Church Government - Separation, Unity, Uniformity, etc.

Francis Turretin

From: Institutes of Elenctic Theology, vol. 3, p. 49 (see pages 47-57 in this same volume for much more Scripture proof on this point).

Proof That the Church is Often Obscured: From the Condition of the Old Testament Church.

Our opinion is confirmed by various reasons. The first is drawn from the condition of the church under the Old Testament, under which it is evident that she was not rarely obscured and destitute of all splendor (which can easily be demonstrated by her various intervals). Who can deny that she was without splendor before the flood, when all flesh had corrupted its way (Gen. 6:12), and in the flood when reduced to eight souls, she was included in the ark? In the time of Abraham before his call from Ur of the Chaldees, she lay concealed in a paternal family given to idolatry (Jos. 24:1, 2). What was the splendor of the church in Egypt, where she was so long a captive without any form either of a state or of a sacred ministry? What was her splendor under the judges, when after the death of Joshua the Israelites, having left the God of their fathers, went after other gods (Jdg. 2:7; 3:8, 12), concerning which times Azariah says, "Now for a long season Israel hath been without the true God, and without a teaching priest, and without law" (2 Ch. 15:3)? What appearance and splendor did the church have in the time of Elijah, when he thought that he was left alone to worship God (1 K. 19:10); God in the meantime consoling him with this-that he had preserved seven thousand believers known to himself alone who had not bowed the knee to Baal? What splendor had the Jewish church under Ahaz, Manasseh, Ammon and other wicked kings under whom the sacrifice was interrupted by law, the gates of the temple closed, an altar built after the form of those of Damascus by Uriah the high priest and idolatry introduced everywhere (as we read in 2 K. 16:11, 12, 14; 2 Ch. 28:3, 4, 24, 25)? And if we come down to the Babylonian captivity, where was the splendor of the church after the city had been razed, the temple polluted, the sacred vessels taken away, sacrifice abolished, the worship of God interrupted (which could not be performed except at Jerusalem) and the people brought into the most direful servitude? Hence the pious most mournfully lamented that the prophets and all the signs had been taken away (Ps. 74:9). In fine, what appearance and prominence could the church have had under the most dreadful persecutions of Antiochus and his successors, mentioned in the book of Maccabees and by Josephus (JW 1.30-40 [Loeb, 2:16-23]). In that time, Paul says believers "were stoned...were slain with the sword...being destitute...tormented, they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; in deserts, and in mountains and in caves of the earth" (Heb. 11:37, 38).


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"The Reformed View of Schism" by Andrew Clarkson
The Reformers often said "that to avoid schism we must separate." This should give the perceptive reader some indication of how badly misunderstood the biblical teaching regarding schism and separation (which should be differentiated in many ways) has become in our day. Sadly, some of the most anti-Reformed work on this subject has been written by contemporary individuals, who, though calling themselves Reformed, "understand neither what they say, nor whereof they affirm" (1 Tim. 1:7)should contribute much to correcting the promotion of unbiblical ecumenism and place this doctrine back on its Scriptural foundation -- which was recovered during the Reformation. Clarkson cites Beza, Rutherford, Gillespie, Dickson, Durham, McWard (Rutherford's "disciple"), Marshal, Watson, Owen, Burroughs, and many others, while defending the truth about schism. Objections brought against the Reformation view of schism are also carefully answered. This is probably the single best short treatment of this subject. Free at:

Other Related Reformation Resources:

The Divine Right of Presbyterianism
Versus the Sin of the Independent Church Government
(and John Owen Represbyterianized) Super Sale

Westminster Confession of Faith Super Sale

Covenanter Sale

Reformed Presbytery (RPNA, Covenanters)
(reconstituted after 113 years) Super Sale

Puritan Bookshelf CD Series Super Sale

Reformation Bookshelf CD Series Super Sale

Doctrinal Integrity: The Utility and Importance of Creeds and Confessions and Adherence to Our Doctrinal Standards by Samuel Miller

