It is a snare to the man who devoureth that which is holy, and after vows to make enquiry.—Proverbs 20.25.

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EXTRACT OF MINUTES

OF THE

REFORMED PRESBYTERY.

[ 1868. ]

Constitution

Letter from London Congregation

Response to London Congregation

Resolution on Hiring Substitutes for Military Service

A Testimony against Prevailing Errors and Disorder

Causes of Thanksgiving

THE Reformed Presbytery met according to adjournment, on the 25th May, 1868, in the Miami Meeting-house, Logan County, Ohio, at 10 o'clock A.M., and was constituted with prayer.  All the ministerial members were present, and a full representation of all the Sessions through the ruling-eldership.  Rev. J. F. Fulton was continued Moderator, and D. Steele, Clerk.  The Minutes of last year were read and approved. Rev. J. J. People's reasons of absence last year were not sustained, and he was admonished to be more careful in assigning reasons of absence.

Several papers were presented, referred to appropriate committees, and issued by the court; but not being of public interest, they are omitted here.

A communication was received from the Session of the Congregation in London, England, which, with the Presbytery's response, is here subjoined.

“To the Rev. the Moderator and remanent members of the Presbytery of the Reformed Presbyterian Church, United States of America, to meet within the bounds of Miami Congregation, Logan County, Ohio, on the last Monday, the 25th of May, 1868.

“Dear Fathers and Brethren,—Trusting that you are all present, pastors and elders, from all the congregations under your jurisdiction, we would reckon it to be scarcely necessary to assure you of our own good will, and of that of our dear friends and brethren associated with us as witnesses for the cause of Christ in these lands, to yourselves personally, and to all the people under your charge; also of our high appreciation of the firm and consistent stand, which, in your organized capacity, you have made for the maintenance of the crown-rights and royal prerogatives of the Lord Jesus Christ, as King and Head of his Church, the Governor among the nations, and Lord of all.  As it is our bounden duty, so we trust it has uniformly been our sincere endeavour to unite in sympathy with you under all your trials for the truth’s sake, and to make prayer and supplication for you, at a throne of grace, that all strength may be granted to you to maintain your warfare with principalities and powers and spiritual wickedness in high places, and that all the gifts and graces of the Holy Spirit may be furnished to you for yourselves and for the edification and comfort of the flock of God of which He hath made you overseers.  In prospect of your meeting, too, we would especially invite, on your behalf, the gracious presence of the Master of assemblies, and the unction of the Holy One, to be your high attainment, so that whatsoever you may decide upon may seem good to the Holy Ghost as well as to yourselves and to your people.

“Matters of the gravest moment to yourselves and brethren, {445} and to the whole Church of God, will claim your attention and demand your prayerful and faithful consideration.  It was satisfactory for us to observe from the minutes of your last meeting, that the minutes of your meeting held at Philadelphia, the year before, at which all the ministers of your organization, and one of ourselves, were present, received your approval.  And from the extent of our knowledge of the circumstances of a case to which allusion was made in a paper received at your last meeting from a dear and worthy brother minister who was absent, we consider that we have just reason to approve the finding of your Court with respect thereto, which is embodied in your minutes on their last page.

“Further, dear Fathers and Brethren, we cannot but approve your solemn and affectionate warning to your people against voting for, or against, any amendments to the Constitutions of the States of the American Union, for the reason that you give, which is, that the act of voting, in such cases, is one of the ways in which your Testimony declares that you would incorporate with the immorality of the nation.

“And in view of all coming struggles, arising whether out of the impeachment of the President, or the election of a successor, we would sympathize with you and with our dear brethren under your charge, and earnestly pray that, by Divine grace, you may all be enabled to keep your garments clean.

