Judgment is turned away backward, and justice standeth afar off: for truth is fallen in the street, and equity cannot enter.—Isaiah 59.14.

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A     c     t

Of the

Reformed Presbytery,

Appointing

THURSDAY, December 23. 1779,

To be observed

As a Fast,

With the CAUSES thereof.

ACT for a FAST, &c.

AT Edinburgh the first day of December, one thousand seven hundred and seventy nine years; which day and place the Presbytery being met; and taking under their consideration, that the many alarming signs of the Lord’s anger with this generation, which have been long observable, are still continued and increasing; in the great restraint of the Spirit and little success of the gospel; in the prevalence of discord and division in church society, with many entanglements resulting therefrom; and in the destructive American war, with these national embarrassments which have followed upon it: While the most part of people seem to be given up to deep insensibility, so that few have any proper discerning of the righteous hand of God in these calamities: And especially, considering the manifold sins and provocations for which the Lord may justly, not only continue, but add to his judgments upon us; Do therefore find themselves called, together with the people of their concern, to be humbled before the Lord, on account of the many causes of his righteous controversy.    Particularly,

I. The great prevalence of an atheistical spirit, evidencing itself in a general contempt of God and of all religion.  Many live as if they were not at all accountable for their actions, and are at open defiance with reproof.  Infidels with respect to a divine government, they breathe the same disposition of mind with that impious king, who said, “Who is the Lord, that I should obey his voice?” [Exod. 5.2.]  They sit in the scorner’s chair, and religion, with all its concerns, is turned to ridicule by them: Having thrown off all restraint from the fear of God, they give themselves to the dominion of their {4} lusts, and their wickedness is aggravated by the extreme audacity with which it is committed.

II. The light account which is made of the gospel and gospel institutions.  The doctrine of Christ crucified, which presents the only relief to perishing sinners, and the sole ground of true comfort, with all the ordinances for communion with him, are sunk into much disesteem.  Under the long continuance of these privileges, peoples minds are fallen off from any just value for them.  They are become common and indifferent things in their eyes.  The cares of this life, the deceitfulness of riches, and the love of pleasures, take off their attention from the gospel and ordinances of Christ, so that they neither see their importance, nor feel their efficacy.

III. The corruption of divine ordinances by the mixtures and substitutions of human inventions.  An unwarrantable supremacy over the church has been vested in the Crown, and an uninstituted Prelacy has long been established in the greater part of these kingdoms.  The ordinance of church-discipline has been much neglected, when loudly called for to make a proper separation between the holy and profane; it has also, in frequent instances, been greatly misapplied for suppressing a necessary testimony for truth.  Gross corruptions of doctrine have also taken place through the lands, and many dangerous errors have been disseminated.  The ordinance of the ministry is also corrupted as to the entry thereto, by setting aside the call of the church, and substituting in the room thereof, the call of men of landed property (a description which has no place in the kingdom of Christ) and of the elders, who, by the word of God, can claim no exclusive prerogative in this affair.

IV. Much untenderness, and hurtful rashness, in {5} giving and taking offences; the sinful nature and dangerous consequences of which are but little considered; while thereby not only the injunctions which Christ has given to his disciples are trampled upon, but great alienations of heart are produced; divisions are multiplied in Christian societies; from which proceed uncharitable censurings and injurious reproaches, to the extinguishing of any remains of that regard, which ought to subsist among the followers of the Lord; and the kindling of a spirit of rancour and animosity, whereby they become as thorns and briars to one another; their mutual usefulness is lost; their hands are weakened in the work of the Lord, and their comfort and success marred, to the great prejudice of the interest of religion.

V. The abounding of gross immoralities against every precept of the divine law.  Iniquities of every form and aggravation have long been prevailing in the lands, and still continue to gain ground, so that the earth is defiled under the inhabitants thereof.  The laws and authority of God are trampled upon, while men follow the impulses of their own corrupt nature.  The holy name of God is greatly dishonoured by customary and unnecessary swearing, perjury and blasphemy.  The Sabbath, which the Lord has sanctified, is dreadfully profaned, by turning it into a time of worldly business, carnal conversation and diversion.  The duties which men owe to one another in their several places and relations, are not only neglected but counteracted.  Wrath, hatred, enmity, and malice are often to be observed, both in their more secret and open effects.  Luxury is arrived at a surprizing height.  Theatrical entertainments, which have so great a tendency to poison the mind, and banish every serious impression from it, are become extremely common.  Drunkenness and uncleanness are so frequent, that a sense of their criminality with many is almost extinct.  Oppression and injustice, {6} backbiting and slandering have spread their infection far, and have contributed not a little to furnish matter of dishonour to the professors of religion themselves.