The Covenanted Reformation Defended Against Contemporary Schismatics: A Response and Antidote Primarily to the Neopresbyterian Malignancy and Misrepresentations, and the Manufactured "Steelite" Controversy, Found in Richard Bacon's A Defense Departed; With a Refutation of Bacon's Independency, Popery, Arminianism, Anabaptism and Various Other Heresies (Including an Exhibition of His Opposition to Scripture and the Covenanted Reformation, in General; and His Opposition to John Calvin, John Knox, the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland [Especially 1638-1649], Samuel Rutherford, George Gillespie, the Testimony of the Covenanter Martyrs, the Reformed Presbytery, the Puritan Reformed Church of Edmonton and a Host of Other Prominent Reformers from Past Generations, in Particular) -- With Copious Notes on Mr. Bacon's Backsliding and His Blackening of the Blue Banner; as Well as Various Replies to Other Modern Malignants by Greg Barrow (Greg Price, Reg Barrow, Larry Birger, et al.) (Though set in the context of a debate with one individual, this book addresses a number of specific problems which plague the Presbyterian and Reformed churches of our day in general. "It conclusively and irrefutably demonstrates that those churches which today call themselves Presbyterian [and even many which claim a more general Reformed heritage] have grievously departed from the Scriptural standards and principles of the previous Spirit led Reformations [of the 16th and 17th centuries]. This will become progressively [and painfully] clear as the reader witnesses evidence upon evidence of defection from biblically based Reformation attainments (Phil. 3:16) -- and the burying and/or removing of the ancient Reformation landmarks. Ultimately, when the testimony and evidence [presented in this book] is weighed in light of Scriptural verities, it is entirely safe to say that the original Reformers would not only have sought negative ecclesiastical sanctions against our modern pseudo-Reformers, but in many cases negative civil sanctions as well," writes Reg Barrow in the "Publisher's Preface." This book, of over 300 [8.5" X 11"] pages, is also offered as a cerlox bound photocopy [$14.98 US funds] or a Hardcover photocopy [$25.00 US funds]. It is also free on most of the CDs in both the REFORMATION BOOKSHELF CD set [30 CDs, ] and the PURITAN BOOKSHELF CD set [32 CDs, ])


Sketches of the Covenanters
Stirring accounts of sacrifice and martyrdom for the Reformed Faith that will bring tears to eyes of all but the backslidden. Follows the chain of events which gave Scotland two Reformations and a Revolution. Knox, the National Covenant, the Westminster Assembly, the Field Meetings, and much more is covered. The history of great battles for Christ and His royal rights are recounted in this moving history book. Sheds much light upon the warfare with the dragon for true liberty. One of our best history books, highly recommended!


Saul in the Cave of Adullam: A Testimony Against the Fashionable Sub-Calvinism of Doug Wilson (Editor of Credenda/Agenda Magazine); and, for Classical Protestantism and the Attainments of the Second Reformation
Doug Wilson and others at Credenda/Agenda used their magazine to publicly attack and slander Reg Barrow (President of Still Waters Revival Books) in a column that they call the "Cave of Adullam." This invective was Credenda's response to Barrow's comments on Knox Ring (where Barrow noted that John Calvin would have excommunicated John Frame for the apostasy that he manifests in his new book on worship). Numerous private attempts were unsuccessfully made (by Barrow and others) to call Wilson to repentance for this slander. Ultimately, charges for violation of the ninth commandment were brought (in accord with Matt. 18:15-17) against Wilson by Barrow. This book recounts the salient points of the controversy (and disciplinary actions) between Wilson and Barrow in their actual email debates!. These debates are also a classic example of the differences that exist today between paleopresbyterians (Barrow) and neopresbyterians (Wilson). Wilson's charges against Barrow, of Anabaptism, separatism, etc. are all refuted under a mountain of quotations from Reformation source documents. Barrow's refutations of Wilson's spurious charges bring to light many aspects of Reformation thought that have been lost or forgotten in our day. Besides the initial controversy (over Frame and worship) and the restoration process (set forth in Matthew 18:15-17), this book should be of special interest to all of those who love the "old paths" of truth -- trod by our forefathers in the Reformed faith -- for some of the most pressing issues of our day (regarding the individual, church and state) are addressed herein. Classic statements, cited by Barrow, not only exhibit the wisdom which God granted the best Reformers of both the first and second Reformations, but also specifically demonstrate how Wilson and many other modern Protestants actually reject the Reformation at many points (all their protests not withstanding). "And they that shall be of thee shall build the old waste places: thou shalt raise up the foundations of many generations; and thou shalt be called, The repairer of the breach, The restorer of paths to dwell in" (Isa. 58:12). Free at:


Why the PCA is Not a Duly Constituted Church and Why Faithful Christians Should Separate from this Corrupted "Communion"
Two letters from Larry Birger, Jr. to the session of his former congregation in the PCA, with an historical introduction. Birger states, "This work is emitted by way of testimony against the defections from the reformation of the true religion granted by God in ages past, in hopes of playing some small part in the edification of God's people currently languishing under such defected and defecting denominations." It spotlights the differences between classic Presbyterian thought (paleopresbyterianism) and what today is but a pale imitation (neopresbyterianism) of the Reformation attainments that have been won (at the cost of much suffering and many lives) in the past. This is a good practical introduction to ecclesiology, testimony-bearing, and second Reformation thought.


An Informatory Vindication (1687)
"Informatory Vindication (1687), a statement of principles issued by the Society People (see Societies, United) during James VII's reign. Prepared mainly by James Renwick, latterly in consultation with Alexander Shields, it was published in Utrecht. Its full title reflects something of the contents: 'An Informatory Vindication of a Poor Wasted Misrepresented Remnant of the Suffering Anti-Popish Anti-Prelatic Anti-Erastian Anti-Sectarian True Presbyterian Church of Christ in Scotland united together in a General Correspondence. By Way of Reply to Various Accusations in Letters Informations and Conferences given forth against them.' It refuted charges brought against the 'Remnant' of schism (in their eyes a great evil)... The Vindication mourned the estrangement from other Presbyterians who had accepted the government's Indulgences or Edicts of Toleration, and expressed love for them as fellow-ministers 'with whom again we would desire to have communion in ordinances'. The separation had been forced upon the Society People by the tyranny and temper of the times, but it did not affect their position as being in the succession of the historic Kirk of Scotland. The document aimed to clear away the hostility and misunderstanding about them that had grown up in Scotland and Holland." (Cameron, ed., Dictionary of Scottish Church History and Theology [1993], p. 429) "In proof of the catholic, unsectarian, Christian spirit of Renwick and his followers, the clear statements of the INFORMATORY VINDICATION, the work which most fully and clearly defines their position, may be referred to... In these noble utterances, we have strikingly exemplified the true spirit of Christian brotherhood... This is the genuine import of the vow of the Solemn League and Covenant, which binds Covenanters to regard whatever is done to the least of them, as done to all and to every one in particular. While firmly holding fast all Scriptural attainments, and contending "earnestly for the faith once delivered to the saints," we should cordially rejoice in the evidences of grace in Christ's servants wherever we find them. We should love them as brethren, fulfil the law of Christ by bearing their burdens, wish them God speed in all that they are doing for the advancement of His glory, and fervently labour and pray for the coming of the happy period when divisions and animosities shall cease, and when there shall be one King, and His name one in all the earth. The testimony of Renwick and his associates is of permanent value and of special importance in our day, as it was directed against systems of error and idolatry, which serve to corrupt the Church and enslave the State. Against Popery in every form Renwick was a heroic and uncompromising witness. At the peril of life, he publicly testified against the usurpation of the papist James, and rejected him as having no claim to be regarded as a constitutional sovereign, and as utterly disqualified to reign in a Protestant reformed land. This was the main ground of his objection against James' toleration, for which the Indulged ministers tendered obsequious thanks to the usurper. Yet this edict of toleration was issued for the purpose of opening the way for the practice of Rome's abominations, and for the advancement of papists to places of power and trust in the nation. None of the Cameronians would, for any earthly consideration, even to save their lives, for a moment admit that a papist had any right to exercise political power in a reformed land. Our martyred forefathers we regard as worthy of high respect and imitation, for their deeply cherished dread of the growing influence of Popery, and for their determined resistance to its exclusive and extravagant claims. The system of Popery is the abnegation of all precious gospel truth; and is a complete politico-religious confederacy against the best interests of a Protestant nation. The boast of its abettors is that it is semper eadem -- ever the same. Rome cannot reform herself from within, and she is incapable of reformation from external influences and agencies. The Bible never speaks of Antichrist as to be reformed, but as waxing worse and worse till the time when he shall be completely subverted and irrecoverably destroyed. Whatever changes may be going on in some Popish countries, whereby the power of the Papacy is weakened, it is evident that the principles and spirit of the Romish priesthood, and of those who are under their influence, remain unchanged. The errors of the Antichristian system, instead of being diminished, have of late years increased. Creature worship has become more marked and general. The Immaculate Conception has been proclaimed by Papal authority as the creed of Romanism. In these countries, and some other Protestant lands, the influence of Popery in government and education, and so on the whole social system, has been greatly on the increase. Among those who have most deeply studied inspired prophecy, there is a general expectation that the period of Babylon's downfall is hastening on, and is not far distant. There is a general presentiment too, that the Man of Sin, prior to his downfall, will make some dire and violent attempt through his infatuated followers against the truth, and against such as faithfully maintain it. The 'Slaying of the Witnesses," -- which we are disposed to regard as yet future-may take place, not so much by the actual shedding of blood, though it is plain that Jesuit policy and violence will not hesitate to re-enact former persecution and massacre, to accomplish a desired purpose. It may mainly be effected, as Scott, the expositor, suggests, by silencing the voice of a public testimony in behalf of fundamental truths throughout Christendom; and of this there are at present unmistakable signs not a few, throughout the churches in