And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony.—Rev. 12.11.

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An Outline of the Act, Declaration, and Testimony

First Published by the Reformed Presbytery of Scotland, 1761;

As it was Re-Published by the Reformed Presbytery in America, 1876.

[ Here Collected by Jeremy T. Kerr ]

The following outline of the Reformed Presbytery of Scotland’s Act, Declaration, and Testimony for the Whole of our Covenanted Reformation was prepared as marginal notes while reading with my older children as Sabbath-afternoon instruction from August 2016 to June 2018.  The document is otherwise known as the “Ploughlandhead Testimony” or “Original Testimony” of the Covenanter Church.  It will hold a special place in the interest of Covenanters and affairs of the Reformed Presbyterian Church so long as it retains this advantage above all subsequent Testimonies: that it comprehends so much of the original doctrine, spirit, and outlook of the suffering martyrs of the 1660s to 1680s, and of the reformers of the second reformation period.

As the declarations and testimonies which preceded it,—and as the Scottish and Irish R.P. testimonies continued to do for a long time,—this Act, Declaration, and Testimony, also incorporates elements of history and argument with the doctrines for which it contends, so that their proper application is not left obscure or arbitrary, and so that nothing should be missing from what would really constitute a Testimony on behalf of the cause of Jesus, and in opposition to his adversaries.  It does not present a “contest about words” or even a mere assertion on the proper formulation of doctrine.  Rather it delineates the character of Christ’s friends and his enemies, and proceeds to name and convict the parties.  Nothing less was called for then, and nothing less is called for now, when so many have turned their back on King Jesus, and his adversaries deceitfully seduce unwary souls to join them in their rebellion against the King of kings and Lord of lords.

It should be noted that as this outline was prepared from the 1876 edition of the Testimony, some parts of it contain supplements or additions not in the original 1761 text.  These sections are marked in parentheses, and also set in distinct colors of dark-blue and dark-green.  The black text (with slightly-colored links) represents original content, and dark-blue represents additions by the Reformed Presbytery of Scotland in 1797.  The dark-green text relates to the supplements of the Reformed Presbytery in America, a body of Covenanters who from 1840 and forward were convicted that they should stand separate from the two larger church bodies bearing the Reformed Presbyterian name, in order to be faithful to principles and obligations represented in this Testimony, as well as a more consistent church discipline.  It should be noted that although the American RPCNA early adopted a testimony of a very different structure and content, yet from 1807 and for many years after, approval of the Scottish Testimony was required in the RPCNA as part of the ordination vows for all Elders.

One of the doctrines most conspicuous in the text, and which will stand forth below, is the Reformed Presbytery’s opposition to all claims of political or civil authority, within a Christianized land, where the constitution has a character at opposition to the Word of God, and puts men in office who lack the essential qualifications of rulers.  In this they agree, reason, and act, in perfect harmony with the Covenanters before them.  In the suffering times, their Declaration of 1685 and their Informatory Vindication of 1687, both represent the same conviction.  In America also, this application of principles prevailed among Reformed Presbyterians from their first settlement through the first half of the 1800s, and is well stated in their Testimony relative to the U.S. Constitution.

No doubt, the disorders of our day call for the Christian’s diligent attention to fundamental matters of doctrine, such as the person of Christ and nature of the Gospel, and to be vigorous in bringing these to the attention of friends, family, and others.  But neither should we doubt the usefulness of being well-instructed, and solidly determined, in the matters of authority, revolution, authentic unity, and the necessary character of the Church and State we are will support in the decades to come;—all which find ample treatment in the document outlined below.  They who neglect these things set a snare to their souls, and ensure that when it is time to make important decisions, they will not be ready to make correct decisions.

2021.10.01::JTK


Certification from 1876 American Reformed Presbytery.

  • One short statement about what is included in 1876 edition.

Introduction

  • Brief History of the Presbytery’s efforts in preparing a Testimony
  • Six Reasons stated for Publishing this Testimony at this time
  • Intention to Testify to Doctrine, Worship, Discipline, and Government of the House of God and to oppose backsliding courses in both Church and State
  • Expression of Identity with former Covenanters

Part 1: Historical Narration of the Contendings of the Church of Scotland from the beginning of the first Reformation to the Revolution.

