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clause in it, might be such a bar. The synod's considering this case, and coming to a just decision of it, could no more be reckoned unne cessary, than the duty of guarding themselves and their people against being involved in the guilt of swearing contradictory oaths, and con. sequently, of swearing falsely. They could have no business which was, in their circumstances, at that time, more proper or inore nè. cessary.
$ 65. After much reasoning on the subject, they came to the decision, which I shall now read. “ The synou find, that the swearing “ of the religious clause of some burgess oaths,” which was formerly recited, “ by any under their inspection, as the said clause comes “ necessarily in this period to be used and applied, does not agree to ( the present state and circumstances of the testimony for religion “ and reformation, which this synod, with those under their inspec. “tion, are maintaining; particularly, that it does not agree to, nor 6 consist with, an entering into the bond for renewing our solemn u covenants : and that, therefore, those of the sècession cannot fur“ ther, with a safe conscience, and without sin, swear any burgess 66 oath with the said religious cláuse; while matters, with reference “ to the profession and settlement of religion, continue in such cir. 6 cumstances as at present. Moreover, the synod find, that burgesses 6 of the secession, who are already concerned in such oaths, should 6 be required, in order to their admission into the bond for renewing 66 our solemn covenants, to attend conference with their respective 6 sessions, for signifying satisfaction with the present judgement of 6 the synod; and a sense of the mistake they have hitherto, through “ inadvertency, been under, concerning such burgess oaths."
This cannot be said to have been a rash decision. It was the result of much grave deliberation. Before it was made, says a writer, who had the best opportunity of knowing the facts belonging to this affair, there was much reasoning on the subject of it, at four different meetings of synod, in thirteen sederunts, mostly very long. The synod was thrice engaged in public fasting, with regard to this matter; and thrice in private diets for prayer; and seven times were different brethren so employed in the course of reasoning. *
6 66. The ground of this decision seems plain. For, supposing that it were people's duty to maintain a testimony for reformation principles, in the way of secession from the established church of Scotland; It is evident, that they who had espoused that testimony, and sincerely intended to continue in their adherence to it, could not swear an oath, having the said religious clause in it, without being guilty of swearing falsely. For in any country, where there is a certain church communion established by law, a person who describes himself as one who professes and allows with his heart the true religion presently professed within that realm, and authorised by the laws therof, must, according to the most natural meaning of the words, be understood as owning himself to be of that communion. A stranger to the dispute about the meaning of these words, would undoubtedly be surprised to hear that they had ever been taken in any
other sense. Alex. The burghers, I understand, say, that it was the true, the divine religion itself, professed and authorised in Scotland; the true
Introduction to the proceedings of the Associate Synod in the year 1747.
religion professed by Seceders in their Act and Testimony, and not the faulty manner of professing and settling it, that was sworn to in the said clause of some burgess oaths. In this sense, they considered that clause as binding them to the profession of the true rea ligion, but not to formal and full communion with the established church...
Ruf. This interpretation is not to be admitted: First, because it takes the expression, true religion, in this clause abstractly, without a due regard to the following words by which it is defined. Secondly, because, according to this interpretation, the swearer of the said religious clause, while the words of it defining the true religion here intended, necessarily signify that he allows in his heart the present national profession of religion, and the authorising of it by the laws of the land, yet, being a Seceder, disapproves that profession and that authorising as faulty. The swearer's approbation of the national profession, and of the laws authorising it, is the native import of the words used in this clause : but the disapprobation of what the swearer judges faulty, is added in his mind; and, being neither expressed nor necessarily understood by the words, is an instance of that mental reservation, which sound morality does not allow to have any place in the taking of an oath.
It is to be observed, that the swearer of this clause acknowledges two things; first, that there is a profession of the true religion to which this definition agrees, That it is made in this realm, and authorised by the laws thereof; a profession which cannot be denied to be made in the communion of the established church: and secondly, that he himself professes and allows with his heart the true religion, according to the same definition. His profession, therefore, of the true religion must be allowed to be the same with that which is made in the communion of the established church; for the definition of both is the same. This clause, then, cannot reasonably be supposed to mean two sorts of religious profession; as if one sort were signified by the words, I profess; and a different sort by the words, professed within this realm.
The due profession of the christian religion always implies, that the professor is a member of the church of Christ; and that the profession he makes is that of some part of the visible church. Hence, there is no lawful engagement to the profession of the christian relia gion, which is not an engagement to the profession which is made of it in some particular church communion. But it is evident, that the church communion, to whose public profession the swearer of this clause vows adherence, is determined by the words, presently professed and authorised by the laws of the land, to be that of the estaba lished church; there being no other church communion, to whose profession this description entirely agrees.
It is a received maxim, that every oath ought to be taken in the sense of the administrator, and in pursuance of his declared design. Hence, we are led to conclude, that as the administrator himself of. these burgess oaths professes the true religion in the way of formal and full communion with the established church; so, he considers the swearers of them as professing the true religion in the same way.
