The Covenanted Reformation Defended

Then I sent unto him, saying, There are no such things done as thou sayest, but thou feignest them out of thine own heart (Nehemiah 6:8, Authorized Version [AV]).

Introductory remarks

We are saddened but not surprised at the publication of the article entitled, A Defense Departed by Richard Bacon. We are desirous to secure attention to Mr. Bacon's thoughts on our differences and will fully and freely refer to all he has written whenever this discussion renders it necessary. I must, at the outset, express my regret that Mr. Bacon's disparaging comments and attempts at ridicule, not less than his scandalous accusations of error, are so often and dogmatically repeated in his writings. Since his comments are directed against what we are assured is the truth of God, we have no alternative but to dispute them in a manner equally decided.

My constant hope was that the differences between the doctrine and practice taught by Mr. Bacon and ourselves might have been lessened by a kindly conducted and thorough discussion, comparing facts and clearly demonstrating principles. That hope, however, was severely diminished on the appearance of Mr. Bacon's late work. Were the subject essentially of less importance than it is, this writer would much prefer to pursue it no farther and simply allow the able and faithful writers of the Covenanted Reformation to speak for themselves. One only need consult the books written by our covenanted forefathers (available through Still Waters Revival Books [SWRB]) to see readily and plainly that the many assertions and representations made by Mr. Bacon in his Defense Departed are misleading and unreliable.

George Gillespie, Scottish Commissioner to the Westminster Assembly, judiciously emphasises this writer's sentiments when he says:

I have often and heartily wished that I might not be distracted by, nor engaged into, polemic writings, of which the world is too full already, and from which many more learned and idoneous [i.e. suitable _ GB] have abstained; and I did, accordingly, resolve that in this controversial age, I should be slow to write, swift to read and learn (George Gillespie, Aaron's Rod Blossoming, 1646, reprinted by Sprinkle Publications 1985, p. xv).

Nevertheless, to succumb to Mr. Bacon's assumptions and accusations, so utterly unfounded and yet so serious, would be a violation of the ninth commandment, where we are forbidden to keep silent in a just cause or to hold our peace when iniquity calls for either a reproof from ourselves, or complaint to others (cf. Larger Catechism # 145). To allow Mr. Bacon's misrepresentations to go unanswered would lead the Church of Jesus Christ to believe that he has spoken truly and faithfully. To allow his unseasonable appearing and pleading for an evil cause to stumble the faithful would allow the inference that we are indifferent to the interests of both the truth and the Church of Jesus Christ. I submit that Mr. Bacon has spoken falsely and unfaithfully regarding what we believe to be God's undoubted truth. I contend that Mr. Bacon has falsely and unfaithfully represented our views, and consequently the views of the best men of the First and Second Reformations. I ask our readers to carefully consider what is written in this response and to critically evaluate whether our conclusions and representations are true. If it be, as I affirm, that it is the truth of God which Mr. Bacon is striving to suppress, then I pray that God will allow him and all readers to pay close attention to what is said in these pages. Unless he speedily repents, his iniquity, offence and every wanton assault will recoil upon his own head, leaving him in a worse position than when he started. He who would dare speak in the name of the Lord Jesus while endeavouring, through abuse, to suppress evidence and misrepresent His cause, will be called to answer to a far more potent adversary than I.

For the Lord GOD will help me; therefore shall I not be confounded: therefore have I set my face like a flint, and I know that I shall not be ashamed (Isaiah 50:7, AV).

The Puritan Reformed Church considers Mr. Bacon an erring and disorderly brother in the Lord.

Let not the reader think by my accusations and warnings, that I consider Mr. Bacon anything other than an erring and disorderly brother. When a brother takes it upon himself to write an article publicly misrepresenting the truth of God and the belief of the covenanted remnant, we are duty bound to withstand him to the face and warn him to repent. I desire to admonish Mr. Bacon in the same spirit that Paul admonished Peter: not as an enemy but as a disorderly brother; not desiring continued dissociation, but commanded to continue dissociated as long as the offence is obstinately and wilfully maintained.

But when I saw that they walked not uprightly according to the truth of the gospel, I said unto Peter before them all, If thou, being a Jew, livest after the manner of Gentiles, and not as do the Jews, why compellest thou the Gentiles to live as do the Jews (Galatians 2:14, AV)?
Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which he received of us (2 Thessalonians 3:6, AV).

