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A Short View of the
Plan of Religious Reformation and Union
Adopted Originally by the Secession

The Bible is the great repository of divine truth, and the standard of what is to be believed and practiced in religion. It is the duty of the Church to bring forth the sacred treasure, to circulate it, and to preserve any part of it from being lost, debased, or deteriorated. Ever since the completing of the canon of Scripture, it has been the work of Christians, individually and as associated, to make profession of "the faith once delivered to the saints," and "earnestly to contend" for it (cf. Jude 3), in opposition to all attempts to destroy its purity or defeat its influence. That society whose religious profession is not founded on and conformable to the Scriptures can have no claim to be considered as "the house of the living God" (1 Tim. 3:15).

But while the matter, as well as the ground, of the Church's profession is properly speaking divine, the acts and modes of professing and maintaining it are necessarily human. When false and corrupt views of Christianity become general, it is necessary that confessions of the truth in opposition to them be embodied in formal and written documents, which may be known and read by all men. Vox emissa perit: litera scripta manet [a voice sent forth disappears: a written letter remains]. It is not enough that Christians confess their faith individually: to comply with divine commands, to answer to their character as church members, and the better to gain the ends in view, it is requisite that they make a joint and common confession. When the truths contained in the Word of God have been explicitly stated and declared, in opposition to existing errors, by the proper authority in a church, an approbation of such statements and declarations may be required as a test of soundness in the faith and Christian fidelity, without any unwarrantable imposition on conscience, or the most distant reflection on the perfection of Scripture.

The same arguments which justify the use of creeds and confessions will also justify particular declarations or testimonies directed against errors and corruptions prevailing in churches which still retain scriptural formularies. Those who allow the former cannot consistently condemn the latter. It is not sufficient to entitle persons to the character of faithful witnesses of Christ, that they profess a general adherence to the Bible or a sound confession of faith, provided they refuse or decline to direct and apply these seasonably against present evils. It might as well be said that the soldier has acquitted himself well in a battle, because he had excellent armor lying in a magazine, or a sword hanging by his side, although he never brought forth the armor nor drew his sword from is scabbard. The means alluded to are the unsheathing of the sword and the wielding of the armor of the Church. So far from setting aside the authority of Scripture, they are necessary for keeping a sense of it alive on the spirits of men, and for declaring the joint views and animating the combined endeavors of those who adhere to it. By explaining and applying a rule, we do not add to it, nor do we detract from its authority.

True religion, intrinsically considered, is neither variable nor local. Christianity is the same now that it was eighteen hundred years ago; it is the same in America or Tahiti as in Britain. But this is not inconsistent with varieties in the profession made of it in different ages and countries. The attack is not always made on it from the same quarter, nor directed against the same point. This must regulate the faithful contendings of the Church; and accordingly her testimony, though ever substantially the same, has beengreatly diversified in respect of its form and direction; just as a river, in its long-continued course, assumes different appearances, winds in several directions, and is seen running sometimes in a narrower and at other times in a more extensive channel.

In the New Testament we meet with frequent references to the circumstances in which the churches were placed among the adherents of Judaism or Pagan idolatry, as serving to point out and determine the peculiar duties, dangers, and temptations of Christians. The instructions, warnings, and reproofs, contained in the epistles which the Apostles addressed primarily to certain churches and individuals, bear directly on their respective circumstances, and are intermingled with numerous references to facts on which they were founded. Certain classes of false teachers and evil workers are specified; and individuals are mentioned by name, both those who had deserved well of the Church by their faithfulness and important services, and those who, by their opposition to the gospel and propagating of false doctrine, had incurred public censure or justly exposed themselves to it.

In the letters sent to the seven Asian churches, our Lord intimates that he took notice and judged of the conduct of each according to its particular and local circumstances, and not merely in reference to duties and trials common to all. "I know thy works, and where thou dwellest" (Rev. 2:13). The Church of Ephesus is praised because she "could not bear them that were evil," had tried and convicted certain persons who "said they were Apostles and were not," and had testified her hatred to "the deeds of the Nicolaitans" (cf. Rev. 2:2, 6). While the Church of Pergamos is blamed for retaining in her communion "them that held the doctrine of Balaam and of the Nicolaitans," she is commended by Christ, because she had "held fast his name and not denied his faith, even in those days wherein Antipas was his faithful martyr, who was slain among them" (cf. Rev. 2:13, 15).

There are peculiar obligations which Christians are subjected to by their birth and lot in the world; and then, and then only, can they be said to act a faithful part, when they endeavor to discharge their duty in all its extent according to their actual and relative situation. So far is it from being true, in this respect, that a religious profession ought to be disencumbered of all localities or references to the facts of a particular period or country, that, on the contrary, its due and seasonable application to these is a test of its faithfulness.

At the happy era of the Reformation, many of the grosser corruptions which had grown during the long continued defection which had preceded, were removed in several countries. And in some of these, particularly in Scotland, religion was settled on a Scriptural basis and in great purity. Had reformation been at its height in all the Protestant churches, or had that which was attained in some of them been placed beyond the danger of being changed or relinquished, there would have been no need for testimonies or contendings in the way of separation from them. Few will pretend that this is the case.

In the constitutions of some of these churches the features of the Man of Sin are but too visible, and those of them that were most renowned for beauty have given evidence of their defectibility by actually falling into decay. To rectify the one and recover the other is a work which deserves the attention and utmost endeavors of all who wish well to the interests of religion. And to accomplish these ends, in some degree within their sphere, was what those who declared a Secession from the established Church of Scotland proposed by the association which they formed, and avowed in the Testimony or Declaration of their views and intentions which they published to the world. As their object has been much misunderstood, and as mistaken, or narrow and partial notions of it have been adopted, not only by their opponents, but also by not a few of their professed friends, it may perhaps be of some use to take a cursory view of it.

Some have represented Seceders as holding a set of religious principles altogether peculiar to themselves, and have attempted, ignorantly or artfully, to set these in opposition to the principles held in common by other Christians and Protestants. Such a representation is groundless and injurious. Their profession, while it rests on the ground common to all true Protestants (the supreme authority of Scripture), embraces the general interests of Christianity, and gives them their due place and importance. Whatever others, as Christians, Protestants, or Presbyterians, profess and glory in, they vindicate as theirs too, and have embodied in their testimony. With respect to those things by which they are distinguished in principle or in practice, from other denominations of Presbyterians, and which will be called their peculiarities, they plead that these are either expressly warranted by the Word of God and the subordinate formularies of the Church of Scotland, or follow from them, as conclusions from the premises and corollaries from geometrical axioms. And they plead further that these are, in different respects, necessary to the support and the consistent maintenance of the other.

On the contrary, some late partial historians of the Secession have done injury to its cause in another way. In order to present it in a point of view more attractive to the spirit of the present age, or more congenial to their own sentiments, they have narrowed its ground, thrown some of its prominent parts into shade, and fixed attention wholly on others, which, however important in the eyes of the founders of the Secession, never occupied their entire and exclusive regards. The exertions which they made in defense of the leading doctrines of the gospel, and the rights of the Christian people, are too well known to stand in need of empty panegyric; and those do little honor to their memory who deal in this, while they disparage or throw a veil over their contendings in behalf of a great and extensive cause of which these formed but a part.

When it appeared that there was no reasonable prospect of the grounds of their separation being removed, and of their being able to return conscientiously into the bosom of the established Church, the Seceding ministers found it their duty to dispense divine ordinances to those through the country who labored under the same grievances with themselves. But they did not act on the limited principle, afterwards adopted by another society, of merely affording relief to those who felt galled and oppressed by the yoke of Patronage. Nor did they think that they could discharge the duty which, as ministers of Christ and of the Church of Scotland, they owed to the existing and subsequent generations, if they confined their endeavors to the promoting of what immediately concerned the spiritual interests of those who might place themselves under their ministerial and judicial inspection.

They felt that there was a public cause, and more general and extensive interests, which had a claim upon them. They, along with the people adhering to them, had, for a series of years, been testifying, in communion with the established Church, against a variety of evils deeply affecting the interests of religion, or, as they express it in their Deed of Secession, "a course of defection from our reformed and covenanting principles." Finding themselves now placed in a new situation, and in the possession of greater liberty than they had formerly enjoyed; looking around them on the religious state of the Church and nation with which they were connected; and taking into serious consideration the manifold obligations under which they lay; they judged themselves called, "in the course of sovereign and holy providence, to essay the revival of reformation," and to employ all the means competent to them for advancing this work. In prosecution of this design they published their Judicial Testimony and other official papers, settled the terms of their communion, and regulated their public managements.

The object proposed by the founders of this association was of a precise and definite kind. As they did not push themselves forward, nor put their hand to a work of such difficulty, without being satisfied of the call which they had to engage in it, nor propose to do more for its advancement than providence might put in their power, and lay within their sphere as an ecclesiastical body; so they did not conceal the objects which they aimed at, nor leave the world in any doubt as to their nature and extent. It was a specific reformation which they proposed. They did not come forward in the suspicious character of general reformers, who would not avow what they intended to pull down, and did not know what they would build up in its room. They did not plan a reform according to a scheme of principles of their own. Nor was it their object to overturn that church which had lately driven them from its communion. But they appeared as a part of the Church of Scotland, adhering to her reformed constitution, testifying against the injuries which it had received, seeking the redress of these, and pleading for the revival of a reformation, attained, according to the Word of God, in a former period, approved by every authority in the land, and ratified by solemn vows to the Most High. Without right views of this Reformation it is impossible to understand the Secession Testimony; and disaffection to the former, in proportion to the degree in which it prevails, necessarily implies a dereliction of the latter.

The same principles which led our fathers in Scotland to free themselves from the tyranny and corruptions of Rome induced their successors to cast off the imposed yoke of a Protestant hierarchy, and to rid themselves of the abuses which it had brought along with it. When they associated for this purpose, they needed only to renew the covenant by which Popery had been first abjured, with a few slight explications and accommodations of its language to their existing circumstances. It is not, therefore, needful for me to go farther back than the Second Reformation, as it is usually called, which took place between the years 1638 and 1650, and which embodied, in its proceedings and settlement, all the valuable attainments of the First Reformation, and carried them to a greater extent. These included summarily: the revival of the purity of doctrine, which had been corrupted by Popish errors introduced under the new garb of Arminianism; of the purity of worship, which had been depraved by the imposition of foreign rites and ceremonies; and of the government, discipline, and liberties of the Church, which had been supplanted and overthrown by royal supremacy and the usurpations of Prelacy.