various countries. The Protestant church in all its sections should be thoroughly awake to its danger from the destructive errors, idolatry and power of its ancient irreconcilable enemy; and should, by all legitimate means, labour to counteract and nullify its political influence. The ministry and the rising youth of the church should study carefully the Popish controversy, and should be intimately acquainted with the history of the rise and progress of the Papacy -- its assumed blasphemous power -- its accumulated errors and delusions, and its plots, varied persecutions and cruel butcheries of Christ's faithful witnesses. Above all, they should set themselves earnestly, prayerfully and perseveringly to diffuse the Bible and Gospel light in the dark parts of their native country, and among Romanists in other lands. By embracing fully and holding fast, in their practical application, the principles of the British Covenants, and by imbibing the spirit of covenanted martyrs -- men like Renwick and the Cameronians, we will be prepared for the last conflict with Antichrist. The firm and faithful maintenance of a martyr-testimony will be a principle instrument of the victory of truth over the error and idolatry of Rome. 'They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death,' (Rev. 12:11.) Finally -- the testimony of Renwick is valuable, as throwing light on great evils connected with systems of civil government, and with Protestant churches, and as pointing out clearly the duty of faithful witnesses in relation to them. Two great principles -- the one doctrinal, and the other practical, were essential to it, or rather constituted its whole specialty. These were -- first -- that, according to the national vows, and the reformation attainments, the whole civil polity of the nation should be conformed to the Scriptures, -- and secondly, the positive duty of distinct separation from whatever systems in the state and church that are opposed to entire allegiance to Messiah the Prince" (Houston, The Life of James Renwick, pp. 52-55). "Some of them, particularly in Scotland, loved not their lives unto death for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held. Rev. vi. 9. These refused to have communion in public ordinances not only with prelatical ministers, but even with the acceptors of indulgences or licenses from the civil power, to exercise their ministry under certain limitations. The Informatory Vindication, which certainly contains the genuine principles of church communion, held by the sufferers for the cause of Christ in that period, declares, that they could by no means own or countenance the administrations of the indulged ministers; because they considered the indulgence, in any of the forms in which it was granted by the civil power, as derived from the supremacy claimed by that power in ecclesiastical matters; as laying the office of the ministry under unwarrantable restriction; and as tending, in a great measure, to suppress and bury the covenanted reformation, cf. Informatory Vindication, Head iv." (Anderson, Alexander and Rufus; or a Series of Dialogues on Church Communion [1862], p. 294) "To the friends of evangelical truth, and the faithful witnesses for the redeemer's royal prerogatives, the services of Renwick, at the crisis in which he exercised his public ministry, were invaluable. He was eminently the man for the time. Through the influence of the unhappy Indulgence, the strict Covenanters were reduced to what they style themselves in the Informatory Vindication, a 'wasted, suffering, anti-popish, anti-prelatic, anti-erastian, anti-sectarian remnant.' By the death of Cargill and Cameron, they were left as 'sheep without a shepherd,' -- broken and scattered. Through the fierceness of persecution, and the machinations of enemies, they were in danger of falling into confusion, and of being entirely wasted and destroyed. We admire the gracious providence of God in preparing, at this particular crisis, an instrument of such rare and suitable endowments for feeding 'the flock in the wilderness,' and for unfurling and upholding so nobly the 'Banner of truth' amidst hosts of infuriated enemies. James Renwick, though a very youth when he entered on his arduous work, and trained under great outward disadvantages, had a powerful and well-cultivated mind. He was endowed with singular administrative talent, and had great tact and skill in managing men. He was an acute and logical thinker, an eloquent and attractive public speaker, and was distinguished by fertility and force as a writer. The Informatory Vindication -- his testimony against king James' toleration, with his 'Letters,' and 'Sermons and Lectures,' bear ample evidence of his sound judgment, comprehensive mind, and ability as an author. His prudence, meekness and loving disposition, combined with his sanctified zeal, and heroic courage, deservedly gave him great influence among those to whom he ministered. He was eminently fitted to be 'a first man among men.' The Lord held him in the hollow of his hand, and made him a 'polished shaft in his quiver.' The services which Renwick rendered to the Protestant cause were invaluable. He organized the scattered remnant, and imparted new life and ardour to their proceedings. He set forth clearly the principles of the 'Society people;' and in a number of able and logical papers, clearly defined their plans of action. He rendered it, in a great measure, impossible for enemies to misrepresent and accuse them falsely to the Government. He was their Secretary in their correspondence with foreign churches; and he did much to evoke the prayerful sympathy of Protestants in other lands in behalf of the victims of persecution in Scotland. The presence and influence of Renwick among the suffering Presbyterians were of the highest importance in his own day; and not to them alone, but also to the whole church of Christ in these lands, and to the constitutional liberties of the nation. So far as we can see, but for the singular power and devoted spirit of Renwick, and the firm and unyielding position which the Cameronians through him were led to assume, the cause of truth would have been completely borne down, and Erastianism, and Popery, and Despotism had triumphed. Renwick and his followers were the vanguard 'in the struggle for Britain's liberties, and for the Church's spiritual independence.' Though, like other patriots born before their time, they were doomed to fall, yet posterity owes to them a large part of the goodly heritage which they enjoy. (Houston, The Life of James Renwick [1865], pp. 36-37). Emphases added throughout the preceding quotations. This is a rare and valuable specimen of Paleopresbyterian (Covenanter) thought -- don't miss it!