When our Lord Jesus rebuked the Apostle Peter, he did so in love and to the end that Peter might be restored in the truth.

But when he had turned about and looked on his disciples, he rebuked Peter, saying, Get thee behind me, Satan: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but the things that be of men (Mark 8:33, AV).

The Puritan Reformed Church desires Mr. Bacon's correction.

In Mark 8:33 our Lord Jesus exemplifies His faithful love for the Apostle Peter as he demonstrates the use of plain speech in the correction and restoration of a true son. My entire response to Mr. Bacon is to be interpreted in this light. I will endeavour to use language appropriate to the charges advanced and sins committed, while at the same time, humbly entreating the Lord to keep us from exacting personal vengeance. I mourn not only for the sins of this land, but also for our own shortcomings which are too often revealed in the heat of debate. I call upon our Great Shepherd to moderate my tongue, to the end that I may through careful and thoughtful expression effect edification and reconciliation as I testify throughout this discourse. I am not responding to vindicate our church so much as I am responding to the misrepresentation of Mr. Bacon upon the cause of God and Truth itself. In the words of the godly martyr James Renwick I say, "Let us be lions in God's cause and lambs in our own" (W. H. Carslaw, The Life and Letters of James Renwick, 1893, SWRB bound photocopy reprint, 1997, p. 35).

The format of this response.

My format will be simple and direct. Mr. Bacon's general misrepresentations will be followed by a rebuttal and a call to repentance. Many of Mr. Bacon's statements are of such a preposterous nature that I judge them to be a sinful distortion of the facts and no less than an emotional attempt to bias the sincere reader by the use of irrelevant debating tactics. While some may be persuaded by such sophistry, I am hopeful of better things regarding our present readers.

He that is first in his own cause seemeth just; but his neighbour cometh and searcheth him (Proverbs 18:17, AV).

Mr. Bacon has misstated the issues.

The logical fallacy of irrelevant thesis is an argument in which an attempt is made to prove a conclusion that is not the one at issue. This fallacy assumes the form of an argument that, while seeming to refute another's argument, actually advances a conclusion different from the one at issue in the others argument... The fallacy of irrelevant thesis derives its persuasive power from the fact that it often does prove a conclusion or thesis (though not the one at issue) (S. Morris Engel, With Good Reason, p. 97, emphases added).

Whether Mr. Bacon simply does not understand the issues or whether he understands the issues all too clearly and chooses not to deal with them, I cannot say. My concern is that he has fundamentally failed to address the most relevant questions and consequently has directed his energies to the wrong issues.

Others have fallen into the same snare. As a result, our true position has been so grossly misrepresented that we are concerned that sincere seekers of truth may actually judge us based upon the misrepresentations set forth by Mr. Bacon, Mr. Schwertley, or Chris Coldwell, and not upon the plain and repeated published facts. Rather than allowing these men and others to continue in the direction of opposing things we do not maintain, which is obviously unproductive and destructive to sound faith and good manners, I was commissioned by the Session of the Puritan Reformed Church of Edmonton (PRCE) to defend our doctrine in these controverted areas. We hope that the forthcoming pages will be helpful in promoting a more careful and accurate study of the issues at hand, and we pray that our God and Father will by these efforts reduce the amount of sinful rhetoric cultivated from either side of the question. While it may not be reasonable to expect agreement upon all controverted points, I do believe it is necessary to use any and all lawful means to endeavor to effect a more favourable outcome. This is certainly in accord with the following sentiments penned by John Calvin.

I wish it could be brought about, that men of learning and dignity from the principal churches might have a meeting; and, after a careful discussion of the several points of faith, might hand down to posterity the doctrine of the scripture, settled by their common judgment. But amongst the greatest evils of our age, this also is to be reckoned, that our churches are so distracted one from another, that human society [fellowship _ GB] scarcely flourishes amongst us; much less that holy communion of the members of Christ, which all profess in words, and few sincerely cultivate in fact. Thus it happens, that the body of the church, by the dissipation of its members, lies torn and mangled. As to myself, were I like to be of any service, I should not hesitate to cross the seas for that purpose. . . . Now, when the object is to obtain such an agreement of learned men upon strict scriptural principles, as may accomplish a union of churches in other respects widely asunder, I do not think it lawful for me to decline any labours or troubles (John Anderson, Alexander and Rufus, 1862, Still Waters Revival Books reprint, 1997, p. 151).
For there is hope of a tree, if it be cut down, that it will sprout again, and that the tender branch thereof will not cease (Job 14:7, AV).

