And the remnant that is escaped of the house of Judah shall again take root downward, and bear fruit upward.—Isaiah 37.31.

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A C T

OF THE

REFORMED PRESBYTERY,

FOR A

PUBLIC FAST;

WITH THE CAUSES THEREOF.

TO WHICH IS NOW PREFIXED A SHORT PREAMBLE, EXPRESSING

THOSE CIRCUMSTANCES WHICH OCCASIONED THIS EDITION.

X

TrueCovenanter.com Editor’s Introduction.

The following edition of the Act of the Reformed Presbytery for a Public Fast, appointed in 1783, seems to have been reprinted very shortly after the Reformed Presbytery of Scotland, in a step of constitutional defection, finally eliminated from her terms of communion their former reference to the Renovation of the public Reformation Covenants at Auchensaugh in 1712.  It is probable therefore, that this latter edition was printed in either 1822 or 1823.  Some history of the events which led up to this change, and which occasion the lamentations expressed in the preamble of the 1822/3 edition, may be found in the introduction of a publication by John Dow.

2013.12.31.


PREAMBLE.


As the larger body of the Seceders and Dissenters have, in their late proceedings, studiously avoided, and, in some instances, absolutely refused to give that particular, definite, and full exhibition and approval of the Reformation principles, as formerly given in their testimonies and terms of communion: it will not, it is presumed, be thought uncharitable, to consider said communities as chargeable with a lamentable dereliction of principle, which appears evident from the basis of union among the former, and the recent alteration of the terms of communion, and other innovations among the latter. [i.e. The Reformed Presbyterian Church of Scotland.]  Accordingly, the Rev. James Reid, and those who still adhere to their principles, as stated by the Reformed Presbytery, having considered the proceedings above referred to as grounds of lamentation, they therefore, according to an intimation made by Mr. Reid at Newtonstewart, observed the first Thursday of November last, as a day of fasting and humiliation before God; when Mr. Reid, in conducting the public exercises of the day at Glasgow, adverted to the following ‘Act of the Reformed Presbytery for a Public Fast,’ which he had previously recommended, as being a judicious and concise summary of those evils, which, with others that he mentioned, were to be viewed as just grounds of the solemn exercise in which they were engaged.

As the copy of this excellent Act had become scarce, it is now reprinted, in compliance with the wishes of Mr. Reid and others, that those who desire to peruse it, may have this in their power; and that posterity may see the special instance of faithfulness, in testimony bearing, exemplified. {2}

A C T

OF THE

REFORMED PRESBYTERY,

FOR A

PUBLIC FAST;

WITH THE CAUSES THEREOF.


At Edinburgh, 6th November, 1783.

THE which day and place the Presbytery being met, and deeply impressed with a sense of the many sins of the age, and righteous judgments of God, both threatened and inflicted in our punishment, do judge it to be their duty, and the duty of the people under their presbyterial charge, at this time, [Dan. 9.3,] to set their faces unto the Lord God, to seek by prayer and supplications, with fasting that all our sins may be pardoned, that our persons may be sanctified, and that his awful judgments may be removed from us.

The Presbytery desire to be humbled before God, and they call the people of their concern deeply to mourn before him, on account of the following obvious instances of our sins and his judgments.

The guilt of our old national defections from God stands to this day marked against us, and consists in various particulars:—The sinful and odious measures gone into, called Publick Resolutions, whereby it was determined, to receive into civil power and trust, the open enemies of the covenanted Cause and Work of Reformation:—The national breach of our solemn Covenants:—The bloody persecution of the saints of God, for their faithful {3} adherence to the royal prerogatives of Christ, and the spiritual liberties of his church:—The establishment of abjured Prelacy in England and Ireland:—The settlement of Presbytery in Scotland, on the fleeting foundation of the will of the people only:—The investing of the civil government on the footing of the perpetual support of Prelacy and Erastian supremacy:—The incorporating union of Scotland and England, on terms inconsistent with our covenanted agreement:—The establishment of patronage supremacy over the church:—The legal toleration of almost all errors and superstitious modes of worship, by which the civil power is profaned and prostituted as the servant of sin.——To all these national evils we of this age have served ourselves heirs, by a practical perseverance in the same course of defection from God.  But, as if all this were too little, we have even proceeded a step further, in demolishing the remaining bulwarks of the land’s erecting against the interest of Antichrist, and in granting establishment and toleration to all the idolatries and blasphemies of the Man of Sin; wherefore God may accost us as he did Israel of old, What iniquity have your fathers found in me, that they are gone far from me, and have walked after vanity, and are become vain? Jer. 2.5.  As a consequence of these public constitutional evils, error, impiety, and immorality have come in like a flood.  All the precepts of the moral law are openly transgressed; the idolatries of Popery are practised in many places; the superstitions of Prelacy prevail in most of our great towns; profane swearing in ordinary conversation, nay, perjury in witness-bearing is very common.  How is the Sabbath polluted with recreations, feasting, journeyings, carnal conversation, and revellings; nay, in some instances, by nuptial entertainments, countenanced by professed Presbyterian ministers.  The moral, and especially the spiritual duties of relations, are greatly neglected; murder, duelling, and suicide, with their pernicious causes,—avarice, revenge, pride, and discontentment—abound.