  • Narrative of pre-Reformation times
  • Narrative of First Reformation times, early covenanting, and the Scottish National Covenant
  • Narrative of time of backsliding between the First and Second Reformations
  • Narrative of Second Reformation, renewal of the National Covenant, adopting of the Solemn League and Covenant, the work of the Westminster Assembly, the Renewal of the Solemn League and Covenant (1648.)
  • Narrative of the receiving of Charles II as king, upon conditions, the conflict between Protesters and Resolutioners, the usurpation of Oliver Cromwell, and the persecution of the Church of Scotland until the Revolution Settlement
  • A List of remarkable items from the time of persecution, in 12 points, with the contendings of faithful Presbyterians in their Publications, Declarations, Sufferings, and opposition to an Anti-christian Toleration
  • Narrative of the Efforts of the United Societies to maintain a Faithful Ministry
  • The Reformed Presbytery of Scotland’s Testimony in Favour of 3 Items:
    1. The Faithfulness of the Protesters in opposing the Public Resolutions
    2. The Conduct of those who refused subjection to Oliver Cromwell and opposed his invasion and toleration
    3. The Testimony of witnesses and martyrs from the restoration, 1660, to the revolution
  • The Reformed Presbytery of Scotland’s Testimony in Opposition to 5 Items:
    1. The Public Resolutions as a scheme of Charles II
    2. The Usurpation of Oliver Cromwell, his invasion, and wicked toleration
    3. The Restoration of Charles II, 1660
    4. Charles II’s usurpation and tyranny, especially his ecclesiastical supremacy, act rescissory, burning of the Covenants, etc.
    5. The Treachery of Covenanted lands in advancing James, duke of York, to the throne, though a professed papist.

Part 2: Testimony of Reformed Presbyterians against the Revolution Constitution of Church and State, 1689, and the Erastianism and Tyranny practiced since.

  1. Civil Constitution
    1. Strangers taken to regal authority
    2. Character of constituent members
    3. The Constitution itself
  2. Ecclesiastical Constitution
    1. Constituent Members — Justly chargeable with unfaithfulness to Christ
    2. Erastian Nature/Manner of Constitution
  3. Settlement of Religion
    1. Against Covenants
    2. Erastianism Demonstrated
    3. Civil instead of religious settlement of Religion
  4. Administration since the late Revolution
    1. Examples of Erastianism in administration of both Church and State
      1. King calling, dissolving, adjourning, and delaying assemblies
      2. Episcopal curates brought into the Church of Scotland by civil power
      3. King & Parliament prescribing conditions & qualifications for ministers of the Church
      4. Magistrate appointing days and causes of public fasting and thanksgiving
        1. Aggravation 1st: Appointed on account of wars involving conjunction with idolaters
        2. Aggravation 2nd: Manner of proclamation and Ministers’ compliance
      5. King & Parliament imposing acts & statutes upon ministers and preachers under ecclesiastical pains and censures
      6. Patronages
        1. Partially introduced in 1690
        2. Fully restored in 1712
    2. General Conclusion about Erastianism with footnote about the establishment of Popery in Quebec.
  5. Near uninterrupted opposition of Church & State to the former uniformity of religion that is now buried
    1. Incorporating Union with England (1707) founded on open violation of all terms of the Solemn League & Covenant
    2. Oaths imposed on subjects contrary to Presbyterian principles and to the covenants: Oath of Allegiance and Oath of Abjuration
    3. Toleration Act, 1712, in favour of Episcopal Clergy to all sects and heretics except popish recusants and anti-trinitarians: undermining established Church discipline; also taking away of civil pain of excommunication and no more compelling men to appear before Church judicatories
    4. Tyranny of Administration in Church & State against those who act with a regard for the covenanted reformation since the revolution
    5. Unfaithfulness in Doctrine in several instances
    6. Church & State both involve themselves in sinful associations with malignants and friendships with Idolaters: Various examples including incorporating union and George Whitefield
    • Observations about the failure of Church & State to suppress vice, etc.: Allowance of Holy Days, Stage-Plays, and other sinful entertainment
    • Conclusion about Erastianism of Church & State from which Christians must separate
    • Supplement to Part 2 about the State of Religion in Ireland (From orig. ed.)