Go back to Table of Contents

Go to next section


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

Are the Covenanters a Cult? Super Sale

Covenanter Sale

Samuel Rutherford Sale

Other Related FREE Resources On the Web:


A Brief Defence of Dissociation in the Present Circumstances (1996)
This work explains why Christians should separate themselves from those churches which deny biblical truth and its implications. It defends this position using many Reformation source documents. Samuel Rutherford has been especially misunderstood concerning separation. Examples of misleading and seriously flawed presentations of Rutherford's position on the church and separation have been seen in Walker's The Theology and Theologians of Scotland 1560-1750, Bacon's The Visible Church and Outer Darkness and a host of other works -- all of which overlook foundational second Reformation truths set forth by Rutherford and his fellow Covenanters. This book clearly demonstrates, from Rutherford's own actions and teaching (during the Protester/Resolutioner controversy in the Scottish church), how far off many previous works on this subject have been. It is the best short introduction to questions regarding the visible church and separation which we list.
(Bound photocopy) $9.95-60%=$3.98 US funds

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

Saul in the Cave of Adullam: A Testimony Against the Fashionable Sub-Calvinism of Doug Wilson (Editor of Credenda/Agenda Magazine); and, for Classical Protestantism and the Attainments of the Second Reformation by Reg Barrow
Doug Wilson and others at Credenda/Agenda used their magazine to publicly attack and slander Reg Barrow (President of Still Waters Revival Books) in a column that they call the "Cave of Adullam." This invective was Credenda's response to Barrow's comments on Knox Ring (where Barrow noted that John Calvin would have excommunicated John Frame for the apostasy that he manifests in his new book on worship). Numerous private attempts were unsuccessfully made (by Barrow and others) to call Wilson to repentance for this slander. Ultimately, charges for violation of the ninth commandment were brought (in accord with Matt. 18:15-17) against Wilson by Barrow. This book recounts the salient points of the controversy (and the Matthew 18 proceedings) between Wilson and Barrow -- in their actual email debates! Also included is Barrow's demonstration of why Calvin would have excommunicated Frame and Greg Price's Testimony Against The Unfounded Charges of Anabaptism. These debates are a classic example of the differences that exist today between paleopresbyterians (Barrow) and neopresbyterians (Wilson). Wilson's charges against Barrow, of Anabaptism, separatism, etc. are all refuted under a mountain of quotations from Reformation source documents. Barrow's refutations of Wilson's spurious charges bring to light many aspects of Reformation thought that have been lost or forgotten in our day. Besides the initial controversy (over Frame and worship) and the restoration process (set forth in Matthew 18:15-17), this book should be of special interest to all of those who love the "old paths" of truth -- trod by our forefathers in the Reformed faith -- for some of the most pressing issues of our day (regarding the individual, church and state) are addressed herein. Classic statements, cited by Barrow, not only exhibit the wisdom which God granted the best Reformers of both the first and second Reformations, but also specifically demonstrate how Wilson and many other modern Protestants actually reject the Reformation at many points (all their protests not withstanding). "And they that shall be of thee shall build the old waste places: thou shalt raise up the foundations of many generations; and thou shalt be called, The repairer of the breach, The restorer of paths to dwell in" (Isa. 58:12). This item is also available as a bound photocopy for $7.98 (US funds) or a Hardcover photocopy for $19.00 (US funds).


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

Still Waters Revival Books

Rare Reformation, Classic Covenanter and Calvinistic/Puritan Books (by John Calvin, John Knox, the Westminster Divines, et al.) at Great Discounts!


All EMAIL SUPER SPECIALS (our best discounts ever!) at:

Add yourself to our SUPER SPECIAL email list at:

Still Waters Revival Books (

Summaries by Reg Barrow & Others

Back to swrb home page