Uncleanness mournfully increases, and marriage, the appointed guardian of chastity, by some is reproached as low confinement, and by others polluted through their strange embraces; robberies, thefts, and knavery, amongst the rascally multitude still continue; and many professors of religion, under the garb of godliness, daily practice the abominable vices of deceit, injustice and extortion in their trade and commerce, that it may be said, The best of them is as a briar; the most upright is sharper than a thornhedge. [Micah 7.4.]  Forgery, lying, dissimulation, backbiting, and calumny, rage in society; covetousness, venality, ambition, and self-seeking are on the growth; {4} hence numbers educated within the church, under the insatiable thirst for gain, desert the Shiloh of ordinances, and flock to the dark parts of the world [Canada, Western America, etc.], where neither Christ nor his gospel are known, in search of worldly riches.  Errors subversive of the very fundamentals of revealed religion are fast spreading amongst us; the guilt of original sin, and total corruption of nature are openly denied; and moral ability and self-righteousness are maintained.  The Divinity of our glorious Redeemer, the atonement of his death, the supreme Deity of the Holy Ghost, and the efficacy of his saving influences are impugned; the doctrine of the ever-blessed Trinity of persons in the Godhead is attacked; the divine authority of the sacred scriptures is rejected; and many contend that nature’s light is sufficient to guide men to duty and happiness, while others plead that every mode of religion is equally acceptable to God.  The pure ordinances of the gospel are greatly corrupted by human inventions, and the holy sacrament of the Lord’s supper is in danger of suffering through the pretended refinements of changeable professors.  The discipline of the house of God is grossly misapplied, while the scandalous escape, and the faithful are made the objects of censure.  The seals of the covenant are daily prostituted in the promiscuous admission of the scandalous and unworthy to partake of them.  The wicked walk on every side, while the vilest men are exalted to ecclesiastic power. [Psalm 12.8.]  Our old church divisions about matters of truth and duty, still subsist: Ephraim-like we are broken in judgment [Hos. 5.11]; and oh, how are particular churches, of the same mind in the testimony of Jesus, miserably distracted by internal discords;  Where harmony, love, and self-denial might be expected, there passion, variance, and strife rage; a factious spirit seems to have entered the dwellings of Jacob, and the gates of Zion.  Mutual Christian love, the badge of true disciples, is rare, through differences almost irreconcileable met with in many corners:  A sad evidence of the decay of love to God it is, when peace and harmony are departed from the church.