Part 3: Consideration of the principles of the parties which have made an appearance in favor of the Reformation, including a testimony against the principles of the Secession

  1. Against the Doctrine and Constitution of the Secession Church
    • The occasional need for brethren to withstand brethren.
    • Several quotes showing the Doctrine of the Secession regarding the Magistrate
    • Four Points Summarizing Seceders’ principles
    • Four General Grounds of opposition to Seceder Principles
      1. They are contrary to the Nature of Magistracy as described in Scripture
        • Requirements for an authority that is God’s ordinance: institution & constitution
      2. They tend to be destructive of the Authority of Holy Scripture
      3. They tend to destroy the just & necessary Distinction between the Preceptive & Providential Will of God
        • Nine considerations on the consequences of not rightly maintaining this distinction:
          1. Providence becomes the Rule of Duty as much as Precept
          2. Providence becomes a complete rule without the written word
          3. Providence is seen as God’s approbative ordination equal with his revealed will
          4. Providence must be seen as either
            1. Validating all unlawful appropriations, or
            2. Uniquely those relating to civil government
          5. This implies the kingdoms of the world are obliged to submit to the dominion of the devil
          6. All resisting of the powers ordained of God will be counted lawful so long as it is successful
            • Reformed Presbytery clear that it is unlawful to reject an authority that is lawful
          7. Implies that everything done by nations, or required in Scripture, to limit and qualify who can be invested with power, is unlawful & wrong.  Then Covenant-qualifications of Parliament could never have been Right.  Even Revolution-settlement-qualifications must be rejected
            • Donald Cargill quoted against Seceder attempt to use distinction between King’s civil authority and ecclesiastical authority
          8. Contradicts approven scriptural examples which show that possession of the throne may be in one while moral power and the right to govern are in another. (p. 123.)
          9. Contradicts God’s express disallowance of some whom his providence exalted to supreme command over a people. (p. 127.)
      4. Seceder Principles are contrary to Reformation Principles and Covenant Obligations:
    • Seven Grounds of Opposition to and Testimony Against Associate Presbyterians: (pp. 132-157.)
      1. Seceder Principles are anti-government and introduce anarchy & apostasy. (p. 132.)
      2. Seceders wrong, pervert, and misapply several passages of Scripture
        1. Proverbs 24.21.
        2. Ecclesiastes 10.4.
        3. Luke 20.25.
        4. Romans 13.1-8.
        5. Titus 3.1.
        6. 1 Peter 2.13-17.
      3. Seceders Corrupt the Worship of God in the Duty of Prayer. (pp. 142-145.)[1]
      4. Treachery in Covenant by a pretended / partial Covenant Renovation
      5. Unfaithfulness & Partiality in Testimony-Bearing
      6. Sinful Terms of Communion
      7. Abuse & Tyranny in Discipline & Government
    • Conclusion: Associate Presbyterian Church Courts not lawful or rightly constitute courts of the Lord Jesus Christ
  2. Testimony against Brethren who separated from the Reformed Presbytery in favour of Universal Atonement Doctrine, 1753. (p. 157.)
  3. Testimony against those who adhered to these separatists and rejected the judicial & ministerial authority of the Reformed Presbytery. (p. 160.)

Supplement to Part 3 about Application of the Covenanted Testimony in the U.S. (From 1876 ed.)