“To come now to matters that affect the interests of true religion around ourselves.  In the United Kingdom a first step has been taken towards what all classes of the people reckon a momentous revolution.  In the Commons’ House of Parliament early in this month, three resolutions of Mr. Gladstone, respecting the Irish Church, were carried by a majority of 56; after an amendment thereto, by Lord Stanley, had been set aside, by a majority of 60.  Of these resolutions, the first, as explained by Earl Russell, at a meeting of which he was the Chairman, held in St. James’s Hall, on the evening of the 16th inst., ‘is clearly for disestablishment.’  The second, ‘points clearly to disendowment.’ The third, ‘asks the Crown to place at the disposal of Parliament her Majesty’s interest in the ecclesiastical dignities and benefices in Ireland.’  Others, in dismay, on behalf of the Church, shortly state the sum of the measures to be, disestablishment, disendowment, and confiscation.  The supporters of prelacy are therefore in great alarm, and almost seem to resemble the people of Ephesus, crying, ‘Great is Diana of the Ephesians!’ It was some days after the event which thrilled with terror the hearts of High Churchmen that there was first taken notice, in public, of a consequence of disestablishment which had come at once forcibly before our minds, as no doubt before the mind of every intelligent and consistent adherent to the whole Covenanted Reformation.  This is the surrender of the Erastian supremacy of the Crown.  To this, as far as we saw, there had been no allusion made even in the debates in Parliament upon the resolutions.  {446} The supporters of these either did not think of that issue, or consider it proper to refer to it.  While on the side of the ministry, a result so disastrous in the view of many, may have likely seemed to be incredible.  At last, a letter from a Professor of King’s College, London, which appeared in the chief paper of the daily press, gave the alarm.  He said there that ‘the disestablishment of that Church is the extinction of the royal supremacy—that, and no more.’  In a leading article, the same day, that organ, the Times, attempted to come to the rescue, affirming among other things, that ‘disestablishment may be complete without what’ the ‘professor calls emancipation.’  A clergyman of the Church of England, however, five days after, publishes a letter in the Times, in terms obviously intended to put that literary authority right upon the subject.  Speaking of Mr. Gladstone's plan, he says, ‘The vision is one of a Free Church, identical in doctrine and form of government with the Church of this day, in full communion (though no longer united by law) with her English sister, and interchanging freely, as at this time, her ministrations with those of the latter.’ He goes on to say, ‘At present the law defines every right of every description, the aggregate of which is the Established Church.  Bishop, priest, layman, incumbent, curate—all have their powers and their duties strictly defined by law.’  Afterwards, ‘Disestablishment, if the word be used in its proper sense, means the repeal of all that determines their powers and their duties.’ And again, ‘In a condition of genuine disestablishment neither rights nor duties exist.’  And this writer correctly enough holds that if the Irish Church, after disestablishment, were kept under certain restrictions, this would amount to re-establishment.  Being a Churchman, however, and not knowing the privilege of ecclesiastical freedom, he considers that it would be a doubtful policy that would give to 700,000 free-church people the share of the spoils of the establishment that might fall to them, to be used by them at their discretion.

“Shifty statesmen would have endowed all sects in Ireland, including Romanists and Presbyterians, who would have given their consent, in order to save the establishment; or, on the other hand, they would have disendowed all, as some now propose to do, with a view, if possible, to make all content.  Church Courts of the Scottish Establishment have expressed their disapproval of the three resolutions.  Free Churchmen and United Presbyterians at their respective meetings, have given their voice in favour of the disestablishment proposed, condemned the endowment of any denomination, the Maynooth Grant, the Regium Donum, the granting either of endowment, or a charter to a Catholic University.

“When one of our number, dear Fathers and Brethren, a year ago, addressed to you a letter, which you kindly received and engrossed in your minutes, in which reference was made to the controversy which the Divine Mediator has with those rulers of the {447} earth who have usurped his prerogative as King and Head of his Church, and to the certainty that He would reckon with them for their usurpations, no one but the Eternal knew how soon and strikingly, yea, strangely, we may say His displeasure would proceed to take effect.

“One light, therefore, in which we may view the present crisis is that of the Divine Mediator coming out of his place to strip of unjustly acquired, that is, usurped power, some who, whether ignorantly or not, had sought to put themselves into His room.  The Papists of Ireland hated the establishment there for its own sake.  Many voluntaries would have cast the spoils of Church property to the aid of the civil exigencies of the State.  Some statesmen who have stood by the Church through the past period of their public career would disestablish and disendow her, to throw a sop to the Cerberus of Popery and infidelity.  But none of these, nor of the great communities of the nation, said, Disestablish the Church in order to overthrow the anti-scriptural and Erastian supremacy exercised over her by the State.  Dissenters said, Disestablish and disendow the National Churches to concede the rights of conscience to men, but not to refrain from an invasion of the rights of God.  The latter did not seem much to occupy their thoughts.  They said, Why should we be taxed to support a system that we don't approve? but not, Why should God be dishonoured by civil rulers taking His place?

