace.  Hereof we have had woeful experience in this kingdom.  Is the Synod of Ireland the same it was forty years ago?  How many of its members valiantly stand up for the Westminster Confession of Faith?  What numbers are infected with New Light error?  The distinction between Old Light and N. Light is abolished.  That middle wall of partition is broken down.  It does not content you to keep communion with the Synod, the majority of whose members, you say, are corrupt; but you must call all hands to work, to raze Jerusalem’s walls to the very ground; to let in your old friend the Prelates.——’Tis nothing to say, that you would admit no Prelate, or Independent, but those that you believe were in a state of grace.  For how can You or your Brethren know, that the Prelate, or Independent, who offers himself to communion, be in a state of grace?  You reply, if he understands the fundamentals of religion.  As if all that had knowledge in the Head, had grace in the Heart.  At other times you allege, that it is easily known by their life and conversation.  Are you not conscious, Sir, that the Hypocrite hath many times a more glaring profession than the sound Believer.  Thus your darling term of communion hath a multitude of evils in it.  First, it is not scriptural to make your own {34} private judgment the rule of admitting persons to Church communion, and not the word of God.  This is a strange rule, for either your judgment is infallible of persons, (which is to make you a Pope,) or you may be liable to a mistake, and subject to err; and if so of one, why not of all.  Second, it’s contrary to many passages of Scripture, Matt. 13.29,30, Matt. 22.9-11, Luke 13.26.  Third, it’s opening a door for Error and Heresy to creep into the Church.  Thus your beautiful scheme of Church communion, is full of concealed mischief—Equo ne credite Teueri. [Do not trust the horse, Trojans.]  It is wholly impossible, for any man, or minister of the quickest penetration, to pass sentence on this critical and momentous point: Converted or not.  This properly belongs to God, who searcheth the hearts, and trieth the reins, of the Sons and Children of men.    Thus,

As regeneration seems to be the only term of Christian communion, adopted by You in your pamphlets, how consistently you act up to your principles, I will leave the world to judge.  I am confident, that your Brethren are Antipodes to your darling tenet; inasmuch as there is a promiscuous admission of Cursers, Swearers, Drunkards, &c. to a participation of the Lord’s Supper; yea, many who have fallen down before that idol Prelacy, and have taken the Sacramental Test, are not only admitted to the Lord’s Supper, but are Elders in Congregations, {35} and serve at that Solemn occasion.  Obstressui, Steteruntque comæ & vox faucibus hæsit. [Quoted accurately from Virgil: Obstupui, steteruntque comae, et vox faucibus haesit. Englished as, “I was astounded, my hair stood on end, and my voice stuck fast in my throat”

You proceed, page 17, to finish your remarks, by excepting against another term of Communion held by the Presbytery, viz. “The owning and acknowledging, all the faithful testimonies of the Martyrs; and the renovation of the Covenants, as agreeable to the word of God, Confession of Faith, and Catechisms.”  This term You load with odious epithets: “1st. That it is a very uncharitable one.  2d. That it not only virtually, but materially excommunicates Christ and his Apostles, &c.”  The bold assertions, Sir, with which you amuse the publick, might pass current among Papists, who are bound to believe what the Priest saith; but is opposite to that which the Holy Spirit commends, in the noble Bereans.  ’Tis very awful when person’s sayings pass current for proof; and it evinceth the weakness of the person, and the rottenness of his cause, which will not bear the touchstone of God’s word to prove it by.  This was the very treatment, that the persecuted party met with in Scotland, from their Indulged Brethren, above a century ago.  They were branded, as ignorant, imprudent, transported with blind zeal, enemies to all civil government.  Men who died like fools, and guilty of their own blood.  These odious misrepresentations which have been fully refuted by many learned pens, {36} must now be laid to the charge of the Presbytery.  Such invidious obloquies, may prevail with the credulous, but will never take place amongst the considerate.  I shall not detain the reader, in apologizing for the Martyrs, or their testimonies, seeing they are published to the world, and are in the hands of many.  But if any are still at a loss to know the state of the Cause, in the persecution period; let them consult that judicious and learned treatise, the Hind let loose, written by Mr. Alexander Shields.  [As likewise, the Informatory Vindication and occasional Declarations and Testimonies of those times.]  You proceed, in the forequoted page, to inform us,[10] that [although] the Martyrs did not own the civil Government, in the reigns of Charles and James, the two tyrant Brothers, but resisted and took up arms against them; [Yet] Christ and his Apostles, “countenanced and supported the government under which they lived, which government was guilty of the most abominable kinds of Idolatry, Rom. 13.2: They who resist the powers, resist the ordinances of God, and they that resist, shall receive to themselves damnation.”