  • Review of History of Scottish Reformed Presbytery and Testimony
  • Organization and Defection of the Presbytery constituted 1774 by Cuthbertson, Linn, and Dobbin
  • Another Presbytery organized in 1789 by M’Kinney and Gibson
  • The United Irishmen and reason Covenanters fled to America at close of 1700s
  • Preparation of Reformation Principles Exhibited for American Church
  • Church affected by correspondence with other churches and involvement in social movements
  • Nearly half of the American R.P. Church involved in New Light errors and separate in 1833
  • Contendings of a minority respecting Occasional Hearing and Voluntary Associations
  • History of RPCNA Synod 1840
  • Paper of “Preamble and Resolutions” cited as read in Synod
  • Separation of David Steele, Robert Lusk, and others in 1840
  • Presbytery organized with “Deed of Constitution” cited as done at Allegheny Town
  • Additional History of R.P. Churches in Scotland and America
  • Brief Particular Testimony against distinct parties in Six Sections
    1. First Seceders, still holding allegiance to civil powers
    2. The United Presbyterian Church formed in 1858
    3. The Reformed Dissenting Presbytery
    4. New Light Reformed Presbyterians favoring U.S. Constitution
    5. Eastern Synod in Ireland with Majority Synod in Scotland
    6. Old Light Parties in Scotland, Ireland, and America
  • Six Steps of Declension by the Old Light Party in America
  • Effects of mixed Confederacies on Old Light Church:
    1. Abolished Proclamation of Banns
    2. Practically setting aside the Rule on Occasional Hearing
    3. Holding Fellowship with Denominations they Testify Against
    4. Co-operating in “National Reform” with Prelates and others
    5. Seeking a Civil Charter to secure ecclesiastical property
  • Inconsistent views held among them about the 1871 Covenant at Pittsburgh
  • Detestable Neutrality under the name of Charity opposes proper conditions of fellowship in the Visible Church
    • It is not to be doubted that “many precious sons and daughters of the Lord Almighty” are to be found in some of the churches we must testify against
  • Defence of Reformed Presbytery from accusations of Schism, Disorder, Prowling, and Opposition to Progress
  • A Testimony must include History and Argument as well as Doctrine (Illustrated in four points)
  • Testimony stated against sinful motions for union of churches
  • Testimony stated against United States’ hardened disregard for God’s judgments by continuing in several national sins after the Civil War

Part 4: A Brief Declaration or Summary of the Principles maintained by the Reformed Presbytery concerning Doctrine, Worship, Discipline, and Government.

Of God: Short declaration on his being and the doctrine of the Trinity

Of the Holy Scriptures: Statement on the necessity and authority of the scriptures, with the scope of their contents, and usefulness to examine and try all doctrines and controversies

Of the Decrees of God: Reformed doctrine of the Decree affirmed, especially concerning three matters:

  • The final state of all intelligent beings
  • The blessing of life through Jesus Christ for a certain definite number
  • The passing-by of others, and foreordaining them to bear their just punishment

Of Creation: Two paragraphs about creation & providence, the workmanship of God, and the Covenant of Works made with Adam

Of the Fall of Man: Two paragraphs about the fall of Adam, and its effects upon his posterity, who have lost all ability to convert themselves

Of the Covenant of Grace: One paragraph summarizing the Covenant made with Christ as the second Adam, described as:

  • Absolutely free to sinners
  • A Covenant of Redemption unto Christ

Of the Mediator: Affirmation of Biblical Christology and Christ’s offices as Prophet, Priest and King; with several additional paragraphs on:

  • Christ’s proper Divinity
  • Revelation came through Christ and is now Complete
  • Christ’s Fulfillment of OT Commandments and Types
  • The Agreement between a Substitutionary Death for some and Common Favors of Life
  • Jesus Christ as King of his Church: Church Government
  • Universal Sovereignty of Christ subservient to his Special Mediatory Kingdom
  • The insufficiency of Nature’s Light to bring men to eternal felicity

Of the Gospel Offer: Distinct affirmation about the nature of the Gospel as General

  • It is an offer of Christ by the Father
  • It is the prime foundation of the Ministerial Offer
  • It is the prime foundation of Faith in the Lord Jesus

Of Justification: Two paragraphs affirming Reformation doctrine of Justification with caveats relating to post-reformation controversies:

  • The active and passive obedience of Christ are together the cause of the sinner’s acceptance
  • Faith is the condition of the sinners interest in Christ, or an instrumental cause of Justification
  • Justified believers are entirely delivered from the Covenant of Works
  • Believers are still under the Moral Law as a rule of life
  • Unbelievers are still under Old Covenant obligation

Of Good Works: Affirmation of the Orthodox Protestant Doctrine of Good Works

  • Which works are spiritually good
  • The proper motive of Love to God and acceptable obedience: Not self-interest
  • Actions arising from love to our own bliss are evidences of saving grace