But the most important and discriminating feature of this period was the extension of the Reformation to England and Ireland. It is well known that religion was imperfectly reformed in the first as well as in the last of these countries, and that many Popish abuses and corruptions were allowed to remain in its worship and government. These defects had been all along complained of by the best English Protestants, who often sighed for the purity and freedom of religion enjoyed by their neighbors. The growing oppression of the ecclesiastical courts, the religious innovations tending to pave the way for peace with Rome, and the invasions of the civil liberties of the nation, during the early administration of Charles I, inflamed these complaints and wishes, and communicated them to the greater and better part of the kingdom.

The struggle which ensued between the friends of reformation and liberty on the one hand, and an arbitrary and Popishly-affected court on the other, led to the formation of the famous Solemn League, which had for its principal and leading object the preservation of the Reformed religion in Scotland, the reformation of religion in England and Ireland, and the bringing of the churches of the three kingdoms to the nearest conjunction in doctrine, worship, discipline, and government. From this time the Reformation in Scotland, England, and Ireland was combined; and whatever may since have been its actual fate in any of these countries, its true and enlightened friends have never ceased to regard it as one common object of interest, and, so far as it was in their power to promote it, of endeavor and exertion. The steps taken to fulfill these sacred stipulations, the progress made in the work, and the causes of its being interrupted in England, endangered in Scotland, and at last perfidiously overthrown in the three kingdoms, are known to all who are not utter strangers to the most interesting and eventful period of the history of Britain.

The work of which we speak was properly one: a reformation of religion; although we usually speak of it as ecclesiastical and civil, in respect of the two authorities engaged in carrying it on. The Ecclesiastical Reformation, in Scotland, consisted of what was done by the judicatories of the Church, to whom it be longed directly and properly to set in order the house of God, and to correct what was amiss in religious profession or practice. This includes the condemning of the Episcopal innovations and abuses, the reviving of the Presbyterian worship and discipline, and in general the raising up of the ancient constitution of the Church from the rubbish in which it had been buried for many years ­ all of which was preceded by the renewing of the National Covenant. It includes also the encouragement given by the General Assembly to the proposals of union with England and Ireland, their forming and promoting of the Solemn League and Covenant, sending of commissioners to the Assembly of Divines at Westminster, receiving and approving of the formularies agreed on by that Assembly, and proceeding to act on them as subordinate standards of that religious unity and conjunction between the churches in the three kingdoms which they had sworn to promote.

The Civil Reformation consists in what was done by the civil authorities, within their sphere, and in cooperation with the ecclesiastical judicatories, for advancing the same cause. This includes what was done by the Parliament, or the Convention of Estates, in Scotland (not to speak at present of the Parliament of England), in abolishing Episcopacy, legalizing what the Church had done in the revival of Presbytery, entering into and prosecuting the ends of the League with England and Ireland, sanctioning the standards of uniformity, ratifying the liberties of the Church and abolishing patronage, reforming places of power and trust, and settling the constitutional laws of the kingdom in such a way as to secure the reformation which had been attained.

When Seceders, in their Testimony and other public papers, speak of our Civil Reformation, they do not mean a reform objectively civil, or which embraced objects which were purely civil and political. They express an approbation of the struggles of our ancestors in behalf of civil liberty, which, indeed, was at that period closely and inseparably connected with religion. But they were aware that it was incompetent for them as a religious body to bear a testimony in favor of a particular form of civil government, or of certain laws as contributing most to the political welfare of a people. They can be understood only as referring to civil laws and managements, so far as they had religion for their object, or as they affected and were in one way or another connected with its interests, by contributing to its advancement or security. And in the same sense must we understand them, when they condemn the political settlement by which the Reformation was overturned, or particular parts of the existing constitution and laws. Viewed in this light, an approbation of "our ancient Civil Reformation," and a disapprobation of "our present civil deformation," form a necessary and important branch of their testimony and profession.[1]

By the good hand of God upon her, Scotland attained to a greater degree of purity in religion, and higher degrees of reformation, than any other Protestant country. It is the duty of one generation to declare the works of God to another, and no people can depart from religious attainments without being deeply guilty. But this is not all. In no nation has the true religion been so solemnly avouched as in Scotland. Every important step taken in reformation was accompanied with confessions, protestations, vows, covenants, and oaths, which were made and subscribed by all ranks, voluntarily, cheerfully, joyfully, repeated on every new emergency and call, and ratified by every authority in the land. Hence, it has obtained the distinguishing name of the Covenanted Reformation; and under this view was it embraced by the associated body of Seceders, who, by renewing these engagements in an oath adapted to the time and to their circumstances as a church, served themselves heirs to the professions, vows, and contendings of their fathers, or rather to the cause of God transmitted to them by their fathers under all these sacred sanctions and solemnities.

It is of importance to distinguish between the Reformation materially and formally considered. The Westminster standards were not the Reformation, nor did they form any part of it farther than they were received and approved, and than religion was reformed and settled according to them. We may approve of the confessions of the Reformed Church of France, or of Helvetia, or of Holland. In the like manner persons may approve of the Westminster standards, as to doctrine, worship, and church government, and a religious society may conduct its ecclesiastical affairs according to them; and yet they may not adopt or promote the Covenanted Reformation properly and formally considered.

To adhere to these, since the Reformation took place, is to adopt them as a system of religion which is still entitled, both by divine and human right, to be professed and established in the three nations: to testify against all proceedings prejudicial to it, and all laws introducing or maintaining another system, as what no friend of reformation can bind himself actively to support and countenance; and to hold that it is the duty of all classes to endeavor, in their station and by all lawful means, to have the Reformed and Presbyterian religion publicly and legally settled; and that from the consideration not only of the divine authority on which it rests and its intrinsic excellence, but also of the additional obligation arising from national oaths and leagues, and the former attainments and laws of Church and State, which are still virtually pleadable and in a moral point of view retain their force.

Thus formally was the Covenanted Reformation adopted and testified for by Seceders.[2] Hence the particularity with which they specified and condemned, in their judicial acts, the various steps of deviation from this cause in Church and in State. They condemned not only the series of wicked laws passed at the Restoration, but also various evils in the Revolution settlement, and in the incorporating Union, by the fundamental articles of which Scotland was "more deeply involved in perjury" by giving her consent to "the maintenance and preservation of the hierarchy and ceremonies in the Church of England."[3]

Hence also the care with which they are guarded against all professions or engagements which implied an approbation of these defections and of the united constitution. They evinced this by declining to swear the usual public oath, at the expense of relinquishing privileges to which they were otherwise entitled, and of exposing themselves to the charge of disloyalty from those who were ignorant of their principles or disposed to misrepresent them.[4]

This is the fair amount of their principles on this head, and what they never sought to conceal from the beginning. But they, at the same time, denied that any minority, and far less, that they themselves, as an ecclesiastical body, had any right to dictate laws to the nation. They reckoned that they did all that was incumbent on them, when they gave information and warning, as they were called from time to time, respecting public sins and duties, and when they continued to promote religious reformation within their own sphere.

They did not stretch themselves beyond their line, nor suffer themselves to be diverted, by the testimony which they bore against public evils, from opposing those of a more private kind, and whose remedy lay more directly within their reach; nor did they, it is hoped, become indifferent about those ends which ought to be kept immediately in view by every church of Christ ­ the salvation of sinners, and building up the saints on their most holy faith. They never judged that they had a call to address the throne or the legislature on the subject of religion; and they knew that no such change as they desired can take place in the national profession and laws with regard to it, until a previous change shall have been effected on the sentiments and inclinations of the various orders of the people.[5]

I know that it has now become fashionable to discredit this work, and to represent every appearance of attachment to it as a sure mark of bigotry, and a mind weakly wedded to ancient prejudices, or, as some modishly express it, to the relics of a barbarous age. To the most of our modern great pretenders to religion the very name of a Covenanted Reformation is offensive and intolerable. Many who would still fain speak well of it, look upon anything that was good in it as of temporary interest, and quite unsuitable to our times; while the greater part of those who once appeared as its avowed and sworn friends, after shrinking from the odium attached to it, and testifying their willingness to divide the cause, appear now to be ashamed even to name it.

But is there any good reason for this? I may venture to assert, that if ever all that was great and valuable to a people was concerned in any work, it was concerned in that under our consideration. The design was nothing less than the advancement of true religion, in connection with liberty: of religion, in all its extent, among individuals, families, and the public; and the providing, in the best manner, for the continuance and perpetuity of it in the three kingdoms; that unborn posterity might reap the fruits of the toil and travail and sufferings of their fathers, and might live happily in peace and in the fear of God. It proposed the correction of abuses which had long been matter of grievance; and the settlement of religion and church order on scriptural principles and agreeably to known and approved precedents, and not according to any visionary, hazardous, or untried scheme. It was the effect of long and ardent wishes, and of many prayers. The wisest and most godly in Britain, from the commencement of the Reformation, had desired to see such a work, and hailed it at a distance. Providence afforded an opportunity for engaging in it when it was least expected, and for some time smiled on the attempt. Nor was it overturned until the benefits to be expected from it were attested in the experience of thousands, who till then had been almost total strangers to Christianity.

Let sober thinkers only reflect for a moment, what advantages would have ensued, if religion had been settled agreeably to the Solemn League and the plan recommended by the Westminster Assembly; and if that settlement had been allowed to stand. Of what benefit would it have been to England, if a lordly hierarchy, together with a burdensome and unprofitable mass of human rites and ceremonies, and ignorant, idle, and scandalous clergy, had been removed. And if, in their place, an evangelical, pious, laborious, and regular ministry had been settled in every parish, with elders to inspect the morals of the people, and deacons to attend to the wants of the poor, under the superintendence of presbyteries and synods! Would not this have proved of incalculable advantage to that nation, in a religious, moral, and political point of view? Would it not have been a powerful check on the spread of error, the increase of schism, and the prevalence of ignorance, profaneness, and vice? Of what benefit might it not have been before this day to unhappy Ireland, which has been perhaps more indebted to colonies from Scotland, and to religion imported by them, than to any boon it has received from England! And would not great benefit have redounded from it to Scotland herself, whose ecclesiastical constitution and liberties, as well as the religious principles and habits of her people, have suffered so much formerly and of late, from her intimate connection with a country, in which a system opposite in various respects to hers has been established?

