And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,)
full of grace and truth.
—John 1.14.

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SOME FRIENDLY COUNSEL

for the

Free Church of Scotland

As also, The Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland

And The Free Church of Scotland (Continuing),

From a Supporter of the Second Reformation

And Loyal Servant of the King of Kings.

Being Appendix B, Excerpted from:

THE

ORDINANCE

OF

COVENANTING.

BY

JOHN CUNNINGHAM, A.M.

“HE HATH COMMANDED HIS COVENANT FOR EVER.” Ps. cxi. 9.

“THOUGH IT BE BUT A MAN’S COVENANT, YET IF IT BE CONFIRMED, NO MAN

DISANNULLETH, OR ADDETH THERETO.” Gal. iii. 15.


GLASGOW:—WILLIAM MARSHALL.

SOLD ALSO BY JOHN KEITH.

EDINBURGH:—THOMAS NELSON AND JOHN JOHNSTONE.

LONDON:—HAMILTON, ADAMS, & CO.

MANCHESTER:—GALT & ANDERSON.

BELFAST:—WILLIAM POLLOCK.

X

TrueCovenanter.com Editor’s Introduction.

In the year 1843, the Church of Scotland experienced one of the most considerable church divisions in the history of Christianity.  It was soon known by the name of “The Great Disruption,” and gave birth to the “Free Church of Scotland,” which in turn has led to the organization of the “Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland” and the “Free Church of Scotland (Continuing)” as well as other organizations.  All of these Churches have more or less followed the Presbyterian model of church government and worship, and adhered to the doctrines of the Westminster Confession of Faith; though at the same time, they have also more or less justified the revolution settlement of 1690, taking it as their churches’ original constitution, the principles of which they intend to uphold.

At the time of the division in 1843, the noble efforts of Christian men, willing to suffer the consequences of opposing tyranny and standing for Christ’s right to rule his Church without Erastian interference, gave many the hope that a new age of reforming was on the horizon, and that a generation of men were now at the service of the Church who, like Ezra and Nehemiah of old, would restore that which was fallen down and broken.  In that charitable and hopeful expectation, the following article was composed, both commending the workmen, and also offering important counsel, from one who had not been entangled in the Erastian Church of post-Reformation Scotland, nor prejudiced by any adherence to the disorder that had existed for so many generations.

The advice he offers, remains as needed today as before.  Although Free Church men had been noble in contending, they were not so urgent in reforming.  Consequently, there has never been among them a returning to the foundation of the Covenanted Church of Scotland in her Second Reformation period.  The advice toward the end of this article offers the specific directions needed to further that goal.  This includes the upholding of Christ’s Mediatorial Dominion over the Nations, the proper Christian response to rulers and governments which are constituted as powers of Satan rather than powers of God,—also, the recognizing of former reformation attainments, and going forward in renewing reformation covenants.

These matters remain the need of churches such as the Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland and the Free Church of Scotland (Continuing).  And these steps remain the hope and prayers of Christians who have a true affection to the glory of Christ, and the wonderful works he brought about for the comfort of his people in former times.  Without such steps, existing divisions will remain, and future divisions are inevitable.  But the expectation of those who “believe all things, and hope all things” yet looks forward to see a generation of men who will perform with readiness what others have sinfully delayed.

2021.05.29::JTK.

REFLECTING on the descending obligation of the British Covenants on the people of these lands, by the current of an eventful providence we are conducted to the consideration of the circumstances of the “FREE PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH OF SCOTLAND.”  {384} The events in the National Church of Scotland which have led to the separation from her communion, of the Protesting Church, and finally, the disruption itself, cannot be forgotten.  The struggle that was maintained for the rights of the Christian people, for the independence of Christ’s house, and the glory of the Redeemer as King of Zion and King of kings, is worthy of the most cordial approbation.  With those who were employed as the willing and honoured instruments of emancipating the Church from the tyrannical restraints under which she so long groaned, and effected a dissolution of a connection with the State, fraught with so many evils as have been long felt by her, there ought to be but one feeling of Christian sympathy.  A testimony for the truth, calmly, and effectively, and devotedly, has been borne by her, to her lasting honour.  The Church has declared that the government has acted a tyrannical and wicked part by interfering with her privileges; and the people of Scotland have practically and memorably said, that it is sinful for the Church of Christ to be connected with an anti-christian State.[1]  The government of the land has been baffled.  The rulers were not overborne by the voices of a majority in either House of Parliament; but by a calm and efficient resolution, we do not say, becoming the Scottish people, but worthy of Christian men, they have been defeated; and that would be wise policy, indeed, which would remove the shame of their overthrow.  For the steps of reformation taken, for the noble sacrifice made by those who gave up their emoluments that they might be faithful, commendation is due; and that the Free Protesting Church may come to maintain, to its utmost extent, not merely doctrinally but practically, the testimony of Christ, is ardently to be desired.  The accession of a great proportion of the youth preparing for the ministry, and of those engaged as itinerants in preaching the gospel, is a token for good; and the devotedness of the people of Scotland on the great emergency, in adhering to the “Protesting Church,” and in yielding of their substance for it, is peculiarly cheering to the mind.  The countenance given by those of the Presbyterian Church in England who were present, was encouraging and estimable, as it might have been expected; while the approving sentiments expressed by those from the Presbyterian Church in Ireland, in their circumstances, were truly honouring to them, and to that community.  It was becoming others that by deputation they testified to their approval of the step taken at the great disruption.  And, though what is here said is asserted {385} on individual responsibility alone, it is declared, without fear of being in error, that another Community in the land—who consider it to be their duty to adhere to the whole of the Second Reformation, and to the testimonies of the martyrs who suffered after it, though not present by representation at the memorable succession, in order to signify their approbation, do rejoice at the step, and trust to see it followed by other procedures alike faithful.