”Tis confessed, that the Martyrs did resist the government of the two Brothers, proclaimed war against them, and like Heros, fought in the defence of Religion and Liberty.  But alas! their conduct falls under your censure.  How should they have acted?  You inform us, [in effect,] they should have followed the good example of their Brethren, who accepted the Indulgence.  They should have renounced the Covenants, and {37} sworn the Oath of Allegiance.——Subscribed the instrument assertory of the King’s prerogative, the Bond of peace.  They should have taken the second and third Indulgence.—Sworn the oath of Supremacy; subscribed the Bond concerning Wives, Children, and Cotters, and washed the whole down with the oath of Abjuration.[11]  You add, they should have fled from their enemies, but you do not tell us where.  They should not have murdered Bishop Sharp, that eminent Saint; nor have lifted up a testimony against these vile corrupters of law and justice: In a word, they should have trembled at that sentence, brought in by the Apostle, against resisters, that they shall receive to themselves damnation.

Your sentiments, Sir, plainly discover, that you are closely wrapped up in that old Cloak of Indulgence, whilst you so strictly maintain the tenets of your worthy Ancestors, and preach up to the world Passive Obedience and Non-resistance, as the doctrine of Christ and the Apostles.  As you are not too old to learn, I hope to convince you, that your doctrine, is contrary to Scripture, reason, and the practice of God’s Saints in all ages.  That it is contrary to Scripture, is evident from that passage you have quoted, Rom. 13.1-5: Let every Soul be subject unto the higher powers, &c.—It is universally confessed by commentators, that {38} Nero-Cæsar swayed the scepter of Government at Rome, when the Apostle wrote this Epistle to the Romans: So Ecclesiastical History informs us, that He was a Tyrant, a Parricide, one who ript up his mother’s womb, to see the place that he was conceived; Set Rome on Fire, and blamed it on the Christians; An Idolater, a Catamite, Sodomite.  A violent persecutor of the Church of Christ.  Who cast thousands of Christians to Lions and ravenous Beasts of prey to be devoured, whilst others were burned for torches, that He might feed his eyes with these inhuman spectacles.  The common proverb in his time was, Christiani ad Leones.  After such a description of the Supreme Magistrate, would any man of common sense assert, that NERO was the power ordained of God, to whom the Apostle enjoins subjection for conscience sake, and that under no less penalty than damnation.  Would the Apostle’s principles, contradict his practice, after calling him a Lion.  Nay, it is evident from the Roman History, that He was not only resisted but put to death by the Senate, for his abominable sins and wickedness.  Would it not be entertaining to Jacobites to hear, you from the pulpit paraphrase this Chapter.  Let every soul be subject to the higher powers; for there is no power but of God: The powers that be, are ordain’d of God, as was NERO’s.  Whosoever therefore resisteth Nero’s Power, resisteth the ordinance of God, and they that {39} resist, shall receive to themselves damnation.  For Rulers, viz. (Nero and his Inferior officers) are not a terror to good works, but to the evil, (tho’ he put to death all that professed the name of Christ.)  Wilt thou then, not be afraid, do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same.—From Nero.—For Nero is the Minister of God to thee for good, for he beareth not the Sword in vain; a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth EVIL.  I appeal to the reason of mankind, if your interpretation of this passage of sacred Scripture, is not a burlesquing of sacred Scripture.  So that I would reckon it a publick affront upon my Bible, to enter into a particular and laborious confutation of your doctrine, which is productive of blind and stupid subjection.  A doctrine exploded by the best writers on Government.  See Milton’s defence of the people of England against Salmasius, page 62, & Seq.  Sidney on Government, vol. 2. p. 80.  Let me ask you, Sir, do you believe in your conscience, that Tiberius, Caligula, Claudius, Nero, and the rabble of succeeding monsters, were a praise to those that did well, and a terror to those that did evil; and not the contrary, a praise to the worst, and a terror to the best men in the world?  Or for what reason, Tacitus could say, Ob virtutes certissimum exitium, that virtue brought men who lived under them, to certain destruction.  ’Tis amazingly strange, that a Dissenting Minister {40} should be so infatuated, as to become the Patron of such doctrine.  I cannot think, it can be from ignorance; and if not, it must surely arise from a worse original.  How injurious must it be to an inspired Apostle, to make him say, the powers that now be, instead of the powers that be?  What an idea must it give the world of Christianity?  What would the Romans particularly, (who had such a noble sense of Liberty) have thought of the Christian Religion, when they heard one of the chief propagators of it, had so zealously espoused the cause of Slavery, and obliged all under pain of damnation, to be subject even to their Nero, whom the Senate had condemned as a public enemy, and the people hated as a tyrant.[12]

