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

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Act

of the.

Reformed Presbytery,

For a

Day of Fasting,

with the

Causes thereof.

[Price ONE PENNY.]


Act

of the.

Reformed Presbytery,

For a DAY of FASTING,

With the CAUSES thereof.


Sandhills, 4th Nov. 1778.

THE Presbytery being met, upon serious consideration find, that now is the time when we ought to cry with the mourning prophet, Oh! that my head were waters, and mine eyes a fountain of tears, that I might weep day and night for the slain of the daughter of my people. An awful gloom at present generally covers the face of affairs. The frowns of heaven are clearly legible in the various steps of infinite wisdom's procedure towards these nations. Such scenes of impiety, confusion, and desolation begin to open, as ascertain the near approach of long impending strokes. Expressions of divine displeasure more tremendous and alarming to the generality, are now the visible attendants of spiritual judgments, hitherto, for the most part, undiscerned. Inattention to past and present rebukes in spirituals, hath provoked God to allow storms to rise which threaten our temporal overthrow: The little cloud, which at first poured out the insensible drops of some judgments, now begins to discharge the grievous hail of national strokes, more perceptible to sense. The darkness which vails the church at present, instead of being dispelled, seems to thicken. Matters in general assume an Ethiopian hue, and wear a fatal aspect. Soaking inundations of wickedness threaten our destruction. Sins and judgments encircle us. The iniquity of the house of Israel is exceeding great. Thus straitly shut up, the Presbytery, that they, and these guilty lands, may yet find an happy outgate from the present perplexed and truly deplorable state in which they exist, judge it their own, and the duty of all and every one, in dependance upon promised grace, and in obedience to heaven's invitation, (Only acknowledge thine iniquity, that thou hast transgressed against the Lord thy God. And, Return, thou backsliding Israel, and I will not cause mine anger to fall upon you,) [Jer. 3.13,12] to engage in the much {2} neglected, but necessary duty of humbling themselves before God for sins former and present.

Those ancient national establishments formed by our judicious and faithful ancestors, according to the pattern shewn in the mount, and solemnly ratified by national oath to and in the presence of almighty God, are most ungratefully and wickedly departed from. Our covenants, those sacred mounds by which our highest attainments were wisely secured, have been, like the three children, by violent hands cast into devouring flames. A singular instance of heaven-daring impiety! and then, by a joint deed of the nations, at the late Revolution, their funeral was triumphantly celebrated; and effectually to prevent the resurrection of their buried ashes, a grave-stone was laid upon them, and securely sealed by the incorporating union. The present age approves of the impious conduct of their fathers, by generally denying that the oath of the covenant is binding on posterity, just as if the tearing of that sacred bond had freed us from the moral duties contained in it. Our ancient constitution being thus set aside, and its hedge burnt up, one very defective, and in many respects iniquious, is substituted in its place, by which Christ the King of Zion is exauctorated, and the supreme power peculiar to him is complimented to a mortal man, now the declared fountain of civil and ecclesiastic power. From this the impure floods of Erastian supremacy are plentifully cast forth after the woman. Let the limitations and restrictions imposed annually upon, and tamely submitted to, by the highest court of this national church for more than eighty years back, attest the truth of this. The sword of steel brandished in the hand of violent intruders is a visible witness in many corners of the land, that the spiritual supremacy is interwoven with, and essential to, the new constitution. By it the kingly prerogative of the Mediator is denied him, the liberty of the church infringed, and the covenanted uniformity quite destroyed. Justly may we complain with the Psalmist, The enemy hath done wickedly in the sanctuary of God, and broken down the carved work thereof, and defiled the dwelling place of thy name.

The pulpit and press seem as if confederate to murder the souls of men, by overspreading the land with damnable doctrines, and alas! are too successful. How keenly are old and new heresies caressed. These long nourished on the {3} rich soil of the neighbouring kingdoms, and fostered with us in disguise, begin now to cast off the mask. The divinity of CHRIST, inseparable from the idea of a true Saviour, is impugned. His eternal Sonship, and, of necessary consequence, the distinction of persons in the Trinity is openly denied. The filthy rags of the sinner are dishonourably joined to the compleat righteousness of the Mediator, as necessary to found an acceptance with God, and title to eternal life. The denial of the doctrine of original sin, the great parent of all abominations, is unhappily transpired to this degenerate isle, and artful methods adopted to make way for its more general reception. Growing sectarian opinions, instead of being checked, are encouraged, and provision made for their protection by an almost boundless toleration. Hence it follows, that almost every year brings alongst with it strange systems of impure doctrines, and throngs the world with false teachers, who, under the influence of the basest principles, labour eagerly to model the pure doctrines of the blessed Jesus according to pleasure, and to accommodate them to the corrupted inclinations and vitiated taste of the age. Filthy lucre, popular applause, and the increase of followers, are too evidently their object. The grossest heresies and hereticks find their admirers. Many false prophets are gone out into the world, as raging waves of the sea, foaming out their own shame. Hence the less intelligent, halting between two opinions, hesitate whether to follow God or Baal. Thus tossed, they acquire instability in principle, and of course looseness in practice.