“It was different with true Reformed Presbyterians.  And accordingly, another light in which we may view this crisis, is that of a begun answer to the prayer, and a gracious recognition of the struggles, of a remnant witnessing for the whole of Christ's truth in their adherence to the whole cause of the Covenanted Reformation. ‘This is the Lord's doing; it is marvellous in our eyes.’  True Reformed Presbyterians, by refusing to incorporate with, have never supported the Antichristian government as all other sects have done; some of whom are resolved, and others will be induced, to turn their backs upon a part, if not the whole, of the evil in the system.

“As to the direction and intensity of the wave of revolution that has arisen, and that will travel before the blast of a new parliament representing the masses in the land, there is scarcely a diversity of opinion.  The wave will sweep away the sister establishment of England, and perhaps simultaneously or consecutively that of Scotland too.  And what shall be the end of these wonders the Lord alone knoweth.  But even though Popery for a time be thereby fostered, and infidelity, and consequent irreligion and immorality too, He who sitteth King upon the floods, and stilleth the tumults of the people, will put a limit to the encroachments of the wicked, arise to plead His own cause, and build up Zion in the latter day.

“Dear Fathers and Brethren, commending you and your people to the care of our covenant God, seeking a continued {448} interest in your prayers, with much affection and esteem, in the name and on behalf of the Session, we remain yours in the land of the covenant.

 

“JOHN CUNNINGHAM, Moderator, pro tem.

“ALEXANDER MCDOWALL, Session Clerk.”


“Rev. and much honoured Brethren in our common Lord.—We rejoice to hear that you are still honoured of our Divine Master to maintain a joint testimony for our covenanted cause in the lands of our common ancestry.  We sympathize with you in all your conflicts with the powers of darkness in the sphere allotted to you in the arrangement of divine providence, and we gratefully accept your expressions of sympathy with, and prayers for us, subjected to like tribulations.  He who in righteousness judges and makes war, has entered upon his strange work in our day more visibly than in the ordinary course of his righteous administration.  On both sides of the Atlantic, and especially in those nations which for centuries have uttered the loudest protest against the blasphemous assumptions of Antichrist, He has been of late sending round the cup of his wrath, whereby the waters are made bitter.

“By the popular voice, expressed or implied, ‘vile men are still exalted’ to places of power in the Church and in the State.  Thus it is obvious that the great body of the population of Christendom, and especially in those nations most favoured by the revelation of God’s law and covenant, are chief in the trespass; and it is a righteous thing with God to render tribulation to them that trouble his children and insult his Majesty by defrauding them of their rights and Himself of his glory.

“Many are saying, ‘The witnesses are dead!’ others, that ‘they are in process of being slain.’  This view of prophecy supposes the death of the witness to be wholly of a moral nature.  Doubtless this interpretation is partly correct, being confirmed by the past history of God’s covenant society.  We would, however, deprecate this partial view of future events, as being in our apprehension exceedingly hurtful to the faith, stability, and comfort to the true witnesses of Jesus, whose highest attainment and noble achievement is, that ‘they loved not their lives unto the death.’

“Dear brethren, if we are enabled in the midst of prevailing defection from Scriptural and covenanted attainments, to hold fast that which we have, to keep the word of Christ’s patience, we may humbly hope for the approval of our gracious Lord, and the grateful acknowledgments of posterity.

“We have been endeavouring, and yet continue, in much weakness, to maintain our progressive testimony against spiritual wickedness in high places; and according to the measure of our light, so to direct it as to strike against the ever-shifting phases of error and popular delusion.  Such a position exposes to manifold privations and reproach.  Nothing can sustain us or you, {449} beloved brethren, in such a conflict, but the ‘continued supplies of the Spirit of Jesus Christ.’  For this, and for all covenant blessings to be vouchsafed to you, we acknowledge ourselves to be your debtors to use our interest at the throne of grace.

“With assurance of continued confidence and fraternal affection, on behalf of the Reformed Presbytery, we subscribe ourselves,

“Yours in solemn covenant bonds,

 

“J. F. Fulton, Moderator.

“D. Steele, P. Clerk.”

