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A Summary of Christian Practice.

Being the Tenth Chapter from the Doctrinal Part of

The 1837 Testimony of the

Reformed Presbyterian Church of Scotland.

X

TrueCovenanter.com Editor’s Introduction.

Dear Reader,

It is much to be lamented that the practice of Christianity among evangelical Protestants is not today of such distinctiveness and identifying holiness as it once was.  Even Reformed Christians walk too often in paths very similar to the life-paths of unbelievers.  The consequences may be very troublesome to themselves, more than they expect; but it is also of considerable effect upon those around them.  The typical unbeliever will either see the Christian’s careless walk as justification for his own, as what must not be very bad, seeing some Christians are of the same stamp; or else he will see it as an excuse to despise religion as what does not really make men any better than they were before.  On the other hand, many false believers too, carried away with legalistic systems of religion, are made the less willing to hear a Gospel of Grace, if it leaves its professors comfortable with a life that shows little or no evidence of Grace’s working.

But as much as modern Protestantism in general has succumbed to the world’s leadership in matters of morals, and even conservative churches have fallen prey to the fear that church members can neither be kept nor gathered if they are required to be too different from neighbors and relations in the world; yet we are conveniently blessed that records are preserved for us as to how careful Protestants, Presbyterians, and Covenanters specifically, used to be in matters of morality.  We do not need to guess whether a holy life of daily religion and a separate life of other-worldliness was inculcated from the pulpit, or required by church discipline.  The facts may be known.  We do not need to merely hope that the true Gospel of Grace Alone used to produce fruits of the spirit and a righteousness which exceeds that of the Pharisees.  We may know plainly that it did so among our fore-fathers, and that it will do so among ourselves, and that it is time for us to repent.

What follows may be instructive concerning these things, in a very general way, by giving a broad account, with less detail, of what might be gathered from examining more thorough records and directions of former generations.  Similar facts or testimonies may be gathered from the published Causes of Fasting of Covenanter and other Presbyterian churches of the times.  And although it is not to be expected that any readers will decide to embrace and implement such a particular course or pattern of holiness merely on the authority of this or other human documents, yet it is hoped every reader will acknowledge that such authority at least bears sufficient weight to give him direction to consider whether his life has need to be reformed according to a better model than he now follows, or whether certain particular practices have need to be eliminated, or newly resolved and adopted.

2014.06.30::JTKer.

CHAPTER X.

OF CHRISTIAN PRACTICE.

1. The doctrine of God our Saviour is not only to be known, and believed, and professed, but obeyed and adorned.1  The gospel of Christ displays its proper power in the visible beauties of universal holiness.2

1 Rom. 6.17. Ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you.  Titus 3.10. That they may adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour in all things.  2 James 2.17,20. Even so faith, if it have not works, is dead, being alone.  Rom. 6.21. Ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life.

2. The whole law of the ten commandments, the positive institutions of Christianity, and the practical precepts of Christ, his own example, and the approved examples of the saints, form the standard of Christian practice; to which those who believe in Christ are, in dependence upon the grace of God, to study universal conformity.1  Christian practice embraces all our duties to God, to man, and to ourselves.2  The violation of {303} morality is inconsistent with Christianity; but mere external morality is not practical Christianity, nor evangelical holiness.3

1 Rom. 3.31. Do we then make void the law through faith?  God forbid: yea, we establish the law.  John 15.14. Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you.  1 John 2.6. He that saith he abideth in him, ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked.  Heb. 6.12. That ye be followers of them who, through faith and patience, inherit the promises.  2 Titus 2.12. Teaching us, that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world.  Matt. 22.37. Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.  38. This is the first and great commandment.  39. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.  40. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.  3 1 Cor. 13.3. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.

3. Prayer in the closet [secret prayer], and the worship of God in the family, on the morning and evening of every day 1—reading the Scriptures 2—habitual reverence in our conversation, of the name, word, and providence of God 3—the sanctification of the Lord’s day—the celebration of the public worship of God 4—the orderly observation, in their seasons, of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper, belong to the visible practice of the Christian, as duties which he owes to God.5

1 Psalm 92.2. To shew forth thy loving-kindness in the morning, and thy faithfulness every night.  2 Acts 17.11. And searched the Scriptures daily.  3 Exod. 20.7. Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain.  4 Lev. 19.30. Ye shall keep my Sabbaths and reverence my sanctuary.  5 Acts 2.38. Repent, and be baptized every one of you.  39. For the promise is unto you and to your children.  Luke 22.19. This do in remembrance of me.

4. While the Christian, in dependence on the grace which is in Christ Jesus, must study to mortify his members which are on the earth, cleansing himself from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, he owes to himself watchful care over his own life 1—strict sobriety and temperance 2—purity in speech and conduct 3—government of spirit 4—dutiful attention to his civil affairs 5—regard to his moral and Christian character, and to his privileges civil and religious 6—and unremitting attention to the best interests of his immortal soul.7 {304}

1 Col. 3.5. Mortify, therefore, your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry.  Eph. 5.29. No man ever yet hated his own flesh, but nourisheth and cherisheth it.  2 2 Pet. 1.6. And to knowledge, temperance.  3 James 3.2. If any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man, and able also to bridle the whole body.  Matt. 5.37. But let your communication be Yea, yea; Nay, nay.  4 Prov. 25.28. He that hath no rule over his own spirit, is like a city that is broken down and without walls.  5 Rom. 12.11. Not slothful in business.  Prov. 27.23. Be thou diligent to know the state of thy flocks, and look well to thy herds.  6 3 John 12. Demetrius hath good report of all men. Eccl. 9.1. A good name is better than precious ointment.  Acts 22.25. Is it lawful for you to scourge a man that is a Roman?  28. But I was free born.  Gal. 2.4. Who came in privily to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus.  7 2 Pet. 3.14. Be diligent that ye may be found of him in peace.  Mark 13.37. And what I say unto you, I say unto all, Watch.

5. Under the obligation of the precepts, “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself,” and “Whatsoever ye would that men should do unto you, do ye even so to them,” the Christian owes unto his fellow-creatures, not only veracity in speech,1 and integrity and equity in all his transactions,2 but charity, courteousness, sympathy, help, protection, and other good offices.3

1 Zech. 8.16. Speak ye every man the truth to his neighbour.  2 Mark 10.19. Defraud not.  3 1 Pet. 3.8. Be pitiful, be courteous.  Luke 10.36,37. Which now of these three, thinkest thou, was neighbour unto him that fell among the thieves?  And he said, He that shewed mercy.  Then said Jesus unto him, Go, and do thou likewise.  Matt. 5.44. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you, that ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.

6. As the precepts of Christianity extend to all the common relations of life, so its principles and spirit ought to have their influence in the discharge of the relative duties of the Christian husband and wife,1 parent and child,2 master and servant,3 ruler and subject,4 neighbour and neighbour.5  The Christian, in these relations, ought to manifest in his practice his subjection to the law of Christ, discovering by the love and fidelity with which he attends to his duty, that true religion affords the strongest motives and best security for the discharge of the relative obligations. {305}

1 Col. 3.18. Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as it is fit in the Lord.  19. Husbands, love your wives, and be not bitter against them.  2 20. Children, obey your parents in all things: for this is well-pleasing unto the Lord.  21. Fathers, provoke not your children to anger, lest they be discouraged.  3 22. Servants, obey in all things your masters, according to the flesh: not with eye-service, as men-pleasers, but in singleness of heart, fearing God.  4.1. Masters, give unto your servants that which is just and equal, knowing that ye also have a Master in heaven.  4 Rom. 13.1. Let every soul be subject to the higher powers; for there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God.  3. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil.  2 Sam. 23.3. The God of Israel said, the Rock of Israel spake to me, He that ruleth over men must be just, ruling in the fear of God.  5 Rom. 13.10. Love worketh no ill to his neighbour,  12.18. If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men.  Titus 3.1. Put them in mind to be subject to principalities and powers, to obey magistrates, to be ready to every good work.  2. To speak evil of no man, to be no brawlers, but gentle, shewing all meekness unto all men.

7. It belongs to the practice of Christians, to walk in the fellowship of the gospel,1 by a due attendance on the private and public ordinances of religion,2 a dutiful submission to those who are set over them in the Lord,3 the regular observation of the decency and order of the Christian church,4 and, in compliance with the new commandment, a faithful discharge of the stated and occasional duties of brotherly love.5

1 1 John 1.3. That ye also may have fellowship with us, and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ.  Phil. 1.5. For your fellowship in the gospel, from the first day until now.  2 Heb. 10.25. Not forsaking the assembling of yourselves together.  3 Heb. 13.17. Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls as they that must give account.  1 Tim. 5.17. Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honour.  4 Col. 2.5. Yet I am with you in the spirit, joying and beholding your order and the steadfastness of your faith in Christ.  2 Thes. 3.6. Withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly.  5 Eph. 5.2. Walk in love.  John 13.35. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.  John 13.34. A new commandment I give unto you, that ye love one another.

8. Christian practice is not confined to one branch of the divine precepts, or to some of them; but must extend unto them all, in their time, place, and due proportion.  The obedience of the Christian should be universal.

Psalm 119.128. Therefore, I esteem all thy precepts concerning all things to be right.  6. Then shall I not be ashamed, when I have respect unto all thy commandments.  Luke 1.6. And they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord {306} blameless.  Luke 11.42. These ought ye to have done, and not to have left the other undone.  Col. 4.12. That ye may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God.

9. The life of the believer should adorn the doctrine of God the Saviour, by manifesting the peculiar virtues and graces of the Christian character, in the fruits of the Spirit, which are love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness,—bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind.  He must add to faith, virtue; and to virtue, knowledge; and to knowledge, temperance; and to temperance, patience; and to patience, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, charity.1  While he is diligent in providing things honest in the sight of all men, he is to study to be crucified to the world; and as the Lord prospers him, to consecrate his gain to the God of the whole earth, by devoting of his substance to works of mercy, and to the support and extension of the Redeemer’s kingdom.2  He is not called to go out of the world, but should observe a conscientious, though not an affected or ostentatious, separation from it.3  He is not prohibited necessary and lawful recreations, yet he should study a particular tenderness and circumspection of conduct; denying himself to the vanities and sinful customs of the world; abstaining from even the appearance of evil; and endeavouring to maintain a habitual heavenliness of aim and pursuit.4

1 Gal. 5.22,23.  Col. 3.12.  2 Pet. 1.5.  2 Prov. 3.9. Honour the Lord with thy substance.  3 Rom. 12.2. Be not conformed to this world.  John 15.19. If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you.  4 Phil. 4.8. Whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.  1 Thess. 5.22. Abstain from all appearance of evil.  Heb. 11.13. And confessed that they were pilgrims and strangers on the earth.  Phil. 3.20. Our conversation is in heaven.

We testify against the following practical evils, as incompatible with the purity of the gospel, and the holiness and circumspection of the Christian character:—{307} The neglect of secret prayer, and of family worship;—the neglect of the public ordinances of religion; profane swearing in its various degrees and forms; performing, by vocal or instrumental music, for public entertainment, passages of the Holy Scriptures, as is done in oratorios; or acting the most solemn scenes recorded in the Bible:—Profanation of the holy Sabbath, by idleness; pleasure walking; visiting friends; convivial parties; reading newspapers; attending coffee-rooms or other reading-rooms; receiving and answering letters of civil business:—Drunkenness, tippling; gambling; playing cards and dice; private or public lotteries; horse-racing; brawling and fighting; duelling; cruelty to fellow-creatures, or to the inferior animals; resentful and implacable spirit or conduct:—Unchaste conversation; immodest apparel; promiscuous dancings; theatrical exhibitions:—Idleness; all dishonesty between man and man:—Lying, equivocation, deceit, back-biting, evil-speaking, envious and malicious conduct.

We have enumerated some of the most prevailing practical evils; but it is impossible to specify every evil, and every shade of evil.  It is matter of regret, that public sentiment and the discipline of the church, do not treat sins with more impartiality; many being overlooked which are as fit objects of reprobation and censure, as others which are viewed and treated as scandalous.  And though much sin, by its secrecy, disguise, commonness, and through inadvertency, may evade the censures of the church, yet it is offensive in the eyes of divine purity, and is hurtful and reproachful to Christian character.


[ Thus matters were presented by the Reformed Presbyterian Church of Scotland in 1837.  Subsequently, the Reformed Presbyterian Church of Ireland also adopted this Testimony, and they seem to have been as studious, or perhaps more studious, to follow through with such principles in the years which followed.  In the year 1900 the Irish Church revised her Testimony, and in some things chose to re-word the sections above, with an apparent effort to be more particular in their wording, and address matters of new concern.  In the 1912 re-print of this testimony, one will find the second-to-last paragraph above, re-worded as follows: ]

We testify against the following practical and prevalent evils:—the neglect of secret prayer, and of family worship; the neglect of the public ordinances of religion; profane swearing in its various degrees and forms; performance of oratorios, or the musical rendering of passages of Holy Scripture, for public entertainment; acting the solemn scenes recorded in the Bible; profanation of the holy Sabbath by idleness, by walking for pleasure, by making social visits, by convivial parties, by reading newspapers or other secular literature, by attending public reading-rooms, by the postal service, by receiving or answering letters on secular business, by the running of tramcars, railway trains, steamers, and other public conveyances, or by the using of such conveyances, inasmuch as the person using them has no control over them and therefore cannot confine them to a religious use; drunkenness, tippling, the owning or keeping of public-houses; the holding of shares in Sabbath-breaking railway companies or other sinful corporations; the prayerless and godless use of the lot, as in gambling, betting, raffling for any purpose religious or {72} secular, private or public lotteries, playing games of chance; horse-racing; prize-fighting; duelling; cruelty to fellowmen or to the lower animals; resentful and implacable spirit or conduct; unchaste conversation; immodest apparel; immoral literature, pictures, dances, theatrical performances; idleness; all dishonesty between man and man; lying, equivocation, deceit, back-biting, evil speaking, envious and malicious conduct.

[ In some ways the new text was identical, or very similar, while in other ways the changes are worthy of attention.  For the sake of some readers it may also be worth noting that an “oratorio” is basically what is described in the context.  Some of the most popular, and musically admirable, were those of Handel and Mendelssohn.  They consist of choruses, solos, duets, and what might be called musically-spoken segments, to tell the various stories of important historic figures and events.  In my late youth I was very fond of these musical-biblical accounts, and having been brought up in a church which provided very limited instruction about the Old Testament, I came to know a much larger proportion of Old Testament history by listening to these entertaining performances.  But as they were meant to be entertaining, as well as instructive, so they sometimes compromised a proper care for the latter, in favour of the former.  To instruct by entertainment may sound like a good idea, but as it is not the means appointed by the Lord for religious instruction, so it is not the means which he promises to bless.  Accordingly, it would be wise for modern Christians to apply the same principle as above, not only to old and modern oratorios, but also to other modern efforts to give religious instruction via the mediums of entertainment.  Whether these are lawful, like music, or unlawful, like the theater, they have no title to divine blessing. 

The sabbath-breaking measures of postal services, and public transportation systems are also added by the Irish Covenanters.  It is worth noticing, in the case of the latter, that a reason is explicitly added: “inasmuch as the person using them has no control over them and therefore cannot confine them to a religious use.” The ideal they seem to be aiming at, is that sabbath public transportation should be implemented explicitly for the purpose of ensuring that all members of the community may be taken to Church or on other religious errands.  Similarly, holding shares in sabbath-breaking companies was seen as involving the share-holder in responsibility for the sin of the company.  This may seem strange in our day when it is so hard to find companies which operate on Biblical principles; but our brethren were doing their very best to ensure that, by keeping up a public testimony and consistent witness, we would not arrive at days like these.  Sadly, multitudes more were ensuring that we would.  If we will be faithful to the Lord, and choose to take our part with those who regard him, rather than those who despise him, we will much sooner come to days of a blessed prosperity.

Our brethren also expand on items relating to the use of the lot.  They add a more explicit reference to “games of chance” and then take all these things to the root of the problem, which is not about being like a gambler or a thief, but about “the prayerless and godless use of the lot.” Because the lot appeals to divine providence for its answer, whenever used, and thus obtains a determination from the Lord, it ought only to be used at such time as we would and may with all reverence appeal to God by prayer for his answer.  Whensoever it would seem irreverent to pray to the Lord for the determination of the lot, we ought not then to use the lot.  For, in employing the lot, we are either using his ordinance religiously, or else we are taking his name in vain.  “Raffling” must be included here: even religious or “Church raffles.” We may also note that in 1932 the R.P. Church of Scotland added an explicit reference to “Sweepstakes,” which are very popular in our day.

Like our Larger Catechism (Question 139,) these Testimonies condemn “immodest apparel.”  It goes without saying that such a thing must have definition: the rejection must mean that certain kinds of apparel are rejected. They can be identified and known. They are not such arbitrary things as every man and woman may determine for himself, or less reliably deduce by observing the “culture” around him.  It would be little honour to our religion to compose a book of particular rules on this topic, after the example of Anabaptists.  But it is certainly less honour to our religion, and a snare to ourselves, to pretend there are no rules whatsoever, or none capable of being enforced.  For some very useful guidance on the subject, the reader may refer to an article about Christian Modesty in Dress, which will outline some general principles, and refute the common objections that tend to hinder us from accepting more practical particulars.

Lastly, immoral literature and pictures have been added to the rejection of promiscuous dancing and theatrical exhibitions.  Given the punctuation, it may be questioned whether the wording has been altered to qualify “theatrical performances” as if only an “immoral” subset thereof was being rejected.  It is possible this is the case, but somewhat doubtful seeing the clause is more extensive when it comes to all other particulars mentioned.  In any case, the historic R.P. position on the Stage was quite clear.

A great many of these items may be seen explained and reasoned upon at length in the Reformed Presbytery of Scotland’s 1805 Testimony and Warning Against Some Prevailing Sins and Immoralities.  May the Lord help us all to endeavour Reformation in our own lives, while we testify, labour, and pray for Reformation in the world around us.—JTKer.

I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.  And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.—Romans 12.1,2.  ]