The importance of the effects that are possible to follow from the disruption, demands the exercise of great wisdom on the part of the Protesting Church.  Not less than the power to originate the great movement that has taken place, is requisite ability to direct it aright. The people of Scotland, like a mighty mass, have been brought to act; much depends upon the plan according to which the moving body may be made to bear.  The future interests of the land, under Providence, would seem to be in the hands of those who now guide the ecclesiastical movement.  The destinies of Scotland were in the hands of a few in days of peril.  They were not unworthy of the trust committed to them.  By the adoption of the same principles which the martyrs practically illustrated, be it the honour of the Protesting Church, free from persecution, if the Lord will, but still faithfully, though called to suffering, to transmit to posterity a legacy, ennobling and beneficial as that which those left.

It is necessary that the Church of Christ should proceed on principles laid down in the Divine word.  When it does not do this, it acts not in character, but gives the enemies of the truth occasion to load it with reproach.  The “Free Presbyterian Church” sustaining, as we conceive, the character of a Church of Christ, should do so in all things.

It is Presbyterian, and is therefore called to base its attachment to that form of government, on the principle, that it is of Divine right.  To maintain, or admit, that other forms of Church government are of Divine original, is to surrender a scriptural truth, to act as if facts in providence could modify the institutes of that society which is essentially spiritual, to become liable to inefficiency in the maintenance of the truth, and to give scope to the unworthy suggestions of those who would contend, that what right even the Church maintains on an improper ground, other communities besides could claim as well as she.  The state has no right to claim the prerogatives of the Church, nor to dictate to her the form of her government, or prescribe for her in other matters.  The State {386} has no right to say to the Church, that, because she does not hold Presbyterianism on proper grounds, therefore it might declare that her government shall be prelatic.  But, by holding Presbytery as alone of Divine origin, she would most effectively discountenance such unjust claims.

The Church, by a noble act, has thrown off the fetters of erastianism that had for so long been fastened upon her; let her act so as to be on her guard against every encroachment of that nature that might be proposed by the civil power.  The struggle for the independence of the Church was resolutely maintained, and the yoke of those who attempted to diminish it, was dutifully thrown off.  Let not any overture hereafter, ranging between complete submission to the State, and the mere use of the veto, on the part of the civil power, upon the appointment of a given minister to a congregation, though made by the State in the most attractive manner, be entertained.  But let it be practically shown, as well as solemnly resolved by her, that she recognizes only one Master—who is in heaven.

During the last few years, an arduous struggle has been maintained in order to secure, as far as possible, the rights of the christian people.  Now, it is possible to put the people in possession of the unfettered privilege of electing their own office-bearers; but to put any other party in possession of that right, would be to do those injury.  The claims of lay patrons are without foundation in the word of God.  The claims of presbyteries, or any other parties, than the members of the Church themselves, are alike unsupported there.  In order that the Church may act in character, her procedure in regard to the election of pastor and elders, must be scriptural.  It is true, that whether the Church act scripturally or not, no civil class are warranted to usurp her rights; yet, were her procedure not according to the law of Christ, she would act undutifully, and would give advantage to enemies to declaim against her, to the diminution of her influence for good.  Though the Church were to declare for The Call, merely on the principle of expediency, but not as if according to the will of Christ, the State would have no proper ground for affirming, that therefore it had a right to use patronage—its principle of expediency; for a right of the Church can never be transferred to a civil power; yet the Church, by not legislating on scriptural grounds, could not act in such a manner as to deserve the recognition of her by the people as proceeding according to her true character.

