For my mouth shall speak truth; and wickedness is an abomination to my lips.—Proverbs 8.7.

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ACT of the REFORMED PRESBYTERY

For a FAST, with the CAUSES thereof.

At Sandhills, 11th Nov. 1777.

THE Presbytery having met, and being conscious of their station and duty, by God’s calls to them from his word and providence, they, as spiritual watchmen call to this duty of public Fasting and solemn Humiliation.  The great, the many awful signs of the Lord’s anger against these guilty nations, once very famous for gospel light, pure worship, and sound doctrine, but now mournfully sunk below the character of the true church in covenant with the Lord; the great change of matters, and their consequences, are confirming evidences to the Presbytery of their duty, with the duty of all that fear God, especially when our land is filled with great and many sins against the holy One of Israel.  The duty itself they would essay, in the strength of grace, through the divine merit of the dear Redeemer, that their persons and works may be accepted with the holy God, through the death of the bleeding Jesus.  Sin, an ancient arch-enemy against heaven and men’s happiness seems, at this time, to extend its power very far, and that among all ranks of men, and different societies of professing Christians, without due opposition or proper resistance, either in point of principle or practice; so that the evil deductions of sin are become national and personal, to the base reproach of true religion, and its owners in general, among men.

Our sins, evils, and defections, have greatly provoked the Lord to desert our gospel worship, our New Testament Shiloh; the evils complained of, to be lamented, are the fruits of our defections, such as, the national overthrow of the Lord’s work, the true religion, the testimony and cause of Christ, which in the best period of our reformation was judicially owned, and legally ratified in the most solemn manner by church and state; but now, our gold is become dim; the true religion is very low, our excellent constitution is very weak, nay, changed for an English constitution, stuffed with the dung of human rites and Popish ceremonies; after long experience, the consequents are like to be very dreadful; our national engagements are condemned, and spoken against, by not a few; the oath of God is despised; faithful testimonies are derided, witnessing {2} work is scorned at by very many.  By the present constitution, our noble cause lies unasserted, our defections uncondemned, by those in civil and ecclesiastic authority.  Our blo[od] sins, with the guilt of perjury, still lie unlamented, according to [..] order: By reason of these things, the Lord’s hand is still stretched out for our correction and punishment.

Our sins have ascended, even to the usurpation of the Redeemer’s supremacy, his headship, and the rights of his church; this supremacy assumed by all in power, is the fountain of all our publick defections, is sinfully exercised by patrons, from the act of patronage church men in office embrace this evil, and improve it as their privilege, and to their own advantage; but to the grief of the godly, [and] the great oppression of the Lord’s heritage against the Lord himself.

Our love to truth, and sound principles, is waxed cold; [our] zeal for a testimony is quenched; our knowledge of divine things vitiated; ignorance of gospel truths, and reformation-attainments is pleasing, and become very satisfying to many: For the same [rea]sons, the present generation seems to be under hardened opp[osi]tion against all that can be said to them from the Lord’s w[ord] which is opposition and rebellion against the Lord himself.  O[ur] church divisions, seem to be the product of our national defections and breach of covenant long persisted in; some flatly deny[ing] creeds, confessions, and covenants, or any certain form of church government to be divine; and some chuse and refuse these things as the circumstances of the times turns out matters to their world[ly] advantage.

Our defections have even corrupted our notions of the gosp[el,] the gospel covenant, and the doctrines of the Mediator in relati[on] to both: Christ is like to be divided practically in his works a[nd] truth as our Redeemer; in his obedience, in his righteousness, and [in] his death, which is really the case, till he be received in his pers[on] and truths wholly, with the whole heart: even his graces, his [of]fices, and the different necessary operations of the Spirit escape [not] the pulpit censure of the moral preacher, in the heat of his mo[ral] harangues, by which means the stomachs and appetites of le[gal] professors are stagnate with sour leaven of Arian, Socinian, Arminian, and Pelagian errors: Errors issuing from the teeming {3} [w]omb of an unbounded wicked toleration, emitted by the state, [an]d keenly caressed by the church, while better principles, the mo[the]r of better doctrine and practices, lie in oblivion under the bu[ria]l of parliamentary laws, acts, and deeds.

The different societies of professing Christians seem to be sadly [d]efiled with the effects of our defections from the work of God: Daily are we growing worse in practice; the sins of heathens seem [t]o be ours by adoption; the tables of the law, the sincere Christi[a]n’s mark of purity, are broken assunder, in the commission almost [o]f all kinds of sins and immoralities; even the self-moralist, satisfied with a rational religion, seems to exceed very far the right rules of religion and reason, in relation both to religion and mo[r]ality.  How awful is the prevalence of sin among all ranks in civil things, trade, and commerce?  Is not religion exposed to reproach by the guile, deceit, and lying false-hood of the professor?  The immoderate freedom in diversion and recreation, to the encouragement of vice and sinful pastimes are too much in vogue among many; sacred things, that should adorn our practice every day, are sore wounded and blemished; sanctuary defilement, sabbath profanation are gone out from the prophets of Jerusalem through the whole land; false religion is upon the advance, at home and abroad, under the sanction of the supreme power in these nations: All sorts of professors, seem to be too much connected with the ways of the generation, and religion visibly upon the decline, such as our zeal, our faithfulness, our tenderness; how unfaithful are we under the means of grace and gospel ordinances?  religious fellowship among the saints is much neglected; the jars, the discords and peevish contentions among the godly bespeak their love to be waxing cold; families and private persons, are losing their diligence and sensibly withering; their delight in duties is also abated: How many are forgetting their original engagements, and neglecting to renew them formally in their own persons, by faith on a risen Christ?  To such the voice of Christ is, Strengthen the things that remain, and are ready to die: For thy works are not perfect before me.  Our imperfection in duties, in attainments, in graces, in success and victory over sin, temptations, and soul enemies, should zealously impel us to study the life and practice of commanded duties, especially {4} this call is to ourselves and others, bearing a name and place in the Church of God.  Meanwhile, let such having power with God in prayer, or otherwise, sympathise and pity those that have no religion, or abuse the profession of it.

In fine, through the whole of the intended work, the Presbytery enjoin the following requests,—That we should review the continued presages of divine wrath against these nations, and its guilty inhabitants:—That we should still remember our base ingratitude, under heaven’s patience, while the Lord defers deserved judgments, and in the midst of wrath remembers mercy:—That we should offer the sacrifice of thanksgiving for his rich benefits, and great favours, to his servants and people hitherto, in the course of their ministerial and witnessing work, especially in, and at solemn times, before a sinful, and an adulterous generation.—Oh!  Let us not soon forget his great and might works.—He hath also spoken in his great and mighty judgments to the proud, yet they seem not to be afraid or humbled.  Our temporal mercies during the summer and harvest season, are fruits of benign providence, yet the anger of our God may be seen by his various threatenings, though he hath mercifully preserved our food, and not taken away our raiment.—Our causes for mourning, are mixed with great causes of singing grateful songs to our heavenly Benefactor.

For the above causes mentioned, with many others formerly assigned by the Presbytery, in their printed papers, for the same end and exercise, the Presbytery appoint Thursday the eight day of January next to be observed by themselves, and the people of their charge, sincerely beseeching them to cry earnestly by prayer, in the exercise of faith and gospel repentance, to the God of faith and prayer,—That he may grant the remission of all guilt, the pardon of all sin, and deal with us as if we had not sinned against him:—That he may turn again in new covenant mercy, avert our ruin by the judgments we justly deserve, and yet love us freely in the blood of atonement, which cleanseth from all sin and unrighteousness.

The Presbytery appoint ministers and preachers to read these causes the Sabbath immediately preceding, with suitable exhortations.

Extracted by

WALTER GRIEVE, Pr. Cls.