If there is any truth in the representation now given, let me again ask, is it not matter of the deepest regret that this work should have been interrupted and overturned? That it continues still buried? That an opposite system was reared on its grave, which has been and still is productive of manifold evils? Are not these national sins? Is it possible to free them from the high aggravation of perfidy, after the solemn pledges that were publicly exchanged and ratified? Is it not a great duty to testify against these sins, and to seek a revival of that Reformation? This is what has been done by Seceders. If this forms their peculiarity, they have reason to glory in, not to be ashamed of it; and the only real disgrace which they can incur is that which will attach to their withdrawing from the cause, and deserting their good profession.

In considering this cause there are two things which are very commonly overlooked, and which merit particular attention. In the first place, it embraced a plan of religious union. This was its avowed object. It was so from the beginning, and was kept in eye through the whole progress of the work. Reformation was a means to this end. It was indeed absolutely necessary to the attainment of it. The corruption retained in the English Church ­ the hierarchy, with its usurped claims, temporal and spiritual, the liturgy, the total absence of all ecclesiastical discipline, a non-resident and non-preaching clergy, the Arminian and Popish errors which they had patronized ­ these, with various abuses connected with them, had proved a source of continued discord and division in England, had embroiled her with Scotland, and served as a wall of partition between her and all foreign churches professing the same faith. Until these evils were removed it was vain to look for union either at home or abroad. The platform of reformation was so constructed as to promise the accomplishment of this desirable object.

The system of faith laid down in the Confession and Catechisms was substantially the same with what was declared in the Confessions and Catechisms of all the Reformed on the Continent. The form of church government was "according to the Word of God and the example of the best reformed churches." Public worship was set free from the trammels of a formal and stinted liturgy, and at the same time duly guarded by the Directory, which, while it "held forth such things as are of divine institution in every ordinance," regulated others "according to the rules of Christian prudence, agreeable to the general rules of the Word of God," and gave such instructions to ministers as tended to produce "a consent of all the churches in those things that contain the substance of the service and worship of God." The more narrowly the proceedings of the Assembly which prepared the model of religious reformation and uniformity are looked into, the more, I am persuaded, will it appear that, in the conclusions to which they came (particularly on the controversies which arose at that time among the friends of religion), they displayed a healing and moderate spirit, combined with an enlightened regard to truth and the general welfare of the Church, which showed them to be uncommonly fitted for the great task which Providence assigned to them, and which has not been displayed in the same degree by any assembly, extraordinary or ordinary, which the world has since seen.

The second thing to which I alluded as meriting particular notice in this work is the extensive scale on which it was undertaken. Its object was not only to reform and unite, but to reform religion and settle unity through three kingdoms. Nor was this all. Though called more immediately to provide for their own safety and to promote Christianity in that part of the world where they dwelt, those who embarked in it did not confine their views to this object. They had before their eyes the security of "the true religion and professors thereof in all places," the forming of an association among "other Christian churches," and in general "the enlargement of the kingdom of Jesus Christ." These ends, expressed in their solemn bond of confederation, were never lost sight of in the prosecution of their undertaking. Theirs was no narrow, contracted, or sectarian plan. On the contrary, it was one of their principal objects, in all that they did, to testify their charity and conformity to all the Reformed churches, to abolish those restrictions which had prevented free intercourse with them, and to secure union, communion, and cooperation with them upon the great principles of Christianity and Protestantism.

Under both of these important views was the Reformation adopted by the Seceders. In publishing their Testimony, their language on the matter was: "We have no peculiar principles: we abide by and declare our adherence to those books which are still professedly owned by the national Church of Scotland, and which were agreed on as the standards of religious uniformity in the three nations; we are willing to hold communion with all who shall be found consistently adhering to these; and to them as a subordinate test we are ready to submit the decision of every point which forms the subject of dispute and controversy between us and others." The same language all true adherents to the cause of the Reformation still continue to hold. The same offers they still make.

In vindicating their Secession, and stating its grounds, they were necessarily led to give greater prominence to the state of religion in Scotland and to their contendings with the judicatories of that Church with which they had been intimately connected. But they did not allow these to engross their regard. They considered it as a high duty to promote religion in England and Ireland, which are as much interested in the cause of Secession, rightly understood, as Scotland. When they complied with petitions from these countries, and erected congregations in consequence of them, they did not lay themselves open to the charge of enlisting followers under the standard of a party, or engaging them in local controversies in which they had no concern; but could plead, with the utmost truth, that they only embodied them under principles and obligations which were common to the three nations. In fine, while they considered themselves bound to do what in them lay to enlarge the kingdom of Christ, they reckoned that they had a special call to send the gospel to those distant parts of the world where there were settlers from this country; and by the exertions which they made in this way from an early period, multitudes have enjoyed the means of religious instruction and salvation who would otherwise have been left totally destitute of them.

When the Secession from the Church of Scotland was first declared, its friends were not under the necessity of proving the leading principles in which their Testimony in favor of the Reformation proceeded. This had been the work of their fathers; and they were not called to lay again the foundation, when there were few around them who attacked it. Their opponents, while they condemned them for testifying in the way of separation from the established Church, went along with them in owning the whole doctrine of the Westminster Confession, the divine right of Presbytery, and even the continued obligation of our National Covenants. The state of matters is now, and has for a considerable time been, very different. All these have been attacked with great keenness from various quarters; and it no longer remains a matter of doubt or dispute that the greater part of the Seceders themselves have relinquished their adherence to the Reformation cause, and are disposed to call in question those things which were once most surely believed among them. A vindication of these has become more than ever necessary. This, however, is not proposed in these pages. All that I mean is to suggest a few things which may tend to obviate the difficulties of such as still feel attached to the cause, while their minds have been thrown into confusion and embarrassment by the specious and plausible objections which have been confidently advanced against it. And I shall endeavor to do this with all possible succinctness.

One of the most common and startling objections brought forward is that which involves a charge against the Westminster Confession of Faith, as favorable to persecution for conscience' sake, and arming the civil magistrate with a power to punish good and peaceable subjects purely on the ground of their religious opinions and practices. This is a charge which affects all who have owned the Confession, or who declare a simple adherence to it; and among these are many who, it will not be denied, have shown themselves strenuous friends of the rights of conscience, and who were not likely to subscribe any formulary which they had not examined and did not believe. The passage chiefly referred to is in Chapter 20, section 4. Let us try if it justifies the charge.

In the second section, the doctrine of liberty is thus laid down: "God alone is Lord of the conscience, and hath left it free from the doctrines and commandments of men, which are, in any thing contrary to his Word; or beside it, if matters of faith, or worship. So that, to believe such doctrines, or to obey such commands, out of conscience, is to betray true liberty of conscience: and the requiring of an implicit faith, and an absolute and blind obedience, is to destroy liberty of conscience, and reason also." This is an important doctrine, and necessary to be maintained against the encroachments and unwarrantable claims of every creature, and of rulers both civil and ecclesiastical.

May every man then think and speak, and act as he pleases, under the plea that his conscience gives him liberty to do so, or dictates to him that he ought to do so? To guard against this pernicious abuse of the doctrine is the object of what follows in the Confession. In section third, those are condemned who, "upon pretence of Christian liberty, do practice any sin, or cherish any lust."

The design of section fourth, is to guard against the abuse of the doctrine in reference to public authority. "And because the powers which God hath ordained, and the liberty which Christ hath purchased, are not intended by God to destroy, but mutually to uphold and preserve one another; they who, upon pretence of Christian liberty, shall oppose any lawful power, or the lawful exercise of it, whether it be civil or ecclesiastical, resist the ordinance of God." He who is the Lord of the conscience has also instituted the authorities in Church and State; and it would be in the highest degree absurd to suppose that he has planted in the breast of every individual a power to resist, counteract, and nullify his own ordinances. When public and private claims interfere and clash, the latter must give way to the former; and when any lawful authority is proceeding lawfully within its line of duty it must be understood as possessing a rightful power to remove out of the way everything which necessarily obstructs its progress.

The Confession proceeds, accordingly, to state: "And, for their publishing of such opinions, or maintaining of such practices, as are contrary to the light of nature, or to the known principles of Christianity, whether concerning faith, worship, or conversation; or, to the power of godliness; or such erroneous opinions or practices, as either in their own nature, or in the manner of publishing or maintaining them, are destructive to the external peace and order which Christ hath established in the Church, they may lawfully be called to account, and proceeded against by the censures of the Church, and by the power of the civil magistrate."

Now, this does not say that all who publish such opinions and maintain such practices (as are here mentioned) may be proceeded against, or, punished (if the substitution of this word shall be insisted for) by the civil magistrate; nor does it say, that any good and peaceable subject shall be made liable to this process simply on the ground of religious opinions published and practices maintained by him. For, in the first place, persons of a particular character are spoken of in this paragraph, and these are very different from good and peaceable subjects. They are described in the former sentence as "they who oppose lawful power or the lawful exercise of it," and "resist the ordinance of God." The same persons are spoken of in the sentence under consideration, as appears from the copulative and relative. It is not said, "Any one for publishing," etc., but "they who oppose any lawful power, etc. for their publishing," etc.

In the second place, this sentence specifies some of the ways in which these persons may become chargeable with the opposition mentioned, and consequently "may be called to account;" but it does not assert that even they must or ought to be prosecuted for every avowed opinion or practice of the kind referred to. All that it necessarily implies is that they may be found opposing lawful powers or the lawful exercise of them in the things specified, and that they are not entitled to plead a general irresponsibility in matters of that kind: notwithstanding such a plea, "they may be called to account and proceeded against." For, be it observed, it is not the design of the paragraph to state the objects of church censure or civil prosecution; its proper and professed object is to interpose a check on the abuse of liberty of conscience as operating to the prejudice of just and lawful authority. It is not sin as sin, but as scandal, or injurious to the spiritual interests of Christians, that is the proper object of church censure; and it is not for sins as such, but for crimes, that persons become liable to punishment by magistrates. The compilers of the Confession were quite aware of these distinctions, which were then common.

Some think that if the process of the magistrate had been limited to offenses "contrary to the light of nature," it would have been perfectly justifiable. But the truth is, that it would have been so only on the interpretation now given. To render an action the proper object of magisterial punishment, it is not enough that it be contrary to the law of God, whether natural or revealed; it must, in one way or another, strike against the public good of society. He who "provides not for his own, especially those of his own house," sins against "the light of nature," as also does he who is "a lover of pleasures more than of God;" but there are few who will plead that magistrates are bound to proceed against and punish every idler and belly-god (cf. 1 Tim. 5:8; 2 Tim. 3:4).