As your doctrine is contrary to Scripture, and common sense, so it condemns our worthy Reformers, who bravely stood up in the defence of Religion and Liberty, in opposition to Tyranny and arbitrary Power.  Alas! for the primitive Christians who resisted these rabble of Minsters; what became of John Knox, and the nobles of Scotland, who resisted Queen Mary, and took up arms against her?  What became of the Martyrs who resisted King Charles; and those Rebels (amongst which perhaps was your Father) who drove King James off the Throne of Britain?  I suppose, if you had lived at that time, you would have preached {41} it up, as a damnable Sin to resist King James, and to take up arms against their Sovereign, seeing these nations had sworn the oath of Allegiance to him, and [considering his] having full possession of the Throne.  He was God’s ordinance.—For this weighty reason, “that Christ and his Apostles, owned and countenanced these gross Idolaters, under which they lived; which gross Idolatry, King James and his Court did loath and abhor.”  Thus, nothing can be more abominable and absurd, than your sentiments, in sentencing the representatives of the nations, to everlasting damnation, for resisting that Popish Tyrant, and bringing about the Revolution Settlement.  If these Nations should have obeyed him for Conscience Sake, then no man, or Christian, to the end of the world, need hesitate nor scruple to acknowledge, or honour ANY in the place of Power, as the ordinance of God, let him BE or DO what he will.  On the contrary, the Reformed Presbytery teach and preach, that the power here spoken of by the Apostle, is not a PHYSICAL, but a MORAL Power, and that these Apostolical precepts, Rom. 13.12; Titus 3.1; 1 Pet. 2.13, cannot be applied to the persons and government of those that were actually in power in Rome when these Epistles were written.  That Apostle, by POWERS THAT BE, understood the different kings of Power, or Magistracy, and not the persons using or occupying the Power.  That He did not command Aristocracy, {42} or Democracy, but to the ordinance of God.  To lawful Rulers, not to Idolatrous or Popish Tyrants.  And although they acknowledged that there is a government in Heathen nations, yet being destitute of divine revelation, they are left in that, as in all other things, to walk after their own lusts, and to live after the vanities of their own minds, 1 Thes. 4.5, Eph. 4.17,18.  So that the Apostle in the first verse, having shewn the divine original of this ordinance, he proceeds in the third and fourth verses, to describe these Magistrates, against which rebellion is a damnable Sin, but which we are to honour and obey, viz. They were to be a terror to evil doers, and a praise to them that do well.  Able men, fearing God, and hating covetousness, &c.  Men from amongst their brethren, Exod. 18.21; Deut. 1.13,15; 2 Chron. 19. &c.  Thus these precepts are given for all time coming, so that subjects should give obedience, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake to these magistrates, who are set up agreeable to these precepts, laid down in divine revelation.  And that therefore we should carefully distinguish between the ordinance of magistracy, and the person who may in providence be invested with that office.

For we find from the sacred oracles, that many resisted the Person, such as Athaliah, Absalom, Amaziah, and yet could not be said to resist God’s ordinance.——’Tis true, sometimes {43} the people of God, were given up into the hands of cruel magistrates, by the fore-appointment of God, who were to subdue, overcome, and rule over them; as did the Philistines and Babylonians of old, for their iniquity: And during their slavery and bondage, there was to be a patient subjection, relating both to bodies and goods, thereby kissing the rod and owning the stroke; which subjection cannot be rationally conceived a voluntary, conscientious subjection, but being constrained, as being for their Sin under the Lion’s paw, groaning under oppression, and waiting for the day of deliverance.