The last few years have added to the Church of Scotland {387} a high proportion of godly and devoted ministers.  Errors, that would have been winked at in previous periods by some in her Assemblies, have been brought to light, and the laws of Christ’s house have been brought to bear on those who maintained them.  Purity of doctrine was a jewel among the late reforming majority.  The orthodoxy of the ministers in general of the separated Church is undoubted.  She adheres to the Confession of Faith.  It is requisite that she direct a testimony against unsound doctrine, including the errors prevalent now in Churches called Christian; and that whatever scheme of co-operation with other Christians she may embark in, may be consistent with her regard for the truth.

The Headship of Christ over the nations is maintained by the Protesting Church;—on that is founded the principle of the establishment of religion by the civil magistrate;—that, was recognized in the late contendings with the civil powers, and especially in the second series of resolutions made at the Convocation of November; on that principle these resolutions were carried into effect at the late disruption;—it is desirable that, in the progress of the newly modeled community the principle be properly applied.  The important application of that, which is now necessary, is the lifting up of a protest against the civil power, as immoral and unscriptural, and a consistent course of procedure in consequence.  What justifies the disruption requires a dissent from the civil power, as a power not of God.  That State with which the Church could not be connected, so as to enjoy her own privileges, cannot be the ordinance of God.  If the government has been guilty of violating the rights and privileges of the Presbyterians of Scotland, has it not been acting in opposition to the will of Christ, and setting at nought his authority?  Were the civil government possessed of less influence than it really has, men would likely be disposed to esteem it more agreeably to its true character, than they really are.  Is an individual denounced for an act of injustice or oppression?  And why should not a government?  Even is a government, acting for the time being, worthy of being denounced for some things, and yet worthy of approbation, as if acting for God?  Yea, is that constitution sound which admits of tyranny over the Church—injustice of a highly aggravated character, to be cordially supported by those who complain of its oppression?  The same pretensions to power over her, that were put forth in acts of parliament [of the years 1661, 1662,] when the Church was disorganized, and for acting on which the house of the Stuarts was driven from the British throne, have been {388} of late made in the councils of the nation.  Can the power that would do so be approved?  Why should any cling to an oath of allegiance to a power that, in this particular, as well as in others, is anti-christian?  All have reason to beware of the attractions of such civil powers.  What is it that gives evil governments their influence, but their power to terrify, and their wealth and honours to seduce?  In one case, the ministers of the Community to whom we now direct our thoughts, have nobly cast the latter aside.  It becomes her to act in other matters consistently with this.  There are those who would overthrow the institutions of the land, that are noble, and plant anarchy where oppression flourished.  But her principles, yea, the principles of all who hold the truth, are the reverse.  These would wish that good men in power should be brought to see what is duty.  They would not refuse to obey laws that in themselves are right.  But they should not do so from a regard to the authorities in the land that enjoin them.  If the present system of civil government cannot stand of itself, why should the people of Scotland, escaped from the trammels of tyranny, pledge themselves to support it?  They ought not to bring in revolution, but neither ought they to continue, by adhering to their oath of allegiance, to give countenance to an unlawful civil power.  Let their determination, and that of their brethren in the other parts of the empire, prove itself to be of a nobler order than what will be abated by unfavourable circumstances.  Let it be put forth in leading to abstain from countenancing an evil constitution, and to raise above the fear of consequences.  Arising from christian principle, deep hid in the breast, let it give an energy which opposition would only increase, and which death itself would not subdue, but hand over with increased vigour to others.

The Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland should recognize the attainments made during the Second Reformation.  Whatever steps of real reformation have been taken of late, have been in accordance with some of these.  It is desirable that all of them should now be adopted.  The Revolution Settlement [1690] suffered not the Church to advance beyond the Reformation made at 1592.  Now that that compact has been abandoned by the Church herself, let her occupy fully the ground on which the Reformers, between 1638 and 1649, so honourably stood.  By some laws of the land, indeed, many of these are condemned.  But these laws are monuments of the tyranny and oppression of the government that made them.  The Revolution Church of Scotland never recognized, as a whole, the {389} brightest attainments made in the history of the Church in the land.  During the late contest, indeed, the Act of Assembly, 1647, adopting the Westminster Confession, has been pleaded as the Act of the Church of Scotland at the Revolution, which had been made by the same Church before.  But though that could not have been properly maintained without admitting that other laws of the former era, not ecclesiastically repealed, were also the law of the Church at the latter,[2] let the Church, now that she is completely unfettered, by ecclesiastical legislation solemnly adopt all the distinct attainments of the second reforming period, and thus serve herself an heir to the highest privileges enjoyed by the Church in our land.