On the other hand, there are opinions and practices "contrary to the known principles of Christianity," or grafted upon them, which either in their own nature, or from the circumstances with which they may be clothed, may prove so injurious to the welfare of society in general, or of particular nations, or of their just proceedings, or of lawful institutions established in them, as to subject their publishers and maintainers to warranted coercion and punishment. As one point to which these may relate, I may mention the external observance and sanctification of the Lord's Day, which can be known only from "the principles of Christianity," and is connected with all the particulars specified by the Confession ­ "faith, worship, conversation, the power of godliness, and the external order and peace of the Church." That many other instances of a similar description can be produced will be denied by no sober-thinking person who is well acquainted with Popish tenets and practices, and with those which prevailed among the English sectaries during the sitting of the Westminster Assembly. And he who does not deny this, cannot be entitled, I should think, upon any principles of fair construction, to fix the stigma of persecution on the passage in question.

In support of the objection under consideration, some have referred to chapter 23 of the Confession, in which it is stated to be the magistrate's duty to "take order ... that all blasphemies and heresies be suppressed," etc. But as certain means by which he is to endeavor to effect this end are there mentioned, without one word about coercion or punishment, every person must perceive that that passage gives no occasion for such an inference.

Others appeal to passages in the private writings of Presbyterians at the period when the Confession was compiled. But it is evidently unjust to attempt in this way to fasten on a public deed an odious sense which its own language does not natively and necessarily imply. Would all those who wish to make Rutherfurd's treatise on Pretended Liberty of Conscience an authentic interpreter of the passages in question, be willing to make the same use of his treatise on Spiritual Antichrist with reference to the doctrine taught by the Confession on the covenant of grace? Or, would they be willing that the same use should be made of the writings of individuals in the present day in disputes about the principles of bodies with which they are connected, before the public or before courts of judicature?

Another objection brought against the Confession is that it subjects matters purely religious and ecclesiastical to the cognizance of the civil magistrate and allows him an Erastian power in and over the Church. This, if true, would be very strange, considering that the Assembly who compiled it were engaged in a dispute against this very claim with the Parliament under whose protection they sat, and that owing to their steady refusal to concede that power to the State (in which they were supported by the whole body of Presbyterians), the erection of presbyteries and synods in England was suspended.

Independently of this important fact, the declarations of the Confession itself are more than sufficient to repel the imputation. It declares that "there is no other head of the Church but the Lord Jesus Christ" (25:6); and that he, as "King and Head of His Church, hath therein appointed a government, in the hand of Church officers, distinct from the civil magistrate. To these officers, the keys of the kingdom of heaven are committed" (30:1-2).

Yea, the very passage appealed to in support of the objection begins with the following pointed declaration: "The civil magistrate may not assume to himself . . . the keys of the kingdom of heaven" (23:3). "The keys of the kingdom of heaven" include all the power exercised in the Church under Christ, its sole king; not only that which is ordinarily exercised in the government of particular congregations in censuring offenders (chap. 30), but also the power "ministerially to determine controversies of faith and cases of conscience, to set down rules and directions for the better ordering of the public worship of God, and government of His Church; to receive complaints in cases of maladministration, and authoritatively to determine the same" (31:3).

The Confession teaches that magistrates cannot warrantably assume to themselves the power of doing these things, and what it adds must be understood in a consistency with this declaration. It is true, that it allots to the magistrate a care of religion, and asserts that "he hath authority, and it is his duty, to take order, that unity and peace be preserved in the Church," etc. But is there no order which he can take for having these things done by the persons and in the way by and in which they ought to be done, without taking the doing of them into his hand, and thus assuming what does not belong to him? The Confession asserts that there is, and proceeds to say: "For the better effecting whereof he hath power to call synods." [6] And is there any good reason for absolutely denying him this power? When "the unity and peace of the Church" are broken and endangered in any country, "the truth of God" is depraved, "blasphemies and heresies" of almost every kind are spreading, "corruptions and abuses in worship" are abounding, and when the Church is being disorganized, there is no general authority of an ecclesiastical kind to use means for remedying these evils, may not the civil government of that country warrantably call a synod for that purpose?

When the state of the nation, as well as of the Church, may be convulsed, and its convulsions may be in a degree owing to religious disorders, is it not a high duty incumbent on him to take such a step, provided he finds it practicable and advisable? Was this not the state of matters in England when the Westminster Assembly met? Was not the state of matters similar in many respects at the Revolution in Scotland? Was there any rational ground to think, at the period of the Westminster Assembly, that such a synod would have met, or, supposing it somehow to have been collected, that it could have continued together until it had finished its business, if it had not been convoked, maintained, and protected by the Parliament of England?

Do many of those who deny the power in question reflect, that they owe those books which they still, in one degree or another, own as the subordinate standards of their ecclesiastical communion, to a synod which was thus convoked? Do they reflect, that by means of them the interests of religion have been promoted to an incalculable degree, "unity and peace preserved in the Church," etc. from the period of their compilation down to the present day, in Scotland, in England, in Ireland, and in America? Or, recollecting these things, are they prepared to take the pen and insert their absolute veto: "The civil magistrate . . . for the better effecting thereof, hath" NOT "power to call synods?"

At the same time it may be observed here, as on the former objection, that it is not asserted that the magistrate may exercise this power on all occasions and in all circumstances, or whenever there are any evils of a religious kind to correct. It is sufficient that there may be times and circumstances in which he may warrantably exert this power. It is true that the Confession, in another place (31:2) is not sufficiently full and explicit in declaring the intrinsic right of the Church to convoke synods. But this defect was supplied by the Act of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland receiving and approving of the Confession;[7] and in the Formula used in the Secession from the beginning an approbation of the Confession is required "as received" by that Act of Assembly.

After stating that the magistrate has power to call synods, it is added, "to be present at them, and to provide that whatsoever is transacted in them, be according to the mind of God." Not to insist here, that these words ought, in fair construction, to be understood of such synods as have been convoked by the magistrate, what reasonable objection can be made to his being present? May he not claim a right to be present at any public meeting within his dominions? May he not be present in a synod to witness their proceedings, to preserve their external peace, to redress their grievances, or (why not?) to receive their advice and admonitions?

But, if it be supposed that his presence is necessary to give validity to their proceedings, and that he sits as preses of their meeting, or as director of their deliberations and votes, I shall only say that the words of the Confession give not the slightest countenance to such claims, which are utterly inconsistent with the common principles of Presbyterians, and in particular with the well-known and avowed principles of the Church of Scotland. A similar answer may be given to the objection against the last clause of the paragraph. May not any Christian, whatever his station be, "provide that whatsoever is transacted," even in synods, "be according to the mind of God?" If the legislature or government of a nation have a special care about religion, or if there is any particular duty at all which they have to discharge respecting it, and particularly if they have power in any case to call synods, must it not in a special manner be incumbent on them to see to this?

Nor does this imply that they are in possession of any ecclesiastical powers, or that they pass a public judgment on true and false religion. Their private judgment is sufficient to regulate them in their public managements in this as well as on many other subjects, about which they exercise their authority, without sustaining themselves as the proper judges of them, as in the case of many arts, sciences, etc. which they patronize and encourage. Must not Christian rulers, judges, and magistrates provide that "whatsoever is transacted" by themselves, "be according to the mind of God?" Is it not highly fit that they should be satisfied, and they should by every proper means provide that the determinations of synods be according to the mind of God, if they are to use their authority for removing all external obstructions out of the way of their being carried into effect; both of which they may do, without imposing them on the consciences of their subjects? And, in fine, are there not various ways in which they may provide as here stated, without assuming a power foreign to their office, or intruding on the proper business of synods, or ecclesiastical courts?

But, if it be supposed that the magistrate, as the proper judge in such matters, is to control the deliberations of the ecclesiastical assembly, to prescribe and dictate to them what their decisions shall be ­ or that, when they have deliberated and decided, he may receive appeals from their decisions, or may bring the whole before his tribunal, and review, alter, and reverse their sentences ­ I have only to say, as formerly, that the words of the Confession give not the slightest countenance to such claims, which are utterly inconsistent with the common principles of Presbyterians, and in particular with the well-known and avowed principles and contendings of the Church of Scotland.

But though I consider these objections as destitute of a solid foundation, yet, as the construction on which they proceed has often been put on the passages to which they refer, I, for my part, can see no good reason why an explanation should not be given of these passages, or of the doctrine contained in them, with the view of preventing all misconception of the sentiments of those who approve of the Confession: provided the two following things are attended to. In the first place, that this declaration does not fix on the Confession the obnoxious sentiments which are disclaimed. And, in the second place, that it does not, under the cover of general and ambiguous expressions, invalidate or set aside the general doctrine respecting the exercise of civil authority about religion which is recognized in the Westminster Confession, and in those of all Protestant churches. Explanations of this kind were given in the early papers of the Secession, which are sufficient to show that they entertained no principles favorable to persecution or injurious to the liberties and independence of the Church, and that they did not view the Confession as containing such principles.[8]

That magistrates are not exempted from all concern about religion in their public and official capacity, and that civil authority ought to be employed, and is capable in different ways of being employed, for the advancement of religion, and, in Christian countries, for the good of the Church, is a doctrine which, in my opinion, is not only true, but of great practical importance. I shall state, as briefly as I can the grounds on which I consider this doctrine as resting, and the leading explications and qualifications with which it has been received among Presbyterians, and particularly the Secession. The general doctrine seems equally consonant to the dictates of sound reason, the maxims of good policy, and the uniform tenor and express declarations of Scripture.

The obligations and the practice of religion in some degree must be supposed to exist antecedently to the erection of social institutions among mankind. It enters into all the duties and offices of life; and none are at liberty to overlook or be indifferent about its interests in any relation in which they stand, or in reference to any connection which they may form. It is the firmest bond of social union, the most efficient check on power, the strongest security for obedience, the principal source of justice, fidelity, humanity, and all the virtues. In framing their laws, all nations, ancient and modern, have availed themselves of its sanctions, and made provision in one way or another for that worship which they practiced. And the principle on which they acted was expressly recognized, and applied to the true religion, in the only system of national polity that ever was prescribed immediately by Heaven. It would be strange if a people professing Christianity should give the first example of a nation settling its fundamental laws and regulating the administration of its government, without acknowledging the God that is above, making any provision for the maintenance of his honor, or requiring any religious qualifications whatever in those who were to rule over it. It would be stranger still, if it should be argued that Christianity itself requires this, and that it forbids any homage being done to its founder by national laws, or any service being performed to him by their administrators.