Wickedness reigns without controul, murders cruel and unnatural frequently committed, and yet the guilty find means to escape with impunity. Instances of suicide often take place. Thefts and robberies common. Fradulent practices in commerce discover latent principles of injustice in the hearts of men. Covetousness impudently refuses to retire. Oppression of all kinds prevails. The practice is nearly legitimate, its author being often its advocate. A small bribe will procure a false oath. The person of suspected character is more ready to perjure himself than confess his crime. These nations ring with the dunning noise of profane oaths and awful imprecations. Backbiting and evil-speaking are every where discernible, and yea and nay laid aside for sinful habits in common discourse. Uncleanness in almost all its kinds rampant, its practiser is sometimes bold to avouch its {4} lawfulness in a single state. Lascivious speeches drop from the lips of the young to the stooping for age. Drunkenness is scarcely confined to the night. Luxury appears unashamed. Wanton looks and alluring mein are meant to insnare the innocent. Synagogues of vice are publickly authorised, and sometimes frequented by professors of religion. Sacred time, instead of being employed to purposes of religion, is basely prostituted to the pleasures of sense. The impious practices of our southern neighbours on the Sabbath have found their way to us. There are no restrictions from recreation on that day; yea, open breaches of it pass unpunished. The form of godliness once observed, is now violently expelled by licentiousness. Religion is made subject to political interest. The city is full of perverseness. The earth is also defiled under the inhabitants thereof, because they have transgressed the laws, changed the ordinances, broken the everlasting covenant. [Isa. 24.5.] The beams of gospel light, once powerful in our land, are now so weak, that the capital doctrines of the Christian religion are much unknown. The effects of the knowledge of God and his Son in the character of a Saviour which yet remains with us, plainly show, that it is mostly speculative with many, producing neither faith, love, nor holiness; leaving the heart in a cold state. The remarkable negligence of publick teachers makes way for the spreading of ignorance. Publick instructions occupy such a short period of sacred time, as seems to presage the gradual decline into mere form. A general inattention to, and almost total neglect of, private means do justly characterise the age. Empty volumes of mere amusement and sepculation are used instead of the word of God. The little knowledge of reformation attainments that remains, is so far from recommending these to general regard, that, on the contrary, they are despised, and their adherents treated with disdain. The purity of gospel ordinances is contemned, and attendance upon them not accounted fashionable. The impressions produced by these, being slight and transient, often die with the sound of the word. Warm desires after God and ordinances are seldom felt. A general restraint of the influences of the Spirit is evident. Worldly discourse in going and returning from the house of God clearly indicates the decay of real godliness. Carnality often presumes to tread the sacred threshold, and the voice of the speaker can hardly make it disappear. Religious conversation is, {5} in a great measure, banished [from] the company of the fashionable. An attempt to introduce it, is accounted impolite. How seldom do we find even professors disposed to exchange sentiments on the head of practical religion. Unprofitable jestings consume precious time. Places of worship dishonoured with indecent dress, not becoming the professors of godliness. The haughty looks and lofty appearances of the daughters of Zion, strongly express that the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit [1 Pet. 3.4.], have given place to the furrs, the fine linen, the hoods, and the vails. [Isa. 3.23.] Strifes and contentions, frequently the impure but genuine issue of prejudices are kept up among professors, under the pretence of tenderness of conscience, which yet, without check, allows what is more criminal in a person's own conduct. A forgiving spirit how rare. A cheerful rehearsing of the failures of others, has taken the place of sympathy. Evil company and temptations to sin are not seasonably avoided. The artifices of spiritual enemies are little considered, and the deceitful operations of the heart slightly attended to. Great alienation from the life of God, and much estrangement from the duties of holiness, meditation, self-examination and prayer, which mark the true Christian. Great negligence in paying vows to God. Parental duties forgot. Formality of religion is come in the room of real godliness. Little sanctuary preparation. Conscience is satisfied by mere outward attendance on ordinances. Intreaties to give even outward reverence to them mostly despised; an awful evidence that the object of worship is disregarded! Little fruitfulness observable under the means of grace. Nominal professor[s] too numerous. Social fellowship much set aside, and often ill conducted. Family worship totally neglected by many, hurried over by some, and halved by others. Self reigns instead of universal benevolence, hence the interest of a few is consulted, whilst the general good of the body is neglected.