Necessity of Reforming the Church (1544)
C.H. Spurgeon once said, "[t]he longer I live the clearer does it appear that John Calvin's system is the nearest to perfection." (cited in Christian History magazine, Vol. 5, No. 4). Credenda Agenda reviewed this book stating, "the relevance of Calvin's book today is exceptional. Apart from the grace of God, the human heart never changes. Men have always loved external religion, and unless God saves them, they always will. But God demands heart religion... His writing is relevant because the church today is in dire need of a similar reformation and revival. Like Calvin, some few believers today see 'the present condition of the Church... to be very miserable, and almost desperate.' Our context is different in one key respect however. The church needing reformation in Calvin's day was the tradition-encrusted church of Rome. Shortly after the Reformation, for those leaving Rome behind, two streams became apparent. One was the stream of classical Protestant orthodoxy, represented today by a handful of Gideons in their desktop publishing winevats. The other was the left wing of the Reformation - the anabaptist movement. In the early years, the anabaptists were suffering outsiders. But today the anabaptist church is the Establishment - an establishment governed by a chaos of traditions instead of biblical worship. Everywhere we look we see Christians approaching God with observances in worship which Calvin calls 'the random offspring of their own brain.'" Though this work is not an elaborate systematic presentation of the foundations of Christianity, such as Calvin's Institutes, it has still been correctly acknowledged as one of the most important documents of the Reformation. Calvin here pleads the cause dearest to his heart before an assembly perhaps the most august that Europe could have furnished in that day. It has been said that the animated style used by Calvin in this work would not lose by comparison with any thing in the celebrated "Dedication" prefixed to his Institutes. To this day, The Necessity of Reforming the Church remains a powerful weapon, both defensive and offensive, to fight the contemporary battle for Protestantism - the everlasting gospel of truth. Here, in our modern setting, we find the answers to many of the vexing questions which continue to agitate the Church. Free at:


Concerning Close Communion
An strong little book that should be considered by all those seeking the purity and peace of the church. Holds to the strict old covenanted Presbyterian position. Justifies the maintaining of the separate existence of a denomination that will faithfully testify against sin, and the excluding from the Lord's table those that do not so testify. Gives numerous examples of backsliding in regard to specific truths of Scripture. Proclaims that "the Word of God teaches unequivocally that the Commandments are equally binding." This includes the first commandment as it relates to Christ's Kingship over the nations (and dissent from immoral civil governments which will not recognize and obey Christ as King and law giver); and the second commandment concerning purity of worship (as against "all devising, counselling, using, and any wise approving, any religious worship not instituted by God Himself," such as the use of songs other than the Psalms and the Popish use of musical instruments in public worship). Maintains that violation of these commandments are grounds for barring a person from the Lord's table. Shows how close communion is nothing more than the old Presbyterian view, in keeping with the Westminster Confession of Faith and John Calvin when he stated "We are only contending about the true and lawful constitution of the church, required in the communion not only of the sacraments (which are the signs of profession) but also especially of doctrine" (John Calvin, Institutes 2.12). Also includes an excellent discussion of essentials and non-essentials, as they relate to the Lord's supper and salvation. The best short book on the Lord's supper that we have seen. Written by an RPCNA minister in large easy-to-read type.


An Explanation and Defence of the Terms of Communion, Adopted by the Community of Dissenters, etc.
Defends the inescapable necessity of creeds and confessions, while promoting a fully creedal church membership. Shows how the law of God obliges all Christians "to think the same things, and to speak the same things; holding fast the form of sound words, and keeping the ordinances as they have been delivered to us" (Col. 3:13). After laying some basic groundwork, this book proceeds to defend the six points of the "Terms of Ministerial and Christian Communion Agreed Upon by the Reformed Presbytery." These six points are the most conservative and comprehensive short statements of consistent Presbyterianism you will likely ever see. Besides the obvious acknowledgement of the alone infallible Scriptures, the Westminster Standards, and the divine right of Presbyterianism, these points also maintain the perpetual obligation of our Covenants, National and Solemn League, the Renovation of these covenants at Auchensaugh in 1712, and the Judicial Act, Declaration and Testimony emitted by the Reformed Presbytery. In short, this book sets forth adherence to the whole of the covenanted reformation, in both church and state, as it has been attained by our covenanting forefathers.

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An Explanation and Defence of the Terms of Communion, Adopted by the Community of Dissenters, etc. by Reformed Presbytery

Plain Reasons for Presbyterians Dissenting from the Revolution Church of Scotland. Also Their Principles Concerning Civil Government, and the Difference Betwixt the Reformation and Revolution Principles (1731) by Andrew Clarkson

Concerning Close Communion by W. J. McKnight

Sketches of the Covenanters (1913) by J. C. McFeeters


The Atonement of Christ by Francis Turretin

Separation, Unity, Uniformity, etc.

Church Government