"The public good of outward and common order in all reasonable society, to the glory of God, is the great and only end which those invested with Magistracy can propose in a sole respect unto that office."[9] This distinguishes their office from that of ministers of the gospel, which is versant about "the disorders of men's hearts." But it does not surely mean, that there is nothing incumbent on magistrates but the employment of physical force in restraining men from committing injuries, or in putting down riots and seditions. The prevention of crimes and disorders is a more important object than their punishment. A right to accomplish any end implies a right to use all the means that are necessary or conducive to the gaining of that end. And of all the means which are calculated to preserve order, to repress crime, and to promote the public and general good of society, the most powerful beyond all reasonable doubt is religion.

On this ground, it becomes one of the first duties of those who are entrusted with the care of the public weal of a nation to preserve and cherish a sense of religion on the minds of the people at large, and for this purpose to give public countenance and decided encouragement to its institutions. And the more pure and perfect ­ the more free from imposture, falsehood, error, superstition, and other corruptions ­ the more certain in its foundation, and the more forcible in its motives, that any system of religion is, the higher claims must it have to public countenance, both on the ground of its intrinsic truth and authority, and on account of its superior practical influence and utility.

This is not to make religion an engine of the State. It is to use it for one of those ends it is calculated in its own nature to serve, and which its Author intended it should serve; it is to make the ordinances and the institutions of God mutually subservient, and thus to promote in a more extensive way his glory and the good of his creatures. Thus, as it is incumbent on all men to employ every lawful means, in their several stations, for advancing the true religion, the duty of the enlightened and patriotic Magistrate, and the duty of the pious and public-spirited Christian who may hold that office, become so far coincident, and a uniform manner of action, according to the complex character which the individual sustains, is produced.

Magistracy is common to mankind at large, whether living within or without the Church. It supposes them capable of religion, and practicing it in some shape under the moral government of God. But as it is founded on natural principles, and on the moral laws (which were prior to the Christian faith and more extensively known), it would be absurd to suppose that it was instituted by the Mediator, or that it has the supernatural things peculiar to Christianity for its direct and proper object. "As the whole institution and end of the office are cut out by, and lie within the compass of natural principles, it were absurd to suppose, that there could or ought to be any exercise thereof towards its end, in the foresaid circumstances, but what can be argued for and defended from natural principles: as, indeed, there is nothing especially allotted and allowed to Magistrates by the Word of God and the Confessions of the Reformed Churches, but what can be so." [10]

This establishes the power in question on its proper and broadest basis, as extending to natural religion, whether more imperfectly understood without revelation, or more fully explained in the Bible. But then it is to be observed that religion and morality, in all the extent to which they were contained in the law of nature, are taken into the system of Christianity. There is ­ there can be ­ no such thing as a distinct profession or practice of natural religion in Christian countries. And, consequently, there could be no objects of a religious kind, in such countries, about which magisterial power could be employed, unless it were to regard them as existing in the constitution of the Christian Church, and see to the observance of them as enforced by immediate divine authority, and connected with supernatural mysteries.

To deny, therefore, that civil rulers have a right to do this, would be to represent the gospel as making void instead of establishing the law, and as invalidating that authority, and abridging those powers, which the God of nature had instituted and conferred for the wisest and most beneficial purposes. When duly and wisely employed about the external concerns of the Church, as a visible society erected in the world, so as to be really serviceable to her interests, civil authority becomes doubly a blessing to a people, and as such it was repeatedly promised to Christian nations in the prophetic scriptures both of the Old and New Testament. But in this case there is no addition of power to magistracy, but merely an application of its common power, under the direction of its original general law, to a particular object, which is brought under its cognizance in some periods and places of the world.

The kingdom of Christ, though not of is in this world; as externally set up among men it is entitled to all the support and countenance which any ordinance of God can give it; and as its spirituality does not render it incapable of being injured by the kingdoms of this world, so neither does it render it incapable of being benefitted by them. Church and State are essentially distinct and independent of each other. But kingdoms and powers which are independent may surely maintain a friendly alliance; they may assist and support each other; and, although the one cannot make laws which are binding on the other, yet they may make laws which both tend and are intended for mutual advantage.

Presbyterians have stated with as great clearness as those of any other denomination ­ I may safely say, with greater clearness ­ the divine origin, the independence, the spirituality, the heavenly constitution of the kingdom of Christ, and its distinction from secular kingdoms in its laws, administration, subjects, offices, judicatories, and special ends. But in perfect consistency with all this, they have maintained that civil and ecclesiastical societies may sustain friendly relations; that they may be helpful to each other; that they may have certain common objects about which both may be employed in a distinct manner, and a common end beside that which is peculiar to each; that the cooperation of temporal and spiritual power may be necessary for introducing or securing a public reformation of religion, when it is opposed by violence, or when a corrupt system has established itself in all the departments of society; and that civil authority, in ordinary times, may be exerted in securing and preserving the Church in the peaceable, full, and permanent enjoyment of her peculiar liberties, government, and institutions.

A civil establishment of a particular religion or church does not necessarily imply a power of legislating to the faith and consciences of Christians; nor an imposing of matters purely religious or of supernatural things as such, by civil penalties; nor a depriving of subjects of their natural and civil privileges simply on the ground of their dissent. Besides, there are various ways in which religion may be an object of public attention, and be encouraged by those who are in civil authority, supreme and subordinate, without their attempting to establish a particular system, which, in many cases, would be impracticable or highly improper; as when the mass of the people may be grossly ignorant of Christianity or superstitiously attached to a corrupt form of it, or when a nation may be greatly divided in their religious opinions and practice.

But it is not the design of these pages to enlarge on this subject. Before dismissing it, however, I have two general remarks to make. In the first place, it is, to say the least, extremely inadvertent to represent this as a subject of mere speculation, on which Christians are called to form no opinion. Not to specify here the various practical lights in which the question may be viewed, it may be sufficient to mention, that national laws and their administration, whether in favor of a true or false religion, have always had, and must have, great influence upon the opinions and conduct of the mass of the people. Religious establishments exist in our own country, and are daily productive of good or evil. We must either approve or condemn them in whole, or we must do so in part. But how can we do either, if we have not formed principles on the subject?

In the second place, it is still more unreasonable to hold out that this is a matter of mere speculation to Seceders. After the statement that has been given of their principles; after their express approbation of the national covenants, of the Westminster Confession, of the Civil Reformation of Scotland, and the laws establishing the Protestant and Presbyterian religion; after their condemnation of the recision of these laws at the Restoration; after their pointed censures of the Revolution settlement on such grounds as the following, that "Prelacy is never considered as contrary to the Word of God ... nor our Presbyterian church government and discipline as what the land is bound and obliged to maintain by the most solemn oaths and covenants ... and all the legal securities given to this church, in that covenanting period from 1638 to 1650, are overlooked and passed by;"[11] and after having made their testimony on these heads the matter of a solemn vow and oath; it surely cannot be maintained that they have no immediate or practical interest in the doctrine which teaches that civil authority may be warrantably employed about matters of religion and relating to the Church.

The truth is that this doctrine is not only necessarily implied in their religious profession, but it will be found running through the whole of it, so that it is impossible to separate the one from the other without disordering and taking in pieces the entire system. I do not mean by this, that they must decide and be agreed upon all the questions that have been or may be started on this subject; this would be absurd in reference to ecclesiastical power, and much more so as to civil. All that is required is that they hold those general principles on this head of doctrine which are implied in, or are necessary to support, the express approvals of the national Reformation, and condemnations of the national deformation, which formed so prominent a part of their public profession, and by which they were from the first distinguished as Seceders.

It will not be expected that I should enter here into an examination of the accusations brought against Presbyterians, as chargeable with intolerant and persecuting proceedings during the period of the Solemn League. I confine myself to the following general observations. In the first place, Seceders never pledged themselves by an approbation of all the acts and proceedings either of the State or of the Church during that period. Their approbation was limited.[12] So far as it can be shown that any acts of the Church encroached on due Christian liberty, or that any acts of the State subjected good and peaceable subjects to punishment for matters purely religious, or imposed on them hardships which did not necessarily result from measures requisite to promote the public good and preserve the national safety, the principles of the Seceders do not permit them to justify the conduct of the covenanters.

In the second place, the charges on this head are in some instances groundless, and in others greatly exaggerated. The fact is that this period of the history of Britain has been most grossly misrepresented, and erroneous and distorted views of the great transactions by which is was distinguished, and of the characters and actions of the men who were principally engaged in them, have at last become general, and, in some points, almost universal.[13] By the most the nature of the cause in which the covenanters were embarked, the enemies by whom they were opposed, and the dangers with which they were surrounded, are not understood or not duly adverted to. The work to which they were called did not consist in the correction of simple errors in doctrine, or corruptions which merely affected worship, ecclesiastical discipline, and Christian morals. It had for its object the removal of evils which were hurtful both in a religious and political view, and by which the liberties of Church and State were equally affected.

Prelacy was not only a deviation from the institution of Christ, which was to be confuted and removed by an appeal to scriptural authority and argument; but secular power, external violence, and political tyranny were annexed to it, and interwoven with the whole form and proceedings of the hierarchy. Bishops were not only domineering lords in the Church; they were also tools in the hands of arbitrary monarchs and persecuting statesmen. Again, these evils were owing in great measure to the exorbitant prerogative of the crown, from which, in consequence of the ecclesiastical supremacy vested in it, arose the arbitrary proceedings of the bishops' courts, and the illegal powers of the High Commission. While the ecclesiastical grievances sprung from political abuses, the political grievances might be traced in their turn to ecclesiastical abuses; and religion and policy demanded the correction of both. A cooperation of several powers, and of the means competent to them, was therefore requisite. The use of religious means was primarily needful for giving life and animation to the work; but these alone could not redress all grievances. Means of a very different kind were necessary to restrain violence, to curb tyranny, to abolish laws authorizing the evils complained of, and to substitute others in their place.