The Presbytery having become apprised that diverse and conflicting constructions have been put upon the action of court in relation to the duty of our people during the late civil war, passed the following explanatory preamble and resolutions:—

“Whereas the late revolutionary condition of society at large, brought us into new and untried circumstances respecting which no well-defined landmarks had been, or could be set by our reforming forefathers, by which we might be directed in performing individual and social duties: and

“Whereas in these new and peculiar circumstances this Presbytery did, from time to time, according to their light while the war was in progress, declare in no equivocal language, that in carrying out our dissent from the United States’ government, our members could take no active part in the war, by joining interest with either party in the contest, whilst our moral influences and sympathy were always on the side of civil liberty—the consistency of our judicial action with our Testimony being attested by such as oppose us in other respects on both sides of the Atlantic:—And

“Whereas we have never refused to bear our proportionate share of the common taxation, when not exacted as a tessera of loyalty to existing evil power; yet under misapprehension from circumstances at the times this court did in 1865, employ unguarded language in saying, that the ‘contributing of money to clear townships and precincts of draft . . . . was inconsistent with our Testimony,’ [1] and

“Whereas upon more mature consideration of the whole subject involved, we can discover no moral difference between the object of this and other burdens of taxation.  Therefore, that the Presbytery's mind may be more clearly expressed and more fully made known,

“Resolved, that paying money to hire substitutes to go into military service for the support of immoral power, is inconsistent with our Testimony, because of the legal identity between the parties, according to the recognised maxim, ‘What I do by another, I do by myself.’

“And now, believing that none of our brethren in covenant advocate the practice of hiring or employing others to do what would be unlawful or immoral in themselves; the Presbytery {450} affectionately exhort all under their care to forbear the discussion of this and similar questions in casuistry, as ‘unprofitable and vain,’ tending to ‘gender strifes’ rather than ‘godly edifying.’” [2]

The following paper, having been read by a member of the court and unanimously approved; the writer was requested to complete the document and have it incorporated and published with the Minutes, and used on the day appointed for our annual fast.

A TESTIMONY AGAINST PREVAILING ERRORS AND DISORDER.

The Presbytery, impressed with the evil and danger of [a]bounding error, which issuing from the mouth of the dragon (Rev. 12.15), threatens to deluge all Christian denominations, and lamenting the almost total disregard of the discipline which Christ appointed for the ‘edification and not the destruction’ of his disciples, would give expression at this time to their sentiments in the following declarations:—

1. The visible Church is one by her Divine constitution. (Song 6.9; Matt. 16.18; 1 Tim. 3.15.)  The strenuous efforts now made to effect a union of the different denominations of our day, manifest a deep conviction in the public mind, that the Christian Church ought to be one throughout the earth.  Partial unions having been often effected by a sacrifice of truth, and such unions having proved utterly abortive and failed in permanence, some modern divines in the ‘Reformed Churches,’ in avowed imitation of earth’s party politicians, have called in question the possibility, and consequently the desirableness of doctrinal and organic unity in the visible Church.  Assuming that each denomination holds a parcel of Divine truth not contained in any other, the bold and heretical assertion has been made before the public, that all are necessary to a full exhibition of the Gospel!  In particular, that the system of doctrine called Calvinistic, requires that of Arminius to render it complete.  As error is contrary to the Scriptures, so it is inconsistent with itself.  Doctrinal union is first asserted to be impossible, contrary to the word of God (1 Cor. 1.10), and then Calvinism and Arminianism are represented as constituting one perfect doctrinal system.  This is the Baxterian error revived, against which our fathers testified more than two hundred years ago.  We hereby revive their faithful testimony.  And as we still maintain the divine unity of the Church of Christ, so we will continue to labour for its attainment by holding fast and endeavouring to propagate all Scriptural and covenanted doctrines and order.

2. The recent and continued popular excitements, taking their rise from the Union Convention of last November in the city of Philadelphia, we view as unusually ominous.  The original movement in that city furnished a striking illustration of that conflict of animal emotions called enthusiasm.  The proceedings were wanting in the elements of social order.  To an intelligent spectator they did not present the gravity and deliberation which {451} should characterize a convention of ‘divines and other fit persons’ assembled to frame a bond of union for the Church of God.  From the manifest irreverence, tumultuous applause, partiality and tyranny displayed, the presumption is strong that the whole was managed by intrigue.  And indeed such is the impression and deep conviction in the minds of many—both members and spectators.  We therefore condemn the conclusions of that Convention, not merely because of the many positive and palpable errors uttered by prominent members, but chiefly for equivocal language used in the basis.