You proceed, page 21 of your remarks, to inform us, “That the Reformed Presbytery’s terms of Communion, are inconsistent with two articles of the Confession of Faith, Conf. Cap. 23. Sec. 4. Infidelity or difference in religion, doth not make void the magistrate’s just and legal authority, nor free the people from their due obedience to him.”  This Article about which the hot contest is, proceeds from a false foundation, upon which you build your argument, viz. that our Westminster Divines understand it thus, “That an Infidel, or one of a different religion, might be set up to bear rule over Britain and Ireland, and be warrantably subjected to as such.” And therefore we find you, and your Brethren, both from pulpit and press declaring, that if Julian the Apostate, or the Pope swayed the scepter of government, you would own his civil {44} authority.  And the reason you allege is, Infidelity or difference in religion doth not make void the magistrate’s just and legal authority, &c.

That our Westminster Divines never understood this article, in this sense, is evident; because such an exposition, is contrary to Scripture, contrary to common sense, and contrary their practice.  That it’s contrary to Scripture, see Deut. 17.15,16.  One from among thy Brethren shalt thou set King over thee: thou mayest not set a stranger over thee, which is not thy Brother.  1[st] Epistle Pet. 2.14, and 2 Sam. 22.2,3.  That it’s contrary to common sense, that an Infidel or Pope, if set up in Britain and Ireland, would be God’s ordinance: when at the Revolution, the chief reason for declining and rejecting King James’ authority, was his being a PAPIST.  And what must the present Government think of such Ministers, who teach such doctrine, that if the French King, with an army, could set up the Pretender on the Throne of Britain, you would look on him as God’s ordinance; for Infidelity or difference in religion, doth not make void the Magistrate’s just and legal authority, nor free the people from their due obedience; tho’ He is a bigoted Papist.  And who knows not, that the present Government, in opposition to your principles, has drawn up a perpetual bar against all Papists, or persons married to Papists, from being admitted to the Imperial Crown {45} of these Kingdoms.  Thus we have the sentiments of the representatives of this nation, at and since the revolution.  They are not for admitting persons of a Religion different from their own religion, tho’ at best it is but an ILL MUMBLED MASS, as was said by King James the 6th.

As such an exposition of the 23rd Article of the Confession is contrary to Scripture, and common sense, so it is contrary to the practice of our Westminster Divines.  Let it be considered, that the King and Parliament of England and Scotland, were at OPEN WAR, when the Assembly of Divines compiled the said Confession of Faith: And yet none of these Parliaments, nor the Church of Scotland, subjected to his authority, (or admitted his Son) until he professed himself to be of the communion of the Church of Scotland, and gave sufficient security for the true religion.  And no ONE that has a mouthful of sense, will imagine, that these ASSEMBLIES in England and Scotland, did not comprehend the articles of their own faith, or think that their practice contradicted their principles; especially considering that the Parliament of Scotland, in their 15th Act, 1649, did limit the succession to the Crown; and in their next, Act 16, on that very same day, ratified and approved the foresaid Confession of Faith.

From what has been said, it is evident, that the Infidelity or difference in religion, must not {46} be understood in the Magistrate, but the Subject; and so the meaning of the article, that when the magistrate is qualified and set up according to the RULE laid down in the word of God, Infidelity or difference in religion does not make void the magistrate’s just and legal authority, nor free the people from their due obedience to him.  Or if Infidelity, &c. be understood with respect to the magistrate, it proves two things,  1st, That dominion is not founded on grace.  2nd, That it does not make void the authority among heathens, where it is lawfully invested with the consent of the people.  But it is most surprizing that men should attempt to Babble us into a belief, that an Infidel, &c. should sway the Scepter of Government in these nations, where the true Reformed presbyterian, protestant religion was established by law, and confirmed by Solemn Covenants to the most high God.[13]