If forcible opposition was made to this, or if conspiracies and factions were formed for the maintenance or restitution of the old oppressive system, it was necessary to employ law and penalties for restraining or suppressing such attempts. In conducting any common measures having for their object the general good of society, civil or ecclesiastical, it is impossible altogether to avoid interfering with private liberty, or subjecting individuals to hardships and restraints which in some way affect their consciences and the full enjoyment of their religious privileges. Undeniable examples of this in recent times might be produced from the proceedings of religious societies which have no immediate connection with government. In prosecution of the complex reformation in which our forefathers were engaged ­ opposed, as it was, by such adversaries as we have described, and while an intestine war raged in the country ­ it was not only extremely difficult for them to steer an even course, but it was impossible for them to avoid imposing restraints which would have been improper in an ordinary state of affairs. And tenderness apart, we ought to be cautious in censuring their conduct, as it may turn out, on an accurate knowledge of all the facts, that measures which at first view appeared intolerant or unreasonably severe were indispensably necessary to the public safety.

Nor should we overlook the character and designs of the sectaries, who arose on the suppression of the arbitrary and malignant party; and whose claims on the head of liberty of conscience were resisted by men decidedly averse to the use of force in religious matters, as dangerous to the religion, liberties, and peace of the three kingdoms.[14] If the state of parties and the circumstances of the time be narrowly investigated, it will appear, I think, that the public proceedings, so far from being obnoxious to the charge of persecution, were upon the whole marked with uncommon leniency and tenderness, even amidst open war and the plots and cabals of factions, political and religious; and that the period, instead of being distinguished by restrictions on opinions and practices, was rather noted for the relaxation of ecclesiastical discipline and penal laws, and for a more licentious freedom and greater diversity of religion than ever prevailed in any period of British history.

In the third place, the most exceptionable acts and proceedings took place in consequence of the rejection of those salutary measures which the Presbyterians had advised. Suffice it to state here that, in consequence of the opposition of the Independents on the one hand and the Erastians on the other, the settlement of ecclesiastical government and discipline, according to the plan agreed on by the Westminster Assembly, was delayed from time to time, and ultimately refused by the Parliament of England. In this disorganized state of the Church, disorders of various kinds took place, innumerable sects sprung up, and errors and blasphemies, formerly unheard of and shocking to Christian ears, were everywhere propagated. Alarmed at these appearances, and seeing matters fast tending to anarchy and confusion in the nation, the Parliament took the affair into their own hands, and published an ordinance intended to check and punish evils. The Presbyterians by their declarations and petitions may be brought in as accessory to this measure; but it ought not to be forgotten that they had predicted the consequence which would arise from the dilatory proceedings of Parliament; that they had uniformly testified an earnest desire to have religious errors and disorders corrected by spiritual means; and had avowed their conviction that a spiritual discipline, if erected and allowed freely to exert itself, would accomplish that desirable end, without the interposition of any secular violence.[15]

The last class of objections to which I propose adverting is that which relates to the Solemn League and Covenant. It will not be expected that I should say anything here in the way of direct answer to those who find fault with the matter of that deed, or who deny the lawfulness and binding force of all covenants about matters of religion. The following considerations may perhaps tend to obviate some of the difficulties which are felt respecting the form, enactment, and obligation of the Solemn League. Covenants and oaths are of the same general nature, and retain their proper and primary design, by whomsoever they are employed, and to whatever purposes they may be applied. Their lawfulness, utility, and obligation are recognized among all people, and recourse has been had to them on all great occasions that required their interposition.

Revelation teaches more explicitly and corroborates their warrants and obligations, discovers new objects about which they may be employed, and gives directions as to the proper manner of performing these and other acts of moral duty. It expressly ascertains their use and application to moral and religious purposes, as well as to the ordinary affairs of human society. There is a law of morality and religion common to men; and the use of these bonds of fidelity in the peculiar concerns of Christians, or of ecclesiastical societies, does not abolish or supercede their use for any other lawful purpose. The gospel neither adds any essential duties to the law, nor confines it within narrower limits as to persons or objects.

Covenants and oaths are sacred in themselves, independently of the matter of them. In respect of their matter and immediate end they may be civil, political, ecclesiastical, or they may be of a mixed kind, in which objects of a different nature are combined for the better attaining of some great purpose of public good. They may be private or public; spontaneous, and about matters to which persons were not previously bound, or framed and enjoined by authority; more general or particular; more extensive or limited; temporary or perpetual. They may formally consist in mutual stipulations between individuals or bodies of men, or they may consist in a common engagement to God, which is the strongest and most solemn way in which men can become bound to one another. They may relate to the intrinsic affairs of a church, or to the external state and interests of churches and nations. Any of these are lawful and obligatory when entered into on a due call and on proper grounds.

All the temporal and common affairs of men are capable of a religious direction and use, and may be subordinated to the great ends of advancing the divine glory and spiritual interests No duties, moral or religious, can be acceptably performed but by those who are acquainted with the gospel and instated in the covenant of grace; but this must not be confounded with their warrants or obligations. Of covenanting considered as a public duty performed by Christians solely in their ecclesiastical capacity; of the distinction between it and those engagements, virtual or actual, which are constitutive of churches or church member ship; of the distinction between it and the act of faith which brings persons to an interest in the covenant of grace, and ought to be viewed as a promise of fidelity or engagement either to God or man; of the additional formality and solemn sanctions which discriminate it from that open profession of interest in God and obedience to him which is in some way made by all believers and in all churches; and of the special reasons and calls for these high sanctions and pledges; I do not propose here to speak.

All the noted covenants and leagues in which the interests of the Reformation throughout Europe were so deeply concerned were of a mixed kind. They contained engagements on the part of the confederates to defend one another in the profession of the Protestant religion, or in throwing off the authority of Rome, and correcting abuses, which were partly religious and partly political. They were entered into by public men, in their several secular capacities, as well as religious, and even by corporate bodies. Such was the League of Smalcald, of the Swiss Cantons, and of the Evangelic Body in Germany; and the Covenants of the Protestant princes and towns in France, and in the Netherlands. Such also were the National Covenants in Britain.

The Solemn League was a complex deed, both in its form, and in its matter. It was not only a covenant with God, but also between people and people, for reciprocal benefit, and on certain mutual terms; security was stipulated on the one part and aid on the other, in the prosecution of its great objects. Religion formed the great and principal matter of it, but the promoting of this was not its sole object. National reformation and uniformity were combined with national liberty, safety, peace, loyalty, and law. It was adapted to "the dangerous, distressed, and deplorable estate" of the three "kingdoms," as well as of the "churches" in them. It was not, therefore, a mere church covenant, but was framed, sworn, enjoined, and promoted by the public authorities of both Church and State.

Some condemn this as an improper blending of heterogeneous matter, and think that our ancestors ought to have framed two separate covenants ­ one in defense of their civil liberties, and another for religious purposes. If those who express this opinion will make the trial, I apprehend they will find in it articles (and these not the least important) which they will be unable to dispose of, without making a third covenant, to be taken by all, or else adding them to each of the two, as equally pertaining to both. In either way they will inevitably plunge into what they call the old error of blending. There were peculiar duties which those in civil, and even in military stations, owed respecting the articles which were of a religious complexion; and vice versa, there were duties which ministers of the gospel and church courts owed respecting those which were civil, political, or military. The truth is there is no article in the Solemn League that is either purely civil, or purely religious. The civil things in it were connected with the religious, and the religious bore a relation to the national State and policy at that time.

An accurate acquaintance with the circumstances in which our ancestors were placed will, I presume, fully justify the measure they adopted, and show that they acted with the greatest wisdom, when they embodied in one common engagement to God and among themselves these things which providence had joined together, and thus secured the vigorous and combined exertions of the friends of religion and liberty in a cause that was common to both. Nor did this imply any undue blending of things which, though connected, are in their nature distinct, nor any confounding of the constitution and powers of Church and State, or of the respective offices and duties of the covenanters. It may just as well be said (to make use of a familiar comparison) that, when a mason and carpenter enter into a joint contract to finish a building, there is a confusion of trades, and that the one is to labor in the occupation of the other, instead of doing each his own work, and providing what is common to both. To separate the civil part of the covenant from the religious, and judge of it piecemeal, is to proceed on a fanciful supposition of something that never had an existence. As one complex and undivided whole was it framed, enacted, sworn, promoted; and as one whole must it be judged, and stand or fall.

The manner in which the covenant was enjoined to be taken in Scotland ­ "under all civil pains" ­ has not been approved by Seceders in any of their public papers. Private writers of their connection who have vindicated the injunction-clause have not considered it as extending beyond exclusion from places of power and trust. Whatever may be the legal import of the phrase, I believe this interpretation accords with fact; and, so far as I know, it cannot be shown that, with the consent and approbation of the public authorities, the covenant was forced upon any, or that the loss of liberty or of goods was incurred by them for simply refusing it.

I frankly confess that I have not yet seen any good reason, in point of religion, justice, or good policy, for condemning the exclusion of those who did not take the Solemn League from places of authority and public trust. It was the great bond of union, and test of fidelity, among those who were embarked in that cause in defense of which the Parliaments had already drawn their swords. A due regard to the high interests which were at stake, as well as their own safety and the maxims of prudence by which all people are guided in similar circumstances, required that they should carefully distinguish between those who were well or ill affected with their cause, and that they should not entrust the more active management and defense of it to such as were of the latter description. In the extraordinary circumstances in which they were placed, a mixed test, partly civil and partly religious, became so far necessary to ascertain common friends and foes.

There might be (I have no doubt there were) individuals peaceably disposed, and even friendly to, the cause of the Parliaments, so far as civil liberty was concerned, who yet scrupled at the stipulations in the covenant which related to religion. But laws cannot be made for individuals. It belonged to the public authorities to determine what description of persons it was safe, in the peculiar circumstances, to entrust with power. And in times of national confusion, danger, and war, when all that is valuable to a people may be put in jeopardy, individuals may be required to forego or may be restricted in the exercise of those rights which, in an ordinary and quiet state of society, they may be entitled to claim. The vindicating of such tests in certain times and in reference to certain parties, does not imply an approval of them in times or in reference to parties of a very different description.

The continued obligation of our National Covenants is of greater importance than any particular measure adopted in prosecuting them. In what I have to say on this branch of the subject, I shall keep the Solemn League more particularly in eye, both because it comprehends the substance of the National Covenant of Scotland, and because it has been the object of more frequent attack. It is not every lawful covenant, nor even every lawful covenant of a public nature, that is of permanent obligation. Some of both kinds, from their very nature or from other circumstances, may undoubtedly be temporary. The permanent obligation of the Solemn League results from the permanency of its nature and design, and of the parties entering into it, taken in connection with the public capacity in which it was established. Some talk of it as if it were a mere temporary expedient to which our forefathers had recourse in defending their civil and religious liberties; and, when they have paid a compliment to it in this point of view, they think they have no more concern with the matter. This is a very narrow and mistaken view of the deed.

