To the Moderator and other Members of the Reformed Presbyterian Church of Rochester, N.Y.
The petition of the undersigned humbly showeth:
That we would most respectfully and affectionately, but earnestly request you to reconsider and rescind your resolution lately announced from the pulpit, to proceed with swearing and subscribing the Covenant, adopted, sworn and subscribed by Synod, at Pittsburgh, in May last, for the following reasons, viz:
First. Because said Covenant does not distinctly embrace our fourth term of communion. The National Covenant of Scotland, and the Solemn League of England, Ireland and Scotland, are not mentioned therein, but, as it were, burying them out of sight, that no more mention may be made of them, though they are perpetually binding on us who were represented in the taking of them.
Second. Because many great and abominable heresies existing in our day, are not therein testified against with that fulness and faithfulness which becomes and is required of a witnessing Church; among which may be named Prelacy, that detestable and subtle enemy of the Divine Right of Presbyterian Church government; Erastianism, which, though ignored by many in this land, is, nevertheless, exemplified in the boundless toleration of every abomination guaranteed in the Constitution of the United States, and also corrupting the government of the Church in her management of ecclesiastical goods, as seen in the late act of our Synod, in subjecting the management of its fund to a Board of Trustees, legalized by the commonwealth of Pennsylvania, but unauthorized by the word of God or the standards of the Church; also, Independency, Arminianism, Anabaptism, none of which are so much as named in this defective document.
Third. Because important doctrine is very ambiguously, if not erroneously expressed in the first article of the Bond: “We receive for ourselves, and for our children, the Lord Jesus Christ, as he is offered in the gospel to be our Saviour, the Holy Spirit to be our Enlightener, Sanctifier and Guide; and God the Father, to be our Everlasting Portion.” Here the language represents the Father to be the portion of his people to the exclusion of the Son and Spirit as such; language very objectionable in so solemn a generation work as covenanting with God.
Fourth. Because of the very objectionable language used in relation to our duty to cultivate a holy brotherhood (see article fourth), “We will strive to maintain christian fellowship with pious men of every name, and to feel and act as one, with all in every land, who pursue this grand end.” Our objection to this language will be seen in the light of the same duty as expressed in the fourth article of the Covenant renewal, attempted by Synod at Allegheny in 1855: “We regard ourselves bound to act and feel as one with all, in every land, who seek the end contemplated, and proposed in our Presbyterian Covenanted Reformation.” Also, in the light of the Word, II Thess. iii.6.: “Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which he received of us.”
Fifth. Because on account of these and other reasons which might be assigned, it is evident that the Covenant proposed to be sworn is retrograde and loose in its character, is going back and not forward, and is not binding and sealing as it should be; (see Declaration and Testimony, chap. 33, sec. 3): “The Church may not recede from a more clear and particular testimony to a more general and evasive one; but the witnesses must proceed in finishing their testimony, rendering it more pointed and complete, until God shall, according to his promise, overthrow the empire of darkness, and introduce the millennial state, in which the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.” And which is condemned in the third item of errors in the same chapter: “That it is lawful in order to enlarge the Church, to open a wider door of communion, by declining from a more pointed testimony, to one which is more loose and general.”
Finally. Dear fathers and brethren, we beseech you, to give this solemn matter the consideration its importance demands, and that the pleasure of the Lord may prosper in your hands, is the prayer of
Jane E. Campbell,
Jane E. Campbell, JR.
1. The reader may wonder what the reason is why these Covenanters desire such particular naming of heresies, beyond the SL&C itself. The answer is fairly evident from a consideration of the other problems found in this Covenant, and the context of the times. We infer it is because the covenant otherwise leaves its swearers to arbitrarily decide what shall be ranked as heresy, and who shall be ranked as “pious men of every name.” So also, the increasing involvement with voluntary associations, whereby Covenanters were joined with various types of heretics and schismatics in ways inconsistent with their Testimony and Covenant-engagements, undoubtedly added to the perceived need for a definitive list of heretics as heretics—JTKer.
See also: Other Resources Relating to the 1871 Covenant sworn at Pittsburgh.