VI. That the Lord’s gracious appearances for these nations, in recovering them out of darkness, by the light of his gospel, bringing them under solemn covenant-engagements to himself, and raising them to a distinguished pitch of reformation, are now much despised and forgotten, together with the guilt contracted by shedding the innocent blood of those who stood forth as witnesses for the same; and a gradually increasing defection from reformation principles, gives a melancholy view of what is likely to be the issue, under the righteous judgments of God, for restoring the impressions of his government on the minds of men, and convincing them that it is an evil thing and a bitter to depart from him.

VII. The encouragements given of late to Popery by the British government in establishing that religion or rather that Mystery of Iniquity, in the extensive country of Canada, and authorizing the free exercise thereof in England and Ireland: Whereby an opportunity is given, for the emissaries of Rome to propagate their delusions, and to set up the kingdom of Antichrist again the British dominions; than which nothing can have a more visible tendency to bring the wrath of God on these kingdoms, to their ruin both in respect of their spiritual and temporal interests.

VIII. Deep security under the many evidences of the Lord’s controversy: While he cries to us in his word, declaring his displeasure against the courses of iniquity which have been pursued, and has, especially of late years, been contending against us by his providence; men are deaf to his voice, and consider not his {7} works, nor regard the operation of his hands; and flattering themselves that they shall have peace, though they walk in the ways of their own hearts, and in the sight of their eyes, [Eccl. 11.9]; they lay themselves open to still more alarming visitation.

IX. That the liberalities of divine providence, which have been extended to us, notwithstanding of our manifold provocations, have been, and still are greatly misimproven and abused.  In place of being allured to return to the beneficent Author of all the good things which we enjoy, and to employ the blessings of his providence in his service; these are generally applied for the gratification of pride, covetousness and sensuality.  Men do not consider of themselves as accountable for what they have received, and hence act as absolute proprietors of the benefits conferred upon them.  Insensible that they hold all from the divine bounty, they do not lay to heart what they owe thereto, and thereby provoke God to curse their blessings.

X. That many rest in a form of godliness, without the power thereof. [2 Tim. 3.5.]  The presence of Christ by his Spirit, and the discoveries of his glory, are but little sought after, either in the public or private institutions of religion.  A life of faith on the Son of God is not attended to, and the practical influence of the truth not experienced; but men rest in a name to live, while they are dead. [Rev. 3.1.]  They are outer-court worshippers, who perform several external duties, with hearts unengaged to the Lord.

For all which, and other causes that might be assigned, the Presbytery appoint, that Thursday the twenty third of December instant, be observed as a day of humiliation with fasting, by the people under their inspection; that they may join together in supplication to the throne of grace; that the Lord may be pleased {8} to forgive our manifold offences against him, and to remove from us the tokens of his anger.  That he may return to his servants and people, by an abundant outpouring of his Spirit, and give efficacy and success to his ordinances; that he may heal the breaches among the professors of his name, and make them as one stick in his hand, [Ezek. 37.19]; that he may interpose in the present embarrassed state of national affairs, to restore the impressions of his own government, and bring order out of confusion in his own good time.  That he may appear in the present American contest, and in the extensive war which is commenced in consequence thereof, and prevent an unnecessary expense of human blood, by a just and honourable peace.  That he may overthrow the interests of the Man of sin every where through the world, and disappoint every attempt for the reviving that interest in these lands.  That he may hasten the glory of the latter days, and the gathering of the Jews, with the greater fulness of the Gentiles, into his church. ——— On this occasion, the divine goodness to these sinful nations, is also to be acknowledged with thankfulness, in the late very favourable season; in frustrating an attempt for authorizing Popery in this country, and in restraining a foreign sword from entering into the bowels of these kingdoms.

And the Presbytery appoint the above causes to be read by the several ministers thereof, and probationers under their inspection, from the pulpit, the Sabbath immediately preceding, with suitable exhortations.

Extracted by

DAVID ARNOT, Pr. Cls.