The most momentous transactions, and most deeply and durably affecting the welfare and the duty of nations and of churches, may be traced to the influence of the extraordinary and emergent circumstances of a particular period. The emergency which led to the formation of the covenant is one thing, and the obligation of that covenant is quite another; the former might quickly pass away, while the latter may be permanent and perpetual. Nor is the obligation of the covenant to be determined by the temporary or changeable nature of its subordinate and accessory articles. Whatever may be said of some of the things engaged to in the Solemn League, there cannot be a doubt that in its great design and leading articles it was not temporary but permanent. Though the objects immediately contemplated by it ­ religious reformation and uniformity ­ had been accomplished, it would still have continued to oblige those who were under its bond to adhere to and maintain these attainments. But unhappily there is no need of having recourse to this line of argument; its grand stipulations remain to this day unfulfilled.

The Solemn League was a national covenant and oath, in every point of view ­ in its matter, its form, the authority by which it was enjoined, the capacities in which it was sworn, and the manner in which it was ratified. It was a sacred league between kingdom and kingdom with respect to their religious as well as their secular interests, and at the same time a covenant in which they jointly swore to God to perform all the articles contained in it. National religion, national safety, liberty and peace, were the great objects which it embraced. It was not a mere agreement or confederation (however solemn) of individuals or private persons (however numerous), entering spontaneously and of their own accord into a common engagement. It was framed and concluded by the representatives of kingdoms in concurrence with those of the Church; it was sworn by them in their public capacity; at their call and by their authority, it was afterwards sworn by the body of all the people in their different ranks and orders; and finally it was ratified and pronounced valid by laws both civil and ecclesiastical.

The public faith was thus plighted by all the organs through which a nation is accustomed to express its mind and will. Nothing was wanting to complete the national tie, and to render it permanent; unless it should be maintained that absolute unanimity is necessary, and that a society cannot contract lawful engagements to God or man, as long as there are individuals who oppose and are dissentient. Sanctions less sacred, and pledges less numerous would have given another nation, or even an individual, a perfect right to demand from Britain the fulfillment of any treaty or contract; and shall not God ­ who was not only a witness, but a principal party, and whose honor and interests were immediately concerned in this transaction ­ have a like claim? Or shall we "break the covenant and escape?" (cf. Ezek. 17:15).

Some of the principles on which it has been attempted to loose this sacred tie are so opposite to the common sentiments of mankind, that it is not necessary to refute them: such as, that covenants, vows and oaths, cannot superadd any obligation to that which we are previously under by the law of God; and, that their obligation on posterity consists merely in the influence of example.

There is another objection which is of a more specious kind and lays claim to greater accuracy, but which on examination will be found both unsolid and inaccurate. It is pleaded that it is only in the character of church members that persons can enter into religious covenants or be bound by them; and that the covenants of this country can be called national on no other ground than because the majority of the inhabitants in their individual character voluntarily entered into them. At present I can only state some general considerations tending to show the fallacy of this view of the subject. By church members may be meant either those who are in actual communion with a particular organized church, or those who stand in a general relation to the Church universal. But in neither of these senses can it be said that religious covenants or bonds are incompetent or non-obligatory in every other character. This is to restrict the authority of divine law in reference to moral duties, and to limit the obligations which result from it, in a way that is not warranted either by Scripture or reason. How can that which is founded on the moral law, and which is moral-natural, not positive, be confined to church members, or to Christians in the character of church members only?

The doctrine in question is also highly objectionable, as it unduly restricts the religious character of men, and the sphere of their action about religious matter, whether viewed as individuals or as formed into societies and communities. They are bound to act for the honor of God, and are capable of contracting sacred obligations (sacred both in their nature and in their objects) in all the characters and capacities which they sustain. I know no good reason for holding that when a company of men or a society act about religion, or engage in religious exercises, they are thereby converted into a church, or act merely and properly as church members. Families are not churches, nor are they constituted properly for a religious purpose; yet they have a religious character, and are bound to act according to it in honoring and serving God, and are capable of contracting religious obligations. Nations also have a religious character, and may act about the affairs of religion. They may make their profession of Christianity, and legally authorize its institutions, without being turned into a church. And why may they not also come under an oath and covenant with reference to it, which shall be nationally binding?

Covenanting may be said to be by a nation as brought into a church state, acting in this religious capacity ­ the oath may be dispensed by ministers of the gospel and accompanied by the usual exercises of religion in the Church, and yet it may not be an ecclesiastical deed. The marriage covenant and vow is founded on the original law; and its duties, as well as the relation which it establishes, are common to men, and of a civil kind. Yet among Christians it is mixed with religious engagements, and celebrated religiously in the Church. Ministers of the gospel officiate in dispensing the vow, and accompany it with the Word and prayer. The parties are bound to marry in the Lord, and to live together as Christians. But is the marriage vow on that account ecclesiastical, or do the parties engage as church members only? The Christian character is, in such cases, combined with the natural, domestic, civil, political.

Much confusion also arises on this subject from not attending to the specific object of our National Covenants, and the nature of their stipulations, by which they are distinguished from mere church covenants. I shall only add that several objections usually adduced on this head may be obviated by keeping in mind that the obligation in question is of a moral kind, and that God is the principal party who exacts the fulfillment of the bond.

If there is any truth in the statements that have now been made, the question respecting the obligation of the British covenants is deeply interesting to the present generation. The identity of a nation, as existing through different ages, is, in all moral respects, as real as the identity of an individual through the whole period of his life. The individuals that compose it, like the particles of matter in the human body, pass away and are succeeded by others; but the body politic continues essentially the same. If Britain contracted a moral obligation, in virtue of a solemn national covenant, for religion and reformation, that obligation must attach to her until it has been discharged.

Have the pledges given by the nation been yet redeemed? Do not the principal stipulations in the covenant remain unfulfilled at this day? Are we not as a people still bound by that engagement to see these things done? Has the lapse of time cancelled the bond? Or, will a change of sentiments and views set us free from its tie? Is it not the duty of all the friends of reformation to endeavor to keep alive a sense of this obligation on the public mind? But, although all ranks and classes in the nation should lose impressions of it, and although there should not be a single religious denomination, nor even a single individual, in the land, to remind them of it, will it not be held in remembrance by One, with whom "a thousand years are as one day, and one day as a thousand years?" (cf. 2 Pet. 3:8).

By this time the reader must be aware of the general opinion which I entertain of the basis on which the two largest Synods of the Secession have lately united. It is not my intention to enter into any particular examination of the articles of agreement. Complexly taken they afford undeniable proof of a complete recession from the ground originally occupied by Seceders. The exception made to the Westminster Confession of Faith and Catechisms is expressed in such a way as to leave on them the imputation of teaching persecuting principles in matters of religion, and in such a way as to set aside, or throw loose, the whole doctrine which they teach respecting the exercise of magisterial authority about these matters. Besides, the united Synod merely "retain" these books, "as (to use their own words) the confession of our faith, expressive of the sense in which we understand the Holy Scriptures;" but do not receive them, as was formerly done by the Church of Scotland and in the Secession, under the consideration of their being subordinate standards of uniformity for the three nations.

The other standards, the "Westminster Form of Church Government" and "Directory," are entirely excluded from the Basis. The general statement on the head of Presbyterian government is chargeable with ambiguity, and, unless inadvertence be pleaded, is evasive. The expression of veneration for our reforming ancestors, and of a warm sense of the value of their efforts "in the cause of civil and religious liberty," I have no doubt, is "unfeigned;" and the approval of "the method adopted by them for the mutual excitement and encouragement by solemn confederation and vows to God," is so far good. But I must be allowed to add that this is saying no more than has been often said by those friends of civil and religious liberty whose system of religion was very opposite to that of our Reforming ancestors; and that it is a very poor substitute for that explicit approbation of and adherence to the Covenanted Reformation of Britain which Seceders formerly avouched.

This is all that the United Synod have to say respecting our National Covenants; they "approve of the method adopted . . . by solemn confederation and vows to God;" but they have not a word to say on the present or continued obligation of these vows. For, surely, it was not expected that the public would consider this as included in the following declaration: "We acknowledge that we are under high obligations to maintain and promote the work of Reformation begun, and to a great extent carried on by them." Nothing, in fact, could be more disgraceful to these covenants than to attempt to bring them under the cover of such an expression. And, after the open, decided, express, and repeated avowals of the perpetual obligation of the National Covenant of Scotland and the Solemn League and Covenant of the three kingdoms, in the former profession, and in the ordination formula, of the two bodies not composing the Union, the omission of everything of this kind ­ and the careful exclusion of the very names of these covenants ­ can be viewed in no other light than a practical renunciation of their obligation, and a rescinding of all former declarations in favor of it. If the United Synod were the same with the original Seceding body, how severely would they condemn themselves by the charge which they once and again brought against the Established Church after the Revolution, because "they did not, by any particular act of Assembly, assert the obligation of our Covenants, National and Solemn League, and their binding force upon posterity."[16]

On the provision made by the articles for the practice of covenanting, I have only to observe that this exercise was all along viewed, in that part of the Secession by which it was observed, as the most solemn mode of sealing the common profession of the whole body; that as such it was engaged in at the express call of the supreme judicatory; and that, when the United Synod cannot say that "the circumstances of Providence require it," I can scarcely persuade myself that it is seriously contemplated to practice this sacred service in a manner which would discredit it, and which is totally irreconcilable with Presbyterian principles.[17]

With respect to the religious clause in some Burgess oaths which occasioned the original strife, the preamble to the Basis supposes that there are some "towns where it may still exist," and all the provision it makes to this is that "both Synods agree to use what may appear to them the most proper means for obtaining the abolition" of it. No provision is made that, if they shall be unsuccessful in their applications for an abolition of it, the oath shall not be taken in the united society; although it is well known that one of the parties had all along maintained that Seceders involved themselves in contradiction by swearing it, and continued down to the time of the Union, to require all entrants to public office among them to declare their solemn approbation of an act condemning it in this point of view. They are thus involved in a judicial allowance of what they hold to be sinful; and have recognized a principle which may be applied to an indefinite extent, and which ought to have been guarded against with the utmost care, as it enters into all the loose plans of communion which are so fashionable in the present day. This is still more evident from the engagement which they have come under, that they "shall carefully abstain from agitating in future the questions which occasioned" the separation.