In that forequoted page you assert, our terms of Communion are inconsistent with the 26th Chapter, 2nd Section, of the Confession of Faith, “which treats of Christian communion, which is to be extended to all those who in every place, call upon the name of our Lord Jesus.”  In answer to this and your other objections on this head, I shall transcribe a few lines out of your pamphlet, which you wrote, in Answer to your Rev. and dear Brother Mr. Neilson, which may convince the world you are either dreaming or doating.——Being the OLD DRONE’s answer to {47} the young Jesuit, page 9, 10, Your words are, “’Tis matter of admiration, that Mr. Neilson hath represented the Westminster Assembly, to have been of such generous and enlarged sentiments, that they have clearness to keep communion with all those, who in every place, call upon the name of the Lord Jesus; since the very scope and intent of some places of the Confession, is to bear a testimony against Latitudinarian principles, and consequently against a promiscuous catholic Communion with all who profess Christianity: They were so far from maintaining the innocence of error, that they accounted some principles damnable heresies, such as Socinianism, that too many seem to be infected with at this time.”  And lastly, you add, that the Presbytery’s terms are unagreeable to the practice of the primitive Christians, who kept communion with one another, tho’ there were errors and scandalous practices amongst them, &c.  Let me, Sir, remind you, of your own words, in that forequoted pamphlet, which is a sufficient answer.  Having quoted these texts, 1 Cor. 5.11; 2 John 5.10,11; 2 Thes. 3.14, you add, “That we should keep at a distance from persons that are scandalous, in respect either of principle or practice.  And 3rd Section, 24th chapter, Confession.  They did not allow a godly man to enter into a marriage Covenant, with a person who maintains damnable heresies.  They allowed such as are {48} infected with dangerous errors, to be cast out of the Church, as is clear from some of the Scriptures that is quoted to prove the 4 Sec. of the 26 Chap.  And since they allowed erroneous persons to be cast out of the Church, much more did they allow them to be kept out.  For it is easier to keep a thief out of the house, than to turn him out when he is in.”

From what has been said, it appears to me evident:  First, That the Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious King and Head of his Church, did appoint terms of Communion in the days of his flesh, which were multiplied after his Resurrection, by his Apostles; as erroneous notions, and heretical opinions crept into the Christian Church.  For proof see Matt. 16.24, Then said Jesus unto his disciples, if any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross and follow me.  Luke 14.26,27. Luke 9.57-62.  Compared with Acts 15.28.  For it seemed good to the Holy Ghost, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things; That ye abstain from meats offered to Idols, and from blood, and from things strangled, and from fornication: From which if ye keep yourselves, ye shall do well: Fare ye well.  Titus 3.10. A man that is an Heretick, after the first and second admonition, reject.

2nd.  That the terms of Communion ought to be the same both among Ministers and people, {49} (excepting what relates to their office) because God is the God of the one, as well as of the other: Just as the Apostle speaks in another case, is God the God of the Jews, is He not the God of the Gentiles also?  2nd. God’s Law, is equally binding and obligatory upon Ministers and private Christians, in all the duties that are common to both; as well as a transgression of the Law, or an omission of Duty, is a sin in the people, as well as in the Minister.  3rd. There is the same rewards, and penalties, encouragements to obedience, and terrors to disobedience, proposed in Scripture.  4th. They are members both of the same body, and admitted to the same privileges, and therefore equally concerned to be careful for every thing that concerns the good and holiness of the Church.  And lastly, it is evident, that the Apostles, and primitive Christians, together with the Church of Scotland in the purest times of Reformation, knew of no such distinctions as you make use of, in your pamphlets, between Minister[ial] and Christian communion.  And notwithstanding, you have attempted to shew the difference, in your answer to Mr. Nielson; the amount of your first argument, ends in a notable discovery, that a woman is a man.  You assert, page 9, “That the Solemn League and Covenant was made a term of Ministerial Communion, but not of Christian, &c.” {50}

In this you betray your ignorance of Church History, and the Acts of Assembly.  It appears from the following Acts of Assembly, that the Covenants were made a term of Christian communion.

Assembly at Edinburgh, August 8, 1643. Session 6, Act for subscribing the Covenant.  “The General Assembly, considering the good and pious Advice of the Commissioners, of the last Assembly, upon the 22d of Sept. 1642. post merediem, recommending to presbyteries, to have copies of the Covenant, to be subscribed by every Minister at his admission, doth therefore ratify and approve the same; and further ordains, that the Covenant be reprinted, with this ordinance prefixed thereto, and that every Synod, Presbytery, and Parish, have one of them, bound in Quarto, with some blank paper, whereupon every person may be obliged to subscribe; and that the Covenants of the Synod and Presbytery be keep’d by their Moderator respective, of universities by their Principals, of parishes by their Ministers, with all carefulness; and that particular account of obedience to this act be required hereafter, in all visitations of parishes, universities, and presbyteries, and in all trials of Presbyteries and Synods books.——The General Assembly considering that the act of Assembly at Edinburgh, 1639 August the 30. enjoining all persons to subscribe the Covenant, {51} under all Ecclesiastical Censure, hath not been obeyed: Therefore ordains all Ministers to make intimation of the said act in their Kirks, and therefore to proceed with Censures of the Kirk, against such as shall refuse to subscribe the Covenants; and that exact account be taken of every Minister’s diligence hereuntill, by their Presbyteries and Synods, as they will answer to the General Assembly.”