We cannot ascertain which copy or edition of the Westminster Confession of Faith was adopted.  Some spurious or mutilated copy only could be contemplated as remodelled by bold divines of the last century; for we are morally certain the venerable document in its original integrity was not, nor could be adopted by that Convention.  On psalmody the sound is more distinct, though still equivocal.  The inspiration and adaptation of the Book of Psalms is recognised.  This is well.  We suppose the Convention was not prepared to deny before the Christian world the inspiration and adaptation of any other part of the Bible.  But why give utterance to a truism which few if any professing Christian would deny?  ‘But inasmuch as’ uninspired hymns have been placed on an equality with this part of God’s word as matter of praise, ‘a change in this respect shall not be required!’  We charitably believe that had any member, on similar grounds and from exactly parallel assumptions, advanced the position—That the Koran of Mahomet and the Book of Mormon shall be received as part of the bond of fellowship in the United Church, many of the delegates would have been alarmed; even Dr. Musgrave, who on this question of psalmody—‘did not wish to be a Jew!’

And here the Presbytery, identifying with, and following in the footsteps of the Reformed Covenanted Presbyterian Church of Scotland, take occasion to declare their unalterable adherence to the Book of Psalms in the best metrical version as the manual of praise to God for the whole Church of Christ, to the exclusion of all impious ‘Imitations,’ ‘Paraphrases,’ and ‘hymns merely of human composure.’ The grounds on which the Presbytery predicate this declaration, are twofold.  First, Divine authority and appointment, together with iterated and reiterated commands to obey. (Psam 81.2, 105.2, 137.3; Luke 24.42; Acts 1.20; Eph. 5.19 ; Col. 3.16; Rev. 14.3, 15.3.)  Second, ecclesiastical authority.  We receive the subordinate standards ‘as they were received by the Church of Scotland.’  And in these days of declension from scriptural purity, and of growing superstition in the worship of God, it is deemed conducive to edification and stability to adduce a few out of many declarations and acts of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, by which the position of this Presbytery on psalmody is sustained.

When our fathers were emerging from the idolatries, superstitions, {452} and will-worship of Popery in Scotland about the middle of the sixteenth century, they did for a time retain some of the dregs of mystical Babylon.  These consisted of ‘Doxologies—Godlie Ballates, [songs of] the Lord's Prayer, the Commandments, the Creed,’ &c., all or some of them added to the Psalms, and printed in Latin.  In process of time, however, ‘The mummery of the unknown tongue was swept off, root and branch, from the service of the Scottish Church;’ and ‘in the first issue of the complete Psalter for Scotland in 1564-5, these additions are all left out, and nothing is found but the Psalms themselves. . . . . Amongst all the examples of congregational singing mentioned by the historian Calderwood, and others, no case of hymn-singing appears to occur. . . . The official existence of the Psalter comprehends a period of eighty-six years, dating from the year 1564, when the first complete edition, so far as known, was issued; and closing in 1650, when the metrical version of the Psalms, which is still in use, was adopted in its room.’

Thus it appears that our pious ancestors took special care that the scriptural purity of this part of Divine worship, in which only all the congregation can actively join, should be recovered from Popish superstition, preserved and transmitted to posterity.  And when any person during those eighty-six years which elapsed between the two authorized versions, ventured to introduce innovation, he was subjected to judicial cognizance.  For example,—‘In 1568 an edition of the Psalm Book was issued in Edinburgh by Thomas Bassandyne, to which the General Assembly took exception on account of a song called ‘Welcum Fortun’ appended to it; therefore the whole Assembly ordained the said Thomas to call in again all the said books that he has sold, and keep the rest unsold until he delete the said song out of the end of the Psalm Book; and further, that he abstain in all time coming from further printing anything without revising of such things as pertain to religion by some of the Church appointed for that purpose.’

As uninspired hymns, and other human inventions, usurped the place of divine institutions, obscuring the spiritual glory of the apostolic age of the Church, culminating in all the Antichristian abominations of Popery, so the reformers of Scotland were careful to purge out all corruptions in worship as well as errors in doctrine.  In both respects the Scottish Church has been honourably distinguished from those of England and Continental Europe, where uninspired psalmody still prevails.

But, in order to secure unity and promote uniformity, the Covenanted Church of Scotland sedulously guarded the music as well as the psalmody in the worship of God.  Organs, anthems, and chanting, were discarded, along with the rest of the relics of the “dark ages of Papal corruption.”  It is notorious that the Reformed Church of Scotland rejected the use of instrumental music in its worship. . . . ‘The service of God is grievously abused by piping with organs, singing, and trowling {453} of psalms from one side of the choir to another, imitating the fashion and manner of Antichrist the Pope, that man of sin . . . the playing at the organs is a foolish vanity.’  Again, speaking of ‘Proper and Common tunes, and tunes in Repeat,’ (in modern phrase, repeating tunes), she says, ‘The music should be simple, as level to the capacity of the general population, that the people as a whole should take part in the service, it necessarily follows that easy music should bo provided. . . . . If young and old, the more and the less skilful, are to unite in the exercise, scientific niceties, and all difficulties of execution, must be excluded.’