Most alarming providences do not awaken the nations. Sunk in security and insensibility, we seem to be a people judicially hardened, who stubbornly persist in refusing to hear the voice of the rod [Micah 6.9], which of late hath been more terrible than formerly. Year after year the desolation of war, judgments sore and wasting to Britain and the Colonies have been continued, yet alas! they have not brought the nations to say, Lord, shew us wherefore thou contendest? [Job 10.2.] {6} Yea, on the contrary, since their commencement, more striking instances of publick national infidelity, wickedness and daring rebellion against God hath taken place than before, as is evident from the repeated interposition of parliamentary authority in favours of abjured Popery, first in giving it the legal maintenance in part of British America sometime ago, and then, of late, in rescinding the penal laws made in the reign of King William III. for preventing the growth of Popery. Unheard of wickedness! The like, although attempted, hath never been done since the Reformation. Tell it not in Gath, that Romish bastards are adopted as the objects of British care, and, in the exercise of their religion, entitled to the protection of these reformed nations. How shocking! that professed Protestant states should become tutors to the children of Antichrist, and unanimously agree to give their power to the Beast! [Rev. 17.13.] By this unhallowed deed, Antichrist is sided with, his interest strengthened, and the field taken against God, open violence offered to true religion, and an affront to common sense. The British constitution itself is deeply wounded, and a way prepared for Papists to occupy places of trust and power. It widens the door to receive the sweeping deluge of Antichristian idolatry and superstition; it allows swarms of locusts to creep abroad from the seat of the Beast, where they are nourished, and to disseminate their damnable principles through Protestant kingdoms, and of consequence puts a favourable opportunity in their hands of forming infernal stratagems to regain their lost power, which if they do, the nation will be deluged with Protestant blood, and subjected to treacherous massacres and barbarous tortures. It is truly mournful, that when the bloody religion of Antichrist, from which in the mercy of God, we were remarkably delivered, claims a repossession of these lands as its ancient inheritance, and threatens to gain it, there should such an universal supineness and indifferency be found, as seems generally to prevail among all degrees of men. It is indeed favourable, and to be regarded as a bright spot in our dark cloud, that there are any appearances, especially by those in sacred office, against this abomination in our land, yet it is to be lamented that the appearances in the form of testimony, by even professed witnesses for our covenanted reformation, are so partial, lame and defective, that they reach not to the bottom of {7} the sore. Our general inactivity and spiritless appearances in this doubtful time, tend to animate the enemy, and seem to provoke true religion to bid us a national adieu. Applicable to us are God's words to backsliding Israel, Why will ye be striken any more, ye will revolt more and more? [Isa. 1.5.] Judgments instead of reclaiming, hasten our course in apostacy and harden us in sin

Serious thoughts of the above ought to prompt our hearts to the exercise of evangelical repentance and deep mourning, and to water our couch with tears of godly sorrow, before him whom we have provoked. For this important work, the Presbytery appoint the fourth Thursday of December 1778, being the 24th of the said month, to be observed by themselves, and all the people under their inspection, as a day of public fasting and solemn humiliation before God; and they earnestly beseech them to wrestle with, and cry to God in the fervent prayer of faith, That he may not cease to reprove till he bring us personally and nationally to know, confess, and turn from our many aggravated sins, that they prove not our ruin, which he alone in the exercise of mere sovereign mercy can provent.—That he may not deliver the soul of his turtle to the multitude. [Psalm 74.19.]—That he may speedily appear for putting a stop to the spreading of idolatry.—That he may effectually frustrate the deep designs forming against Zion—That he may especially dash to pieces the appearing power of his antichristian enemies, who impudently begin to rise—That the glory of his Majesty may confound and scatter insolent conspirations plotting against the interest of his Anointed.—That the plagues threatened against the Romish whore, may be speedily poured out upon her.—That the great city Babylon may be thrown down, and rise no more at all.—That the ancient branches of the house of Israel and Judah may be graffed in again, that they and the Gentiles may be joint heirs in the same spiritual privileges, and members of the same body.—That the knowledge of the Lord may increase, and the crown flourish upon his head, and his name be one through the world.—That he may, according to his {8} promise, give kings, who instead of giving their power to the Beast, shall prove nursing fathers to the church.—That he may preserve his vineyard at home and abroad, lest wild beasts destroy the vines.—That the lovers of Zion's interest may be girded with truth and faithfulness in this declining age. That he may send forth his light to ministers and people, that they turn not aside in this day of clouds and thick darkness.—That he may cause those contentions and divisions that destroy vital religion to cease.—That he may strengthen and forward such as are able, faithful and wise, to take part in the work of the gospel; that vacant corners, long under discouragements, may yet have meat in due season.—That he may hasten his return to these long desolations, and rivive the whole of the covenanted work of reformation, that the nations may be wise to regard the same.—That the present destructive contests, warlike appearances and confusions which obtain, may, by his interposition, happily terminate in his own glory, and the coming of the Redeemer's kingdom.

The presbytery also recommend it to their people to mingle their tears with thankfulness to God for the common bounties of his providence, especially for continuing the breasts of ordinances amongst us;—for his assistance to his servants in the discharge of their ministerial work;—for the increase of their number, and the concord that hath hitherto been preserved amongst them in their judicative capacity;—for his undeserved goodness in refreshing his people so often at the sacramental table. His countenance shown to ministers ought not to be forgot; his favouring with more frequent opportunities of the gospel is worthy of remembrance; the remarkable good and plenteous harvest craves grateful returns from us to God, who is inviting us to return, and he will load us with his better blessings.

The Presbytery appoint that these Causes be publickly read on the Sabbath immediately preceding the day appointed; with suitable exhortations.

Extracted by

WAL. GRIEVE, Pr. Clk.


Footnotes:

The above are only brief, abrupt hints of the Presbytery's mind concerning the late extraordinary instance of mis-government referred to. There is, by appointment, preparing for the press, and speedily will be published, a more full declaration of their sentiments on that article.