It is good that the Free Presbyterian Church contemplates the erection of a Theological Seminary for a rising ministry.  May it be called into operation, and greatly prosper; and may her youth—kept from the chilling influences of error, evangelically instructed and eminently pious, prove the means of diffusing widely the truth, in consequence of a momentous reformation.

And, above all, it is necessary that the Free Presbyterian Church should have regard to explicit solemn covenant obligations.  The vows of God, made by the Church in this land, are upon her; these she ought to acknowledge, and to endeavour to renew.  Though these covenants were condemned by the laws of the land, they are still binding.  The act of Queen Anne was against the Revolution Settlement, and, therefore, the reforming party in the Church of late declared that it was unconstitutional.  The Revolution Settlement itself was based upon the overthrow of the whole of the Covenanted Reformation; and no more than the act of Queen Anne, regarding patronage, ought the sinful parts of it to be regarded.  Popery exists, and Prelacy, absorbing Popery, exists.  Would that the Free Presbyterian Church, by recognizing the binding obligation of the covenants, National, and Solemn League and Covenant, and by adding to the binding obligations of these, engagements suited to the times, were to go forth in opposition to all evil, in all the gracious vigour of a faithful witness for the whole truth.[3]

The movement that has been lately made, contemplated in its highest character, appears the work of God.  By a wondrous providence he has shut up the Church to a {390} course of duty, and has plainly indicated the necessity to persevere in it.  On the other hand, contemplating the human instrumentality called to accomplish an estimable work, and approving much of the agents immediately employed, we should not be forgetful of the corresponding efforts made in times past, even in the National Church.  Our heart is to the memory of such as had in their view the objects lately contended for, and in a day when the rights of the people were trampled on without remorse, willingly lifted the voice in the Assembly against patronage, and otherwise laboured for the removal of its flagrant enormities.  There was good principle in the National Church, but evil caused much of it to be unseen, though some of it remained manifest.  Gold may be dissolved by a compound acid, and for a time may cease to be observed, but not beyond the power of re-appearing.  The gold cannot be decomposed: let a test be added, and the indestructible ore will re-appear.  By a powerful solvent the noble principle in the National Church became nearly all invisible, though some of it could not be dissolved.  A test has been added, and the whole has been precipitated, and nearly all of it has come out.[4]  The sound principle and piety in the Church were the gold; moderatism, including erastianism and patronage, was the solvent; a wondrous providence applied a test; and the gold of true excellence shines forth.  Let it be united by Covenanting, into one glorious mass, and be exhibited for beauty, and glory to God.  Let the Free Presbyterian Church, remembering the past, wisely look forward to the future; and, reflecting upon what may be the effect of its procedure on other nations of the world, now act so as to present an example worthy the imitation of all.  And it is humbly presumed that the standing of the Church, in the days of her greatest glory and efficiency in the land, in preference to every other, claims her adoption.  The position, ecclesiastical and civil, of the friends and followers of the Second Reformation, like an ancient fortress held by comparatively few, but venerable from its eventful history, remarkable amid the ruin which time has laid around it, and displaying a massive grandeur as it rests on its broad and solid foundations, which had, during periods not very remote, been contemplated more as an affecting memorial of the past, than a strength which should be available in time to come, has of late, while tyranny made progress, been somewhat approached, as it stands begirt with its gigantic bulwarks, surmounted with the banner of the Covenant, {391} manifestly high above all other means of defending the Church; and it faithfully promises a vantage-ground, noble from its commanding altitude, and unassailable within its high defences, to which all in the land who love the truth should come, that to whatever outward peril they might be brought, they might maintain their christian warfare, to their continued honour and final triumph.


Footnotes:

1. This topic is handled with considerable skill and valuable light in a lecture by Stewart Bates, published as part of the series of “Lectures on the Second Reformation,” in 1841.  The author considers the various possible circumstances in which alliance between the church and state could be either good or bad, the manner in which we may assess whether a nation or its government is either Christian or Antichristian, what the effects will be when the Church enters into alliance with an Antichristian state, and what the facts are concerning the Reformation era, and post-Reformation era, as well as how these relate to the prophecies of Holy Scripture.  There is considerable benefit to be drawn from this lecture and the appendix which was published with it.—JTK.

2. See a valuable pamphlet, entitled, “The Revolution Settlement considered in reference to the independence and present position of the Church of Scotland.” Glasgow: 1840.—JC.

3. For a luminous view of what would seem to be the Church’s duty at present, we refer to an article in the “Scottish Presbyterian” for May, 1843, entitled, “Friendly Hints to the projected Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland.”—JC.

4. On the subject of the duty of those who still abide by the Establishment, see three powerful and seasonable discourses, entitled, “Come out and be separate,” by the Rev. Dr. Bates. Glasgow, 1843.—JC.