Such are some of the lessons taught by our reforming ancestors—lessons which nature itself teaches—which many who glory in being their descendants, would do well to learn over again.  They are a few out of many similar authorities, with a change only in the orthography, extracted from a valuable work entitled, ‘The Scottish Metrical Psalter, by Rev. Neil Livingston, Glasgow, 1864.’

3. The Presbytery testify against the superstitious and often idolatrous ceremonies of late years renewed among Protestant Presbyterians, and especially Reformed Presbyterians, in connection with the burying of the dead.  These ceremonies had been abolished by the Church of Scotland at an early period of the first Reformation as part of the relics of Popery . . . . as being ‘unprofitable to the dead, and many ways hurtful to the living.’ . . . . So early as 1560 we find the following:—‘For avoiding all inconveniences, we judge it best that neither singing nor reading be at the burial; for although things sung and read may admonish some of the living to prepare themselves for death, yet shall some superstitious and ignorant persons think that the works, singing and reading of the living, do or may profit the dead.  And, therefore, we think it most expedient that the dead be conveyed to the place of burial with some honest company of the Church, without either singing or reading.’  It is to be feared that impenitence in the living is often fostered by the customary eulogies pronounced on the character of the dead, who gave little or no evidence of repentance in their lives.  The evil is intensified in those cases where, at the instance of a base and mercenary ministry, the corpse is brought into the place of public worship, after the manner of the Papists—a custom borrowed from the heathen.

4. The Presbytery testify against the practice of occasional communion in word or sacrament by ecclesiastical bodies, while organically separate, as being grossly irregular, and inconsistent with common sense and honesty.  And especially does this disorderly practice betray the base succumbing to a corrupt and corrupting public sentiment on the part of those whose prohibitory rule the leaders have neither the magnanimity nor manhood to rescind—a practice which even some among themselves, on safe occasions, do not hesitate to denounce as “treason with a vengeance.”  Unsophisticated reason would say, that communion is {454} based upon union, not union upou communion; but this reversal of natural order seems to be the popular sentiment of the day.  The question of the prophet still demands a rational answer, ‘Can two walk together except they be agreed?’ But the assertion is often made, ‘It is not to be expected that even true Christians will ever think precisely alike on every object of thought.’ Very true, and it is but a truism, having no bearing on the prophet’s question.  In all well regulated societies among men, however, there are more or less objects of thought ‘common to the members, in which each is supposed to have declared a voluntary acquiescence.’  After an explicit recognition of the moral obligation of the bond by each member, does it consist with reason or integrity that any member shall be free to disregard any one principle or object of common thought?  Apply the argument to any copartnership for the acquisition of gain.  Is any member of the firm at liberty to pursue a course calculated to defeat the very object of the Association?  No, but ‘the children of this world are, in their generation, wiser than the children of light.’

5. Again, the Presbytery testify against all who oppose the royal authority of the Anointed of the Father, as Prince of the kings of the earth.  And here the churches are to be reviewed as “chief in the trespass,” and more especially those in this land which glory in the name Presbyterian—a name, when rightly interpreted, synonymous with human liberty, guaranteeing his just rights to every human being.  But, as before the late war, waged in the interest of oppression, the Christian Churches, especially of the Presbyterian name, constituted the principal bulwark of slavery; so are they now, with few exceptions, the chief opposers of a national recognition of the rights of God.  And as the hands of civil officers are tied by ‘oath or affirmation to support, defend,’ &c., an atheistical Constitution, so the Churches identified with the national organization, are in the same predicament.  Thus, neither Church nor State ‘will have this man to reign over them.’ [Luke 19.14.]  Messiah, in the quaint but nervous language of the famous and faithful Samuel Rutherford, is thus ‘left to fend for himself.’  He will, doubtless, in due time assert his own claims, and ‘thoroughly plead the cause of his people.’ [Jer. 50.34.]  The danger is imminent that the decree may go forth, ‘Ephraim is joined to his idols; let him alone.’ [Hosea 4.17.]