* Re-exhibition of the Testimony, pages 260, 261.
The word presently, as it is used in this clause, shews, that it means the swearer's approbation of the public profession of the established church at the time when it is sworn. Hence, the swearing of this clause must be directly opposite to the testimony of Seceders, which declares the present profession of that church to be so corrupt as to render the maintenance of a testimony in a separate communion necessary.
No person acquainted with the profession of religion made by the established church, and also with that exhibited in the testimony of Seceders, can, with any colour of reason, deny, that many things are admitted as consistent with the former, and included in it, which are directly opposite to the latter; such as the civil magistrate's power of dissolving the highest judicatories of the church, and of directing ministers to be settled according to the law of patronage; the condemning of various important truths contained in the Marrow of Modern Divinity; neglecting to acknowledge the covenanted reformation, as attained in the period between 1638 and 1649; censuring ministers for testifying against public corruptions; and especially, the persisting in and justifying these and the like evils in such a manner as rendered the maintenance of a testimony against them, in a sepa. rate communion, necessary.
On the whole, there is no reason to doubt, that the judgement expressed in the synod's decision concerning the religious clause in some burgess oaths, will at length be acknowledged, by serious and candid enquirers, to be just and moderate ; namely, “ That the “ swearing of this clause, by any under their inspection, as the said " clause comes necesarily in this period to be used and applied, does
not agree to the present state and circumstances of the testimony, “ for religion and reformation, which this synod, with those under their - inspection, are maintaining; particularly, that it does not agree to,
nor consist with an entering into the bond for renewing our solemn 66 covenants.”
$ 67. Alex. Might not the contending parties have exercised forbearance towards one another about this matter? I have heard, that the defenders of the clause as lawful, for the sake of peace, offered to condescend to an act discharging Seceders to swear this clause of the oath, as inexpedient in the present circumstances of strife and contention; and that this pacific proposal was entirely rejected by the antiburghers.*
Ruf. A respeetable member of the associate synod, than whom no one had better opportunities of knowing alt that passed in that court, declares in a publication a few years before his death, that the antiburghers could never reject the proposal you have related, as it was never made.t. In the Display of the Secession Testimony, there is an account of four overtures, the third of which seems to come the nearest to what you have recited. It was to this purpose; That, for the sake of peace, and to prevent different practices, when any under the inspection of the synod were proposing to become
• Re-exhibition, &c. page 261.
burgesses, they should be advised to take the burgess oaths without the said clause, till the members of the synod should come to see more clearly, eye to eye, in this matter. But such an advice would have implied the synod's allowance of the other clauses of these oaths, which had not yet come under their consideration. This overture overlooked the case of those who were already engaged in such burgess oaths. And these brethren would, by no means, grant, that such as would not follow the advice of the overture, should, in the mean time, be refused admission into the bond for renewing our covenants.
There was another overture for a mutual forbearance of one ano. ther in the present question; as being one of these things which was never matter of testimony in the church of Scotland, and which we never had attained.
The observations on this overture in the Display of the Secession Testimony, seem to be such plain truths as might carry conviction to every reflecting mind.
First, it is observed, with regard to the reason offered in support of this overture, that the matter of the present question, namely, the swearing of the religious clause in this period, could not have been a matter of testimony in any former period, more than the year 1746 could have existed in any former period.
There are various points of religious testimony attained now, that were not explicitly attained by our forefathers either in the first or second reformation. And it appears from a protestation made in 1638, which was recited in one of our former conversations, that, in their judgement, any general swearing to religion, without specifying all the points of testimony attained, would not be warrantable.
Again, it is to be observed, that the national profession and settlement of religion, (which, as we have seen, is acknowledged and approved in swearing the said religious clause.) are very different now from what they were then. The things which that clause refers to now, are very different from those things which it referred to then. In that respect, such a swearing of this religious clause, as that which is now in question, is a thing which had no being in the reforming covenanting period. The religious clause in some few burgess oaths, might not be adverted to by our reforming ancestors. But they manifested their adherence to the principle on which the associate synod proceeded, in the decision concerning that clause. An act of parliament was passed in the year 1633, ratifying all acts and statutes made before, concerning the liberty and freedom of the true kirk of God, and religion presently professed within this realm. From this act a considerable number of nobility, barons and burgesses dissented: The whole artifice of that act, says Rapin, in his history of England, consisted in these words, religion presently professed: for thereby were confirmed all the innovations in the discipline of the kirk of Scotland, which were so offensive to the opposers of that act. Would not they who condemned an act of parliament for referring to the present profession of the true religion which obtained before the reformation in 1638, have equally condemned any oath, if they had adverted to it, which referred no less to the same present profession; as liable to such a construction as that which is put on it by the historian just now mentioned.
Secondly, It is observed, that it is no wonder, that the synod could not comply with a proposal, which proceeded upon a doctrine of mