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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THE

QUESTIONS & ARTICLES

Of a poor, wasted, misrepresented, Remnant of the Suffering, Anti-Popish, Anti-Prelatick, Anti-Erastian, Anti-Sect­arian, True Presbyterian Church of Christ in

S c o t l a n d,

United together in a General

Correspondence;

(A.K.A. The United Societies.)

X

TrueCovenanter.com Editor's Introduction.

Throughout the late 1600's and the following century, the witnessing remnant of True Presbyterians in Scotland preserved their united Testimony and Christian brotherhood through the organization of fellowship societies in various districts throughout the nation. These the Lord was pleased to bless, and for a long while their meetings were found fruitful to the ends intended. There can be no doubt that, among the various means in the hand of the Lord for making fruitful these meetings to the nourishment of so many souls lacking a regular Gospel ministry, the precise rules, regulations, and qualifications for membership greatly served to keep order and peace alive, and to preserve these Christian fellowships from the influence of principles and practices detrimental to the body of Christ, infecting with great rapidity the organized churches of both the established and other communions around them.

Modern Covenanters are generally acquainted with the existence of a Short Directory for Religious Societies composed by the Reformed Presbytery of Scotland and published in 1782. However, neither such a document nor the Reformed Presbytery itself had ever had occasion to exist, were it not for similar Directories and lists of Rules adopted in previous generations. Among these, those of Walter Smith and John Hepburn are worthy of examination. But the rules which most served the purpose of perpetuating the existence and health of the Societies, are probably these which follow below, along with some of the additional conclusions & resolutions adopted by the Societies on various occasions, such as their requirement that all members subscribe the Reformation Covenants as they were renewed at Auchensaugh, 1712.

Copies of these rules are known to be extant in at least two different transcriptions of a letter written by James Renwick, the last Martyr, and arguably the most zealous and faithful of all the ministers who laboured among the Covenanter Remnant of Scotland. Sadly this letter, as well as a few others, have not been included in the publications of Mr. Renwick's collected correspondence. The following text below has been prepared from a manuscript in the Scottish Record Office (CH3/269/15) as it was transcribed in 1976 by James Robb; with bracketed [] additions or corrections taken from the copy formerly owned by James B. Dalzell and printed in Thomas Binnie's Sketch of the History of the First Reformed Presbyterian Congregation, &c. (1888) as this was re-printed by Dr. Reid Stewart in 2005. The main body of the text, therefore, is that of an early transcript dated 1714, which seems to be most complete and accurate. The Dalzell text, as reprinted in 2005, may be an older transcript, but appears less accurately transcribed. All abbreviations are here resolved into full words, and some spelling has been adapted. Capitalization has been generally preserved from the source documents, as well as struck text.

2009.06.22.

Now, Dear Brethren, we understand your Proposals, to imitate the Practice & Example of the Godly; as we thought it expedient to mention the Premises, So we judge it convenient for the Information, encouragement, & Benefit of your Societies, To propound to you, Some few Overtures, which, we are hopeful, if religiously observed, & rightly practiced, in their proper seasons, through the Lord's blessing, will prove conducive to your purpose.

In order thereto, we shall first set down Questions, which we judge proper, to be answered by every Member you admit into Society with you.  And 2ndly, We shall set down some Articles, which we judge proper to be assented to, observed & practiced by the whole fellowship and every Member thereof.

The Questions are as follows:

1. That every one, desiring to be admitted, be required to declare the Grounds, Causes, and Motives, that induce him to join in your Fellowship.

2. That he be required to declare, what moved him to separate from these with whom he formerly associated.

3. If he be a Stranger, That a Testificate be required of him, from the Society to which he formerly belonged; or, due Inquiry made, & Satisfaction got, of the soundness of his principles & uprightness of his Conversation; that no person, who maintains Errors, or is chargeable with any Scandal [in their practices], may be admitted.

4. That he be required to give his judgment concerning the [covenants and the late] Work of Reformation.

5. That he be required to give his judgment concerning the Prophetical, Priestly, and Kingly Offices of Christ.

6. That he be required to declare his judgment concerning Church Government.

7. That he be required to give [his] judgment concerning Prelacy, & hearing of Curates.

8. That he be required to declare his judgment concerning Erastianism & Joining with the Indulged.

9. That he be required to declare his judgment concerning the Practice of these Ministers, who in this Juncture [of providence], laid aside the publick Exercise of their Ministry and blamed the Zeal of their Brethren, who continue faithful.

10. That he be required to give his judgment concerning the Covenants, National & Solemn League.[1]

11. That he be required to give his judgment concerning The Late & present Wrestlings, Endeavours, Testimonies, Declarations, & Sufferings of the faithful Witnesses in Scotland, &c.

12. That he be required to give his judgment concerning the Carriage of these, who comply with the Enemy, by granting sinful Bonds, or making unwarrantable compositions with them; Declining Testimonies and Sufferings, contrary to the laudable practice of the Godly.

13. That he be required to promise secrecy, to Disclose nothing of the Matters reasoned, or Concluded in the Society, but, insofar as the Society alloweth, to be done, or with the General consent.

Or whatever other proper Questions are thought fit to be proposed & answered, He having given Satisfying Answers in all these. Then may be presented unto him the Articles of the Societies, and [he] be required to Assent thereunto, & engage religiously to practice and avouch the same.

The Articles of the Societies, follows:

We all & every one of us, taking into serious Consideration the Lord's late Manifestations of His wonderful Kindness, tender mercies, & great Love to these Lands, together with their great Ingratitude, their sinful & shameful Defections, the present obstinacy & Impenitency of this generation, the Lukewarmness, Neutrality, & Sinful Compliances of temporizing Professors; the many Spiritual & temporal Judgments, that have already overtaken us, the Dreadful Woe & Plagues, with their fearful Indignation, now hanging above our heads, threatened to be poured out, in a Signal manner, to our astonishment, Ruin, & Destruction: The over-spreading [and increase] of Popery, Superstitions, Errors, Prelacy, & Heresy, with the present Tyranny & oppression exercised on the Estates, Persons, & Consciences of the Lord's people; together with the present Darkness, Ignorance, and Atheism, with the abounding Iniquities, Profanity, & Wickedness, that doth now overflow these Lands: As also the unfaithfulness of Professors, & their unmindfulness of the Lord's former Kindness, & the Solemn & Sacred Vows & Engagements they lie under, to God, & to their Brethren; together with their present decay of Godliness, Piety & Zeal, and barrenness in Religion;  Judge it our duty, to search & try our ways, to turn again to the Lord, Lam. 3.40. Not to forget the Assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but, according to the Example of the Godly in former ages, Mal. 3.16. & the practise of the faithful in this present age, [to] contract ourselves into Societies, Join & assemble ourselves together, for following the Duty of Prayer, & other duties incumbent on us to follow, in our Stations, according to the Vows & Ties of God upon us: proposing [purposing] the mutual encouragement, Edification, and Strengthening of one another; that, in the way of Duty, we may endeavour, in some measure, the fitting of ourselves for the threatened & approaching storm, that seems not to be far off; or for whatever the Lord, in his Wisdom, thinks fit to try [tryst] us with. Therefore, As we have mentioned our Motives, that moulded us to this, So we resolve to declare & set down our present purposes & Methods, that we resolve to follow, contained in the following Articles, agreed upon, & assented unto by the Members of our Societies.

1. We resolve & declare, that the Principal & chief ends we have before our eyes, and purpose (through the Lord's assistance) [sincerely, really, and constantly] to pursue, are [only and alone] the Glory of God; the exercise of our Duty, according to his commands; our increase of Knowledge, & Growth in Grace; the mutual good, profit, Edification, & advantage of one another's Souls: And that we being conscious to ourselves, of our own weakness & Infirmities, dare not, & do not undertake the performance of the meanest of our Duties, in our own Strength, or by our own Wisdom; but, as we desire to be denied to ourselves, so to betake ourselves to God, & to seek unto Him, relying on him alone, for Support & Supply & furniture of Grace, to frame & fit us, for the right acting & exercising of every part of commanded Duty. So also, frequently to apply ourselves to Him, in the name of Jesus Christ, both secretly and publickly, by fervent Prayers [and supplication], for His assistance, & for whatever else he sees needful for us, in our several circumstances.

2. We resolve, & Declare, that we purpose to make the Sacred Scriptures of the Old & New Testament the Rule of our life, Religion, and Conversation; & to disown & declare against all Doctrines, Motives, & Practices that are contrary thereunto: and to endeavour the performance of the [obligations and] Duties sworn to in our Sacred Covenants, to God, & to [one] another, in our several places & stations: Adhering to the Confession of Faith, Larger & Shorter Catechisms, As we look upon it, to be a great mercy, obligation, & encouragement, that we are accommodated, in the wise providence of God, with the example of so faithful a cloud of Witnesses, who overcame by the Blood of the Lamb, & the word of their Testimony, and who are now made more than Conquerers, especially the example of these worthy Martyrs, who lately Suffered in Scotland, whom the Lord called forth in this Juncture, to testify & contend, & to Suffer for Him, His truths & Cause, they remaining faithful in these Sacred Covenants, whose wrestlings, faithful Testimonies & Declarations, in publick & private we fully assent unto, & approve of, (we mean these we have seen, & have come to our hand) So we are resolved, in His strength, to go on; not to disown, nor decline his Cause, nor the Duties contained in the Covenants; nor deserting of His Truths, tho’ we should be exposed to their, or the like Sufferings.

3. As we judge & Declare that it is our Duty to entertain an high estimation of the Lord's public ordinances; & to account the enjoyment of these Benefits, when rightly dispensed by His faithful Ambassadors, called and sent by Him, & exercising their Ministry according to his Institution, to be great mercies, & Singular Privileges: So we Purpose and resolve, to attend the publick worship, the true Preaching of His Word, & right Administration of His Sacraments, when & wheresoever we can have the occasion thereof, by the ministration of Lawful, Honest, & faithful Ministers, clothed with His Commission, & exercising their ministerial function in His own Name, & by his Authority, according to His Rule. Also we resolve & Declare, that we will not hear, nor countenance any, tho’ pretending themselves Ministers of the Gospel, who wants a lawful Call thereunto, or continueth not faithful in the exercise of their ministerial function, [but] proves forgetful of their Solemn Covenants & disloyal to Christ; who declines the Duties, Practice, & Conversation of Gospel ministers; who Comply with, continueth in, pleadeth for, or vindicateth the Sinful Practices & Detestable Courses of these times: Rev. 18.4; 2 Thess. 3.6, & 14; 2 Cor. 6.16; Isai. 51.4. [5.2.]

4. Because the Backsliders, Compliers, Temporizers with the Defections & Evils of these times, do not only vindicate & defend their Defections & Scandalous Practices, covering their Backslidings and Guilt with the bright coloured Cloke of Wisdom & prudence; but also are ready to cry out against the Zeal, conscientious endeavours and Tenderness of the faithful witnesses and Sufferers, blaming, censuring & accusing them, (for) their godly practices & endeavours, for Imprudence, blind Zeal, & want of Wisdom: We judge it our duty, since we find two kinds of wisdom, mentioned in the Scriptures, to declare what wisdom we are to own & Follow; & what kind of wisdom we ought to beware of & Decline. What is to be declined, such we Judge to be that wisdom in the following Scriptures, See Isa. 5.21; Isa. 47.10; James 3.15; [Jer. 4.22;] Jer. 8.9; Jer. 49.7; [1 Cor. 1.19,20,21;] 1 Cor. 3.19,20; So these Doctrines and Practices that lead from God, his truth & Way, to a Worldly Sanctuary for present convenience, tho’ adorned with the name of Wisdom/(should be avoided) & Cannot be followed without Sinning, is the Wisdom we disclaim. But that Wisdom[2] And these Doctrines & practices that lead to & teach obedience to God, & observation of his statutes, is the wisdom we prefer & own: according to Deut. 4.5,6; Job 28.28; Prov. 4.7; & 7.1-4; Prov. 28.7; Not according to the Wisdom of the World, tho' the Children of this world be said to be wiser in their generation, than the children of Light.

5. Because of the abounding Iniquities & deluge of Defection, many have defiled themselves with the sinful Courses, snares, & abominable practices of these Times. Wherefore, we Judge it our duty & resolve that no persons of Erroneous principles, who are followers of the Errors & Defections of these times; nor any person of a Scandalous Conversation shall be owned by us or admitted to our Society; nor any Stranger, tho' under the name of Professors, be suffered without a Testification [from some of the godly, or satisfaction] given to the Society, of the Soundness & purity of his principles, & uprightness of his walk & Conversation. Wherefore we Judge it convenient that no member of our Society bring in any Stranger, into the fellowship of his Brethren, until first the Society be informed of him, & some of their number directed to him by them, to take trial of his principles, judgment, & conversation: then Report made, & the Society Satisfied therewith, & approve of his admission.

6. As we judge it our duty to take special inspection of these we admit to our fellowships; So likewise, we Judge it expedient to [r]eject all & every one, who suffers themselves to be seduced to Sinful Courses, and Infected with Error; or shall be convicted of any publick Scandal: Yet, not so to give up, as altogether to disown them; but by wholesome Exhortations & admonitions to endeavour their regaining: & if they amend their ways, Confess and acknowledge their offence, reform their abuses & give true Evidence of Repentance, we judge it our duty to receive them again, & to entertain them again as Brethren: as in Matt. 18.21,22; Luke 17.4.

7. Since it has been, & yet is the constant practice of Satan to Sow Tares among the Wheat; to cause animosities & Discords among the Godly, & by Division to break the peace, unity, & Harmony of the Lord's people, & to frustrate their godly purposes, & the ends of the Gospel; Hence We Judge it our Duty in a special manner, to watch against all such Motions, resist all such attempts; and to the utmost of our power, to endeavour the keeping of the unity of the Spirit, in the bond of peace; and not to entertain evil in our hearts, nor take up groundless prejudice against one another: Neither falsely to accuse, nor rashly to give ear to Reports & Misrepresentations, of any of our Number, till Trial be made, in a Gospel manner, Secretly, privately, & publickly: Matt. 18.15,16,17. And that we resolve to endeavour by all means possible to live peaceably, in peace, Love, & Harmony together; bearing with one another's weakness [in love], observing one another's Infirmities, Exhorting & Reproving one another's failings in the Spirit of Meekness & Love: Heb. 13.1; Gal. 6.1,2; Isa. 61.1; Rom. 12.10; & 15.1.

8. We, considering our great weakness, many Infirmities & Corruptions of our Nature, & the Deceitfulness & desperate wickedness of our hearts, that we are ready frequently to slide & offend (if Grace prevent not:) Therefore, as we judge it our duty, always to watch & be [upon a] constant Guard, as Suspecting ourselves; So we judge it our Duty, not to connive at the offensive Escapes, or the Sinful Scandalous Practices of any of our Brethren; or in Silence pass by the reprehensible offences that any of us may perceive in one another: But timeously, for the preventing & removing the guilt of Offending Brethren, to admonish, Exhort, & Reprove the same, striving for their good & gaining, in the Spirit of meekness & Love. Lev. 19.17; Gal. 6.1.

9. We, considering that the principal grounds whereupon we expect the Lord's Blessing and Countenance upon our duty & endeavours [and fellowship unity], are the founding of our Faith upon the True Principles of Truth, our cheerful closing with the way of his Redemption, through Jesus Christ; and due Honouring of Him, in all His three offices, as King, Priest, & Prophet, our ready yielding all obedience & Subjection due to Him, as our Saviour, Teacher, & Lawgiver; our keeping close to His Rule, in all our walk & performances; as we ought to the uttermost of our power (in His Strength) to endeavour the Same: So we do Resolve: And, in order thereunto, do give up our Selves to him, to be ruled, guided, & governed by his Spirit, according to his word; resolving carefully to endeavour the Information [right reformation] of our Judgments in all matters of Faith & Duty, and diligently to give ourselves to the Study & practice of virtue & Holiness, in all our walkings,—performances & Actings, toward God & Man: That Enemies may have no just quarrel against us, nor timeserving Professors occasion to calumniate, mock, or Reproach: So likewise that others of the faithful, through beholding our godly Conversation, may be induced & encouraged to Join with us, or enter into the like fellowships; that the Lord may be praised, His attributes & ways highly honoured and greatly Loved: and envious mockers & Hypocrites ashamed, confuted & rendered more contemptible & (if they repent not) inexcusable.

10. Since this is a Suffering time & like to continue: As we judge it our duty, So do we resolve to entertain a fellow-feeling, & christian Sympathy with all our Brethren in Affliction, pouring out our Spirits, in Groans & prayers on [their behalf, and in the] behalf of Desolate Zion. So also do we declare & resolve, that, if in the Providence of God, any of the Members of our fellowships, shall be called to Sufferings, Imprisonments, &c. We shall not only endeavour their comfort & encouragement by our prayers wrestling with God; but also all & every one of us, according to our several abilities, Shall charitably contribute a part of our Substance, to their maintenance & encouragement, for Supplying their wants, during the time of their [imprisonment and] Suffering, that the way of the Lord be not evil spoken of, through our neglect.

11. We, considering that some things may fall in among us, in our Reasonings, that may prove too difficult & hard for us [satisfactorily] to resolve, Judge it fit, & do resolve, for preventing Schisms, that such matters be laid aside, for a time, until occasion be had, that the same may be communicated to the godly Brethren, in other Societies & their Judgment [reported] therein: And for this End, We judge it convenient, & resolve, that, some probable Courses be laid down, for Corresponding in our Societies, both for resolving such matters, & for entertaining a good understanding amongst the Godly.

12. We likewise Judge it convenient, & Resolve that means be used by us, for encouraging others to Join with us in fellowships; such only whose Holiness, Principle, & Tenderness, do induce us to entreat them thereunto.

13. We resolve & Declare that none of us shall reveal, nor divulge any matters that are reasoned or concluded in the Society; but so far as is allowed by common consent: & offenders in this to be publickly & sharply rebuked.

14. We judge it convenient & Resolve, That, always before the dismissing of our Societies, when met, Time & place be concluded & resolved upon, when & where to meet the next occasion; that every person may know when & where to attend.

15. We Judge it convenient, that enquiry be made of absents; & that such as withdraw, without a lawful excuse & reasons, may be looked upon as censurable & be admonished; but after the continuance of three admonitions, they are to be counted Deserters of the fellowship; and not to be re-admitted, till Satisfaction be given to the Society for their Offence.

* * * * * * * * * * * F I N I S * * * * * * * * * * * *


Footnotes:

1. This question, as a distinct item, is omitted from the Dalzell copy, in which it is incorporated into question number 4.

2. From the text which is struck, to the words, "But that Wisdom" there appears to be an insertion in the 1714 copy lacking in the the Dalzell copy. James Robb, transcribing the 1714 copy in 1976, notes: "The original transcript [1714] contains several marginal insertions which may indicate later revision or corrections to the transcription of 1714. (J.R.)"