6. Moreover, the Presbytery testify against former brethren in covenant, popularly styled Old and New Lights, for many ways corrupting the doctrines and violating the order recognised and solemnly sanctioned in the Reformed Covenanted Church.  Both parties have for more than half a century declared adherence to a mutilated Testimony and formula of Terms of Communion, obviously preparative to a subversion of the Church's position on the doctrine of the Divine ordinance of civil government.  The new position thus theoretically assumed, came to be openly reduced to practice by the latter of these parties in the year {455} 1833, when they avowedly identified with the National Society; by the former, more covertly in the late civil war.  In 1834 the O. Light Synod refused to replace the second proposition in the first Term of Communion, in these words, ‘and the alone infallible rule of faith and manners,’ and so continued for fifteen years.  They have all along persistently rejected historical testimony from the bonds of fellowship, although pressed upon their attention for some thirty years.  Disregarding the direction of Zion’s Lawgiver, to ‘go forth by the footsteps of the flock,’ they have greatly conformed to the unscriptural and anti-reformed customs of worldly sanctuaries around them.  In 1834 they refused to recognise their own published faith on ‘ocoasional hearing,’—followed in 1838, ‘continuous singing,’ then ‘operatic music,’ ‘clandestine marriages,’ &c.

The floodgates thus opened, error, disorder, and self-contradiction fearfully enter and prevail.  Of this state of things among these former brethren we have melancholy evidence.  For example: They publicly ‘testify against the evils which may exist in the corrupt constitutions of either Church or state.’  But they also assure us that ‘there are moral evils essential to the Constitution of the United States, which render it necessary to refuse allegiance to the whole system. . . . . This constitution is . . . . in many instances inconsistent, oppressive, and impious . . . . immoral system,’ &c., yet this same community solemnly ‘pledge their prayers, their money, and, if necessary, their lives’ to do what?—‘To defend the integrity of the country—to put down slavery,’ say these brethren.  But what says the highest executive officer, who represents the national sovereignty before the world, and before the ‘Governor among the nations?’ the President of the United States called out the national forces as ‘Commander-in-Chief . . . . to enforce the Constitution and execute the laws.  ‘And,’ in the language of another, ‘who being dead yet speaketh,’ ‘no reasoning that can be employed, however ingenious, can convince us of the lawfulness of Covenanters uniting in a war for the defence of a Constitution which themselves condemn as opposed to the Word of God!’

7. And finally, the Presbytery testify against all profaners of God’s holy name—not only those who habitually ‘blaspheme that worthy name’ in ordinary conversation, but especially those who enter into oath-bound secret societies.  Ministers of the Gospel are not ashamed or afraid to lend their countenance and active co-operation to ‘unhallowed clubs of Freemasons, Odd-fellows, Sons of Temperance,’ &c., to the horrid prostituting of the Sacred Scriptures, and the ruining of the souls of men!  So far are they ‘departed out of the way’ of ‘having no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reproving them,’ [Eph. 5.11,] that many of these sons of Levi have literally sold themselves to work wickedness in the sight of the Lord!  All such combinations are evil—only evil, tending to destroy souls, subvert the Church of God, and procure his righteous judgments. {456}

Not less corrupting and pernicious are modern Sunday Schools, which bear upon their face an open insult to the ‘Lord of the Sabbath.’  The hymnology and music, vocal and instrumental, adapted to these, have become too gross and sensuous to meet the approbation, or even to escape the merited censure of some of their zealous patrons.  That our alarm is not without cause, nor our earnest testimony without object, the few citations following will make manifest to the reader: ‘What makes the great fat books, with their one or two thousand hymns so bulky, is the quantity of stuff which they contain. . . . . There is a vast multitude of hymns, which, if they could be carried away as with a flood . . . . their loss would be our very great and lasting gain. . . . . The Sunday School, so far as worship is concerned, is not the nursery of the Church, as we are fond of calling it, but a separate, and even sometimes an antagonistic establishment.  Modern society now consists of three estates—the Church, the world, and the Sunday School.’

Let us next advert to the quality of the songs adapted to this ‘institution’ called Sunday School.  This, as described by the same ardent patron consists in part, of ‘materialistic and sensuous songs about heaven—sentimental songs about death—self-sufficient songs about “good boys”—more or less comic, negro songs—the eulogistic songs that sing the praises of the Sunday School. . . . . Heaven is described without the slightest allusion to God . . . . a sort of eternal pic-nic.  We begin to wonder whether this is a Christian or a Mahommedan paradise.’  There is much to the same purpose in ‘Hours at Home,’ March, 1868.  No wonder if those hymn-singers, who are satisfied with a heaven without God ‘cannot find a Saviour in the Book of Psalms.’