Assembly at Edinburgh, Aug. 7, 1648. Sess. 31. Act for taking the Covenant, at the first receiving of the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, and for the receiving of it, also by all Students at their first entry into Colleges.

“The General Assembly, according to former recommendation[s] doth ordain, That all young Students take the Covenant at their first entry to Colleges, and that hereafter all persons whatsoever take the Covenant at their first receiving the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, requiring hereby provincial Assemblies, Presbyteries, and universities, to be careful that this act be observed, and account thereof taken in the visitation of universities, [and] particular Kirks, and in the trial of presbyteries.”

And now Sir, having shewn to a demonstration, that the terms of Communion held by the Reformed Presbytery, are the terms held by the Church of Scotland, in the purest times of Reformation — It does not much surprize {52} me, that they gaul and afflict your conscience; seeing they exclude You and your Brethren, who have declined from our attained-to reformation, and may serve to revive the memory of your sin in your own breast, and stain your reputation in the world, to be considered as an opposer, revolter, and an apostate from such a glorious reformation.


Footnotes:

1. A simple correction: The Sum of Saving Knowledge, though worthy of high regard, and bearing a sort of authority not to be disregarded, was never subscribed or otherwise adopted by either Church or State.  Also, The Form of Presbyterial Church Government, given an hearty approval by the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, was not ratified by the Parliament of Scotland.—JTKer.

2. I must do the Synod this piece of Justice, as frankly to own, that Mr. Holmes, or his Brethren, were not the first founders or authors of these defences; for the Church of Rome and England both claim interest in them; These were the arguments made use of by the Prelatic Curates, in the hottest time of Persecution, and have been much improved by the Indulged, at and since the Revolution.—WJ.

3. Here, Mr. James has inserted the parenthetical phrase, which directs our attention to the fact that what Mr. Holmes has said against the Confession, might also be used to oppose the acknowledgement of the Holy Scriptures in the Church’s Terms of Communion.—JTKer.

4. The language later used by the Reformed Presbyterian Church in America (RPCNA) was as follows: “An acknowledgement that the whole doctrine of the Westminster Confession of Faith, and the Catechisms, larger and shorter, are agreeable unto, and founded upon, the Scriptures.” (Terms of Communion, 1807 & 1849.)  The Scottish Church used terminology without explicitly saying “whole doctrine,” specifically, “The acknowledgement of the Westminster Confession of Faith, and Catechisms, Larger and Shorter, to be founded upon, and agreeable to the Word of God.” (Terms of Communion, 1806 & 1866,) but their published “Explanation and Defence” of these terms, does speak of how this requires such “an owning of the doctrines contained in Westminster Confession of Faith and Catechisms,” as follows “only after mature deliberation, carefully comparing them with the Word of God, and receiving full conviction in our own minds of their being wholly founded upon it.”  The R.P. Church in Ireland also adopted this Term, (still published in 1875 and 1912,) and also published the said “Explanation and Defence of the Terms of Communion.” As time continued, the Church in America was using language like that which Mr. James here uses, referring to the “system of doctrine contained in the Westminster Confession of Faith, the Larger and Shorter Catechisms, and the Testimony.” (Terms of Communion, 1949.)  On the other hand, by 1932, the Scottish Church no longer included a direct reference to the Westminster Confession of Faith in its Terms of Communion, and the Irish Church was omitting it by 1965.  Those who are sincerely open to hear the sound judgment of very capable judges, on the extensiveness of the approval which ought to be given to these standards, may very simply consult the Act of Assembly, 1647, approving the Confession of Faith, generally printed with authentic editions of this document.  And for those who, with the present editor, prefer more simple Terms of Communion, it should be observed that they may very easily be collapsed into the single Term of subscribing and keeping the Reformation Covenants, if we allow this same Act of Assembly as the standing judgment of our Church, concerning the relation this Confession of Faith bears to our Solemn League and Covenant.—JTKer.

5. Alluding to J--n Cameron, the supposed Author of the Catholic Christian.—WJ.

6. Mr. James’ original wording here is a paraphrase of Mr. Holmes, and is hard to follow.  He uses the expression, “and owns if it was adapted as such, by the Church...” but it is revised above to express what Mr. James likely intended.  Mr. Holmes’ original text does very clearly acknowledge the continuing obligation of the Solemn League and Covenant, and its various particulars, including the “extirpation [of] all sorts of errour out of the Church, etc.”  His occasion for opposition to the Reformed Presbytery is specifically on whether the Term of Communion is proper, because, as he says, “I have light to keep communion with many who are not sensible of that obligation, and yet have a right to it by the term of communion that is made by the Apostle Paul, Rom. 15.7.”  Mr. Holmes does not explain to us how this verse may be so directly applied to the question, without proving too much, and bringing every one to the communion table whom we are obliged, one way or another, to “receive.” Hopefully, many of his readers would have observed the connection with Paul’s preceding verse, which defines the end and usefulness of the Christian reception to which he persuades his brethren: “That ye may with one mind and one mouth glorify God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.”—JTKer.

7. It may be noted, that Mr. Holmes more precisely states that, “swearing of the Solemn League and Covenant was made a term of both ministerial and christian communion in the Church of Scotland for the space of sixteen or seventeen years.”  This is not the actual Term of Communion used by the Reformed Presbytery.  It is a question worthy of consideration, whether, having observed this original Term of Communion, the Reformed Presbyterian Churches would have more constantly maintained their principles in the years that followed.—JTKer.

8. See the Book of Homilies.—WJ.

9. John Cameron was originally an elder in the Reformed Presbytery of Scotland, but in 1754 he joined with others in a protest against the proceedings of the Presbytery and separated in favour of the heretical teachings then starting to find favour with some dissenters inclining towards the doctrine of a universal atonement.  In 1755 he joined with the Presbyterian Synod in Ireland.  The above reference to the “Catholic Christian,” relates to two of Cameron’s publications: “The Catholic Christian, or, The true religion sought and found,” published in 1769; and “The Catholic Christian defended: in a letter to the Rev. Benjamin McDowel,” published in 1771.  His departures from the truth increased as the years went on, and he died on the last day of December, 1799.—JTKer.

10. The following sentences have been revised because as they are published in Mr. James’ pamphlet they give the impression that Mr. Holmes has said the things which Mr. James presents as context to Mr. Holmes’s statements, or as inferences from his condemnations of the faithful witnesses of the time in question.  Mr. Holmes did not there state whether the Martyrs did own or disown the “civil government” of their time, and it is only the phrase in quotes at the end of the paragraph that is found in his text; so it is necessary to connect these two statements as presented above: “although... yet....” It may be that Mr. James intentionally chose to take some liberties in relaying the account of what Mr. Holmes “informs us” here and in the next paragraph, corresponding to the liberties which Mr. Holmes took, in deducing from the Reformed Presbyterian Terms of Communion various excommunications of Christ and the Apostles, the Earl of Argyle, James Guthrie, etc.  Otherwise, it may be that Mr. Holmes had so “informed us” from his other pamphlets, or his own conduct and associations.  In the pamphlet of Mr. Holmes to which Mr. James is responding, the counsel Mr. Holmes opposes to the conduct of Richard Cameron is simply that he should have avoided actions which would provoke the enemy, and rather flee and hide than declare war.  Mr. Cameron’s published sermons may serve for some answer to this painfully insensitive advice.  It is rather misguided, and betrays an ignorance of the times and the war which the enemy was already carrying on.  Further, it demonstrates a complete non-perception of the relationship between testimony-bearing, and the providential call to this duty.—JTKer.

11. Wodrow’s History, page 23, 26.  Page 278, 287. Appendix page 124. 173. 436.—WJ.

12. Memorial of the Reformation. p. 6, 7.—WJ.

13. Admittedly, the first of the above explanations is untenable.  An official explanation of this part of the confession, and how it was received by the witnessing Covenanters, may be found in their Protestation and Declaration of 1685, against James Duke of York. See the second paragraph.  It is also known that the accusers of James Guthrie brought this same passage of the Confession against him in 1661, and his defence is much the same as Mr. James above, discussing the conduct of the Assembly which drew up this statement, and the Parliament which ratified it, which may be seen in the text of Mr. Guthrie’s defence, as printed in 1822, or as relayed in a publication by John Dow, also relating to the Terms of Communion in the Reformed Presbyterian Church.—JTKer.