Fruitfulness under the means of grace is little.  There are few signs of saving faith, with its genuine fruits; repentance and obedience.  Though the administration of ordinances is frequent, the dominion of sin, and its fatal effects, are daily visible amongst many who enjoy these privileges.  The gracious habits of holiness, spirituality, and heavenly-mindedness are under a mournful decline; the cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches, and the lusts of other things, have come in and choked their growth.  It cannot be remembered that ever the abominable vices of tippling {5} and drunkenness, uncleanness, and prodigality, levity and wantonness prevailed more amongst professing witnesses for a covenanted reformation than at this day.  The numerous instances of these evils within the church, strongly indicate the high dominion of sin, and manifest that the power of Satan over God’s heritage is great.  The preparation for ordinances is slight, which produces a stupid formality in attending upon them, and mars the good effects of them on the soul.  The exercises of prayer, self-examination, meditation, reading the holy scriptures, with secret fasting, have greatly failed amongst us.  How superficially is family worship managed, and what aversion to social duties.  There is little real search amongst professors to know the case of their own souls; hence prevailing darkness and inactivity take place.  Zeal and faithfulness in the cause of precious truth are much abated.  Sinful conformity to the times, and indifferency about religion, threaten the ruin of Scotland’s covenanted testimony.  A dreadful forgetfulness of our vows to God is found amongst us.  It must be confessed that the spiritual relative duties betwixt the church and her office-bearers are too much neglected.  And O how little sincere desire obtains amongst relations for the salvation of one another!  A high taste for dangerous amusements, promiscuous dancings, balls, assemblies, stage plays, and revellings of different kinds, marks many of the youth of both sexes; few of them put the question, wherewith shall a young man cleanse his way? [Psalm 119.9.]  And many of the aged, nurtured in sin, become hoary-headed in the errors of their youth.  Our unthankfulness to God for the bounties of his providence in the late plentiful harvest, and the blessings of his grace in the continued enjoyment of gospel ordinances is great ground of humiliation.  Tenderness of conscience, and close walking with God, seem to wear away from the members of the church; and even amongst office-bearers, gospel ministers, and ruling elders, that strictness of exemplary godliness, and vigorous watchfulness against the temptations of sin, which ought to distinguish their order, is too much lost; and there is reason to mourn, that they appear, in many cases, but men of like sinful passions with others.  All these evils, proceeding from the unbelief and desperate wickedness of the heart, which pour contempt upon the Christ of God, and the precious offers of salvation through him, furnish out matter of the deepest sorrow before a Holy God, who is of purer eyes than to behold iniquity, and who is testifying his displeasure against us in both spiritual and temporal judgments, which all who observe the operations of his hand of justice may {6} behold inflicted upon us as a church and people.  The Lord hath evidently covered the daughter of Zion with a cloud in the day of his fierce anger. [Lam. 2.1.]  He hath removed his gracious presence in a great measure from his own ordinances, and the souls of his people.  He hath laid a restraint upon the influences of his Spirit from the means of grace, whereby conversion-work seems to be at a great stand; and Satan is suffered to sow his tares in God’s field.  A judicial blindness of mind and hardness of heart, from the Lord seem to be inflicted upon us as a disobedient and gainsaying people, who have long resisted the warnings of his word and strivings of his Spirit.  The gospel appears to have lost its wonted effect amongst us, when it was gloriously the wisdom and power of God to salvation. [Rom. 1.16.]  We are in a great measure given up to erroneous counsels of our own, because we have set at nought all God’s counsel [Prov. 1.25]; hence the multitude of vain opinions, and the swarms of heretics that spread amongst us.  The enemies of the truth are permitted to prosper: The Boar of the forest daily wastes the Vine of the Church. [Psalm 80.13.]  A spirit of delusion from the Lord hath seized the men of our generation.  He hath divided us in Jacob, and scattered us in Israel, [Gen. 49.7]; so that the carved work of the sanctuary is broken down, while all are professedly building it up. [Psalm 74.6.]  On all which accounts we may justly be called ICHABOD, for the glory is departed. [1 Sam. 4.21,22.]

These spiritual plagues have been accompanied with very terrible judgments of a temporal kind.—The trade and commerce of our lands hath sunk very low, to the great hurt of the industrious labourer; our kingdom is divided and given to another people; the blood of our countrymen hath been profusely shed by horrible wars in the east and west; the roaring ocean hath devoured numbers of our ships, and their crews and cargoes.  We have been cursed in our basket and our store, [Deut. 28.17,] in the sensible scarcity of the preceding year.  The very heavens themselves declare God’s righteousness, and the elements and late seasons have been moved to avenge his quarrel, in the late awful storms of thunder and lightening, and tempests of winds and rains, though he hath mercifully checked their violence, and stayed his rough wind in the day of his east wind. [Isa. 27.8.]  At these alarming strokes of the divine justice, together with the present confusion in our national councils, it becomes each of us to tremble, and to learn righteousness, [Isa. 26.9,] as we may certainly view them as the forerunners of more dreadful judgments awaiting us, if we repent not.  Wherefore, for the above, and all other causes, both of our sins and God’s judgments, the Presbytery {7} appoint the last Tuesday of January next, to be observed by themselves, and all the people of their connection, as a day of solemn Fasting and Humiliation before God: And they earnestly beseech all their people to ponder the causes specified in this paper; to lay to heart their own, and the sins of the land, with the divine judgments both inflicted and impending over us; and in the dependence of faith upon the infinite merits of our glorious Redeemer, and the all-sufficient efficacy of promised grace, to endeavour to turn unto a reconciled God in Christ, and to cry to him in behalf of an apostate guilty and secure nation, that he may yet remember us in our very low estate, [Psalm 136.23,] and mercifully bring us back to our duty.  At the same time, they enjoin it upon them not to forget again to render thanks unto the Lord for his great goodness in granting us rain from heaven, and another fruitful season, [Acts 14.17]; in continuing with us the gospel, and in increasing the number of labourers in this and the neighbouring kingdom.  They also recommend it to them to cry earnestly to God, that he may give light and direction to his servants and people in the public management of a testimony for truth, at a time when difficulties and trials seem to multiply in the way of witness-bearing.  That he may speedily accomplish to his church the promised blessing of giving Kings to be nursing fathers, and Queens to be nursing mothers to her, [Isa. 49.23]: That he may furnish and provide his house with able ministers of the New Testament, [2 Cor. 3.6]; and that he may prepare for the enjoyment of gospel solemnities in course of the season.

And the Presbytery appoint that these causes be publicly read the Sabbath preceding, with suitable exhortations to the people.

Extracted by

ARCHD. MASON, Cls. Pr.