Of Assurance of Grace: Assurance affirmed as in Westminster Confession

  • Believers may have obstacles to their Assurance
  • No doubting or darkness is found in acts of a true faith
  • Objective Assurance in saving faith distinguished from Subjective Assurance

Of the Perseverance of the Saints

  • All who have been saved, were saved through Faith in Jesus
  • The Grace of Faith can be clouded but not subverted
  • Grounds & Reasons why the grace of Faith cannot be totally lost

Of Liberty of Conscience

  • The nature of man’s Conscience and its Freedom
  • The Rights & Liberties which Conscience does not give or possess
  • Civil laws to tolerate the propagation of Error are Condemned

Of Testimony Bearing

  • The Believer’s Communion with Christ & Covenant relation obliges him to abide by Christ’s Standard
  • All subjects of the Lord Christ must be faithful in respect to the Truths they have received & professed
  • It is sinful treachery to recede from any of these Truths

Of Church Government

  • Jesus has appointed the officers of his Church, who derive their authority from Him alone
  • Church officers are intrusted with the keys of doctrine, government, discipline, and ordination
  • Presbyterial Church Government is the only form warranted by Christ
  • Church officers may assemble church courts by the authority Christ has given them
  • Magistrates may call church courts to assemble: circumstances explained
  • The importance of qualifications for church officers

Of Civil Government

  • The Ends of Civil Government as a Divine Institution
  • Scriptural Qualifications and legal stipulations essential to the investing of officers with lawful authority over a christian people
  • Principles concerning civil government and the relation between rulers and people
  • The Obligation of people to their rulers
  • The Duties of civil rulers relating to Religion and the Church

Of Corruptions in the two Preceding Ordinances

  • Several Errors related to Magistracy and Ministry must be Rejected:
    1. Open Communion with those ignorant, corrupt in life, or corrupt in practice
    2. The Opinion of those who deny the institution of Civil and Ecclesiastical Government is to be found in the Revealed Will of God
      1. As the Revolution Church allows the government of the house of God to be re-moulded as if it were indifferent
      2. As the Seceders allow for the light of nature or election of men to be a sufficient basis for civil government
    3. Ecclesiastical Headship of the Pope, all Hierarchy, and the Civil power of Church officers
    4. Ecclesiastical Headship of the Civil Magistrates
    5. Erastian Qualifications and Limitations for Ecclesiastical Officers
    6. Erastian Modeling of Church Government ~ “The Claim of Right”
    7. The Opinion that Christ has appointed no particular Form of Church Government
    8. The Sectarian principles of Independency and Congregationalism
    9. The System of Patronage
    10. The Opinion that the Ordinance of Magistracy is founded in the Light of Nature rather than the Moral Law
    11. The Opinion that unchristian magistrates are lawful in a Christian land
    12. The Notion that all Providential Magistrates are Preceptive, or possess an authority arising from the Preceptive will of God
    13. The Principle that Christians ought to acknowledge every civil authority organized in God’s providence, regardless of its opposition to the precept of God’s word
      • Reject whatever justly and in its own nature implies a voluntary and real acknowledgment of antiscriptural government constituted upon the ruins of the covenanted reformation
      • Particular actions they testify against are named, such as praying for success and prosperity to these in their present state — (See details)
      • Distinctions to define what paying of tribute and taxes is considered sinful under such circumstances
      • Testify against voluntary subjection to such powers for conscience sake, as the ordinance of God
      • Presbyterian Covenanters are no longer a free people enjoying historic privileges, but an oppressed people under a conqueror
      • State and Condition of Covenanters like that of the time of Persecution
      • Relation between a People and a Magistrate requires Mutual Voluntary Consent
      • Distinction stated between actions which do, or do not, imply consent to opposition to the Covenanted Reformation
      • Footnote further explaining and defending distinctions, and in what circumstances a Christian may make self-defence at law
    14. Ministerial and Church Communion with (1) Unqualified, (2) Usurpers, and (3) Apostates
      • Countenancing their administrations
      • Paying tithes and dues to curates
      • Paying tithes as a New Testament institution