It is proposed that the united Synod shall prepare a Testimony, "containing the substance of the Judicial Act and Testimony, the Act concerning the Doctrine of Grace, and the Answers to Nairn's Reasons of Dissent." What some may understand by the substance it may be difficult to say; but if the proposed Testimony really contains the substance of the first and last named of these papers, the basis will not support the superstructure. In answer to all this, some will say, "We are at full liberty to hold all our principles as formerly." But such persons should remember that the question is not about their principles, but the principles, or rather the public profession, of the body; and that it has been chiefly by means of the latter, that the declarative glory of God has been promoted in every age, and his truths and cause preserved and transmitted to posterity.

It is painful to me to be obliged to speak in this manner of the terms of a union which it would have filled my heart with delight to see established on a solid and scriptural foundation. But in such cases there is a duty incumbent on all the friends of the cause of the Reformation and the Secession; and this they must discharge whatever it may cost them, and regardless of the obloquy that they may hereby incur. They are sacredly bound to adhere to that cause, to confess it, and, according to the calls of providence, to appear openly in its defense. It cannot but be grieving to them to find that the attempt made to heal the breach among its professed friends has discovered that disaffection to it existed to a greater extent than they could have imagined. They may be accused as the enemies of peace and union. But they have this consolation, that they still occupy that ground on which their fathers displayed a faithful testimony for the truths and laws of Christ against prevailing defection; and that they are adhering, without any reservation, to those books of public authority which were formerly agreed on for settling and preserving religious unity and communion on the most extended scale. And they are encouraged to maintain this ground by the hope which they still cherish, that the God of their fathers and their vows will yet, in his merciful providence, bring round a time of reformation; and that, when this period shall have arrived, the Westminster Standards may form a rallying -point around which the scattered friends of religion, in this land, shall meet, and happily combine.

Footnotes for Appendix

1. Speaking of the Judicial Act and Testimony, the Associate Presbytery say, in their Answers to Mr. Nairn: "According to the particular calls of providence hitherto, that Testimony ... was especially in favors of our ancient ecclesiastical Reformation; and against those evils whereby the same hath been, in a great measure, departed from and overthrown: while a Testimony for our ancient civil reformation ... and against these evils whereby the same hath been, in a great measure, deviated from and destroyed; was lifted up, and all along carried forward.... But, at this time, the Presbytery have a particular call of providence ... to bear witness more especially unto our ancient civil reformation."

Having laid down in general the principles on which such a reformation rests, they proceed to say: "Agreeably unto all this, the Deed of Civil Constitution was set upon a reformed footing; by Act VIII. Parl. 1. James VI. Though the above settlement was, for some time, followed by suitable administration; yet a course of lamentable defection and corruption did soon prevail: 'Til a reviving of the true religion and reformation of the Church took place, and was gloriously advanced betwixt the years 1638 and 1650. That work of God, which became then engaged unto throughout the three kingdoms by a Solemn League and Covenant ... was also, in an agreeableness to this Covenant, accompanied with and supported by a civil reformation. In England (wherewith we have become more nearly concerned than formerly, by virtue of the Solemn League and Covenant), the civil administration was, in some valuable instances, subservient unto the said work of God. But more considerable advances were made in Scotland: While, beside many laudable acts in the civil administration, the deed of Civil Constitution was farther reformed than ever before; by Act XV. of the second session of Parliament, anno 1649. And according unto this settlement, was King Charles II. crowned at Scoon; January 1st, 1651.

"The Presbytery intend not to affirm, that there was nothing defective in the above managements; or that no imprudencies or mistakes were to be found therein. It is evident, however, that, by the good hand of God, the Estates of England, but more especially of Scotland, were inspired with a noble and predominant zeal for the House of God, in all its valuable institutions; and attained to a considerable pitch of civil reformation, subservient to the same: All which this Presbytery desires, with thankfulness, to commemorate and bear witness unto. Upon the whole, it is observable, that in Scotland, the reformation of the Church hath always, in a beautiful order, preceded and introduced the reformation of the State." (Display of the Secession Testimony, Vol. 1, pp. 278, 281-84.)

2. "The profession, defense, and maintenance of the true religion, in doctrine, worship, discipline, and Presbyterial church-government, agreeable unto and founded upon the word of God ... was secured by the fundamental constitution of the civil government in our reforming periods; which deed of constitution, in all moral respects, is morally unalterable ... because of its agreeableness to the divine will revealed in the Word, and because it was attained to and fixed in pursuance of our solemn Covenants." (The Associate Presbytery's Answers to Mr. Nairn, in Display, Vol. 1, p. 274.) In the same paper, the Presbytery, after deploring "the fatal overthrow of the former civil reformation" at the Restoration, and pointing out in what respects the settlements at the Revolution and Union were inconsistent with it, concludes thus: "Upon the whole, it appears, that, under the present constitution, a mighty bar is thrust in the way of our covenanted reformation, both in Church and State; yea, a gravestone is laid and established on the same." (Ibid, p. 286.)

3. Ibid, p. 285.

4. Answers to Mr. Nairn, Ibid, p. 291. The inconsistency of an unqualified approbation of the present constitution with adherence to a previous reformation, is maintained by the Associate Presbytery in that Public Deed, the express design of which is to condemn "the dangerous extreme, which some had gone into, of impugning the present civil authority over these nations and subjection thereunto in lawful commands ... on account of the want of these qualifications Magistrates ought to have by the word of God and our covenants; even although they allow us the free exercise of our religion, and are not manifestly unhinging the liberties of the kingdom."

5. bid, p. 280.

6. "For the better government, and further edification of the Church, there ought to be such assemblies as are commonly called Synods or Councils:" i.e., for attaining the end better than can be accomplished in smaller meetings of church officers. (Confession, 31:1)

7. See Act of Assembly [August 17, 1647], prefixed to all our copies of the Confession of Faith. Agreeably to this Act was the Confession ratified by the Parliament of Scotland.

8. Act and Testimony, apud Display, Vol. 1, pp. 156-59 and Answers to Nairn, ibid, pp. 311-14.

9. Answers to Nairn, ut supra, p. 311.

10. Answers to Nairn, ut supra.

11. Act and Testimony, ut supra, pp. 86-87. Acknowledgement of Sins, ibid, p. 250. Answers to Nairn, ibid, pp. 286-87.

12. Act and Testimony, ut supra, p. 62. Answers to Nairn, ibid, p. 283.

13. I cannot help saying, that Presbyterians have shown themselves strangely negligent in counteracting these false views; and I wish I had no reason for adding that they have suffered for their supineness by becoming the dupes of misrepresentation. Mr. Neal's History of the Puritans, a work which has been extensively read, affords a striking exemplification of this. Examinations of it, counter statements in those instances in which they considered their connections as injured by the author, have been published by Episcopalians, Baptists, Quakers, and Socinians. Nothing of this kind has appeared from Presbyterians, although it might easily be shown that they had as much ground for complaint as any of the parties mentioned. The general merits of the work should have been an inducement to them to point out its mistakes, which were more readily credited than the grosser errors of less informed and more prejudiced writers.

I can only give one instance here. After stating the Presbyterian opinion concerning "the power of the keys," or of church government, he adds: "The Independents claimed a like power for the brotherhood of every particular congregation, but without any civil sanctions or penaltiesannexed." (History of the Puritans, Vol. 3, p. 266, Toulmin's edition.) Now, the annexation of civil penalties did not enter into the claim of the Presbyterians, in their disputes in favor of the divine right of church government in general, or of Presbytery. But, if it had entered into their claim (as I grant some of them in their writings vindicated the propriety of the annexation), still it would have formed no distinction between them and the Independents; the latter themselves being judges. "If the Magistrate's power (to which we give as much, and, as we think, MORE than the principles of Presbyterial government will suffer them to yield) do but assist and back the sentence of other churches denouncing this non-communion against churches miscarrying, according to the nature of the crime, as they judge meet ... then, without all controversy this our way of church proceeding will be every way as effectual as their other can be supposed to be," etc. (Apologetical Narration, by the Five Dissenting Members of the Assembly of Divines, p. 18.)

14. See the lives of Gataker and Lightfoot, in Biographia Britannica, Vol. 4, p. 2166; Vol. 5, p. 3293.

15. In a work published two years before the time now referred to, Mr. Baillie made the following striking declaration: "Now, indeed, every monster walks in the street without control, while all ecclesiastic government is cast asleep; this too too long inter-reign and mere anarchy hath invited every unclean creature to creep out of its cave, and shew in public its mishapen face to all who like to behold.

"But, if once the government of Christ were set up amongst us, as it is in the rest of the reformed churches, we know not what would impede it, by the sword of God alone, without any secular violence, to banish out of the land these spirits of error, in all meekness, humility, and love, by the force of the truth convincing and satisfying the minds of the seduced.

"Episcopal courts were never fitted for the reclaiming of minds; their prisons, their fines, their pillories, their nose-slittings, their ear-slittings, their cheek-burnings, did but hold down the flame to break out in season with the greater rage.

"But the reformed Presbytery doth proceed in a spiritual method evidently fitted for the gaining of hearts ....

"It is not prophecy, but a rational prediction bottomed upon reasons and multiplied experience: Let England once be countenanced by her superior powers, to enjoy the just and necessary liberty of consistories for congregations, of presbyteries for counties, of synods for larger shires, and national assemblies for the whole land, as Scotland hath long possessed these by the unanimous consent of king and parliament, without the least prejudice to the civil state, but to the evident and confessed benefit thereof; or as the very Protestants in France, by the concession of a popish state and king, have enjoyed all these four spiritual courts the last fourscore years and above: Put these holy and divine instruments in the hand of the Church of England, by the blessing of God thereupon, the sore and great evil of so many heresies and schisms shall quickly be cured, which now not only troubles the peace and welfare, but hazards the very subsistence both of church and kingdom: without this mean, the State will toil itself in vain about the cure of such spiritual diseases." (Baillie's Dissuasive from the Errors of the Time [London, 1646], Preface, pp. 7-8.)

16. Act and Testimony, in Display, Vol. 1, p. 90. Acknowledgement of Sins, ibid, p. 231.

17. Formerly sessions were left to determine when the performance of the duty was suitable to the circumstances of their respective congregations; but now they must determine whether Providence is requiring the duty, or in other words, whether it be at all a duty incumbent on the Church in the present times.

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