As there are hymns, so there are music-books, ‘especially adapted to Sunday School concerts and exhibitions—hymns not only in praise of the Sunday School, but also of the concert—sensational artifices—lively, jig-like tunes—universal favourites for their liveliness and sensuous attractiveness—theatrical fashions of the solo and quartette performers, by which they may hold the half-heathen vagabonds for whom they labour,’ &c.  By just such ‘artifices and sensuous attractions’ popery arose in Christendom.  To arrest the torrent was the laborious, costly, and perilous work of our heroic ancestors—a work which many of their degenerate posterity ungratefully and wickedly attempt to undo, by copying the example of the ‘mother of harlots.’

The Presbytery would invite all who fear God to lend their aid in resisting the torrent of impiety and immorality which pervades general society, and which finds a sanctuary in the nominal Church of Christ.  ‘Help us, O God of our salvation, for the glory of thy name; and deliver us, and purge away our sin, for thy name’s sake.’

The last Thursday of January, 1869, was appointed as a day of fasting.  The following causes were adopted to be used on the day of annual thanksgiving, the last Thursday of November next. {457}

1. Notwithstanding our multiplied transgressions and mighty sins, our covenant God has dealt with us in mercy.  The earth has yielded her increase to such an extent as to supply the wants of man and beast.

2. There is an increasing minority who oppose the removal of the landmarks set by our fathers in times of reformation, and who resist the reintroduction of the paraphernalia of Antichrist into the public worship of God.  The corruptions of the ‘Sunday School system’ have compelled its advocates to expose them, and we are hereby encouraged to hope that eventually it will become apparent that these corruptions are inherent in the system.

3. The rapid growth and enormous power for evil possessed by oath-bound secret societies, are arresting the attention of many, and means are employed to disseminate information among the people by the distribution of books, pamphlets, and other instrumentalities.

4. The ignominy and injury inflicted on this nation by the shameful and unprincipled conduct of the Supreme Magistrate, has been a means of bringing some to see the necessity of moral principle and conduct in civil rulers; and however obscure their perceptions may be at present, we may indulge the hope that they are the harbingers of the perfect day.

5. The foundations of time-honoured ecclesiastical institutions are in process of undermining, in order to be removed out of the way.  And although they may, for a time, bo succeeded by that which is equally dishonouring to God and injurious to society, yet their destruction evinces that the Lord Jesus Christ is on his way to take possession of the kingdom given him by his Father.

6. Involuntary servitude is rapidly disappearing from the earth.  Slavery in the United States and serfdom in Russia, are among the things of the past.  And this vast social change, whether accomplished with garments rolled in blood, or by the mandate of arbitrary power, is equally the work of Him who is ‘wonderful in counsel and excellent in working.’

After a protracted meeting and the transaction of business of unusual importance, the court finally adjourned with prayer on the 29th, to meet in the city of Philadelphia on the last Tuesday of May, 1869, 10 o’clock a.m.


 

(Attest.)

J. F. FULTON, Moderator,

D. STEELE, P. Clerk.



Footnotes:

1. It must be acknowledged, that a comparison with the minutes of 1865 will at least suggest that the alteration here is of a more significant nature than merely correcting “unguarded language.” The language of 1865 was as follows: “it appears that the members of this Court have contributed money to clear townships and precincts of draft; and whereas, the payment of such money is in the judgment of this Court inconsistent with our Testimony; and the members paying such money having expressed their sorrow for so doing,” &c.  One of the earliest Covenanter discussions on these subjects, can be found in Alexander Sheilds’ Hind Let Loose, Head 7; but, as is indicated above, even this does not directly speak to the exact same circumstances. In any case, it appears that the Presbytery’s resolution rather expresses a change in the judgment of the court, about the nature of such payments. The minutes of the year 1867 also refer to the same matter, citing the minutes of 1865, but without suggesting anything deficient in the language except what some brethren viewed as "too indefinite."—JTKER.

2. From the minutes which follow, in the year 1869, 1886, 1887, as well as the "Outline of Recent Proceedings," the reader may learn how well this resolution was kept. For what ends it was violated by various individuals, one can only speculate, but it is hard to imagine what good motive could direct to the behaviour and actions described in the said documents. Neither did the course of events prove fruitful of any good that can be accounted for at the present time.—JTKER.