Of Oaths and Vows

  • Oaths and Vows are part of Religious Worship warranted in the New Testament
  • Only those lawful for both the Matter and Manner are warrantable
  • Who should Administer Oaths
  • Concerning oaths of Allegiance and Fidelity
  • All Oaths of Allegiance now in being are testified against
  • Against Unlawful and Superstitious forms of Swearing
  • Against Unnecessary and Reiterated swearing of Oaths as Profane
  • Against Free Masons and their superstitious oath
  • Covenanting with God in Christ is a Duty of the Old and New Testaments
  • Such Covenants are Inviolably Binding
  • The Solemn League and National Covenants are of divine authority
  • These Covenants include the Posterity of Ancestors who swore them
  • These Covenants are Perpetually Binding upon the nations with every individual
  • Testify against those who who deny the lawfulness of National Covenanting
  • Testify against all principles and practices conflicting with the Moral Obligation of these Covenants

Conclusion

  1. Testimony approving former Steps of Reformation
  2. Explanation and Vindication of WCF 23.4
    • The wrong sense rejected
    • A better understanding asserted
  3. Testimony approving former Contendings
  4. Rejection of the Testimony of Associate Presbytery as inadequate
  5. Rejection of William Dunnet, usurper of ministry
  6. The Glory of God our Motive in publishing a Judicial Testimony
  7. Invitation to others to Set about Public Reformation, and Rebuild the House
  8. A Ground of Hope drawn from Jeremiah 51.5
  9. Invitation to join a Faithful Testimony for Interest of Zion’s King
  10. A Prayer collected from Psalm 80.14-19, Psalm 68.1, and Judges 5.31

Addenda (From 1797 ed.)

  • Some details of history about the legislative decisions increasingly showing favor to Papists in England and Ireland
  • English government again leaguing themselves with Popish despots for military purposes
  • Emigrants received into Britain as if suffering for cause of true Christianity
  • Episcopal dignitaries extol the Popish clergy as if men of piety
  • How the conquest of Corsica involves the Crown of England in Established Romanism
  • Answers to Arguments used to Justify Britain’s involvement in affairs of France and Corsica
  • Caveat stated to distinguish the non-participation, non-support, not countenancing, and due restraining of Romanism from crusade against Catholics
  • Summary of particulars testified against in the matter of Corsica
  • Historic not about the continued need for this Testimony

Supplement to Part 4 including six brief Doctrinal Statements concerning (From 1876 ed.)

  1. Free Agency of man and his accountability
  2. The Christian’s duty toward the church of Christ
  3. When Separation is Lawful
  4. Use of the Book-of-Psalms adopted by the Church of Scotland
  5. Conduct required by a Christians Allegiance to King Jesus
  6. Secret Oath-bound Societies

Terms of Ministerial and Christian Communion (From 1876 ed.)

  1. God’s Word the Rule of Faith and Practice
  2. The whole Doctrine of the Westminster Confession and Catechisms
  3. Divine Right of Presbyterian Government and Worship
  4. Covenanting and Obligation of Covenants: Reference Auchensaugh 1712
  5. Faith Contendings and Testimony-Bearing: Reference ADT 1761
  6. Practical Christianity in a blameless walk

Queries to be put to Candidates for Ordination (From 1876 ed.)

  1. Concerning the Scriptures
  2. Concerning the Doctrine of the Westminster Confession and Catechisms
  3. Concerning Presbyterian Church Government
  4. Concerning Perpetual Obligation of our Covenants
  5. Concerning Contendings of Martyrs and Testimony of Presbytery
  6. Concerning Motivations for undertaking Church Office
  7. Concerning Promises of Personal and Public Duties
  8. Concerning Subjection to Judicatories, the Doctrine and Order (already) Adopted, and Fraternal Counsel and Admonition

Footnotes:

1. This corruption concerns the dutiful-like praying for men as God’s ordinance, and his servants, who are rather his enemies.  Besides the discussion in the Act, Declaration, and Testimony on this topic, the reader may find it handled by other Reformed Presbyterian ministers, such as William Steven in his Answers to Twelve Queries, 1794, pp. 14-27, and James Douglas in his Strictures on Occasional Hearing, 1817 / 1820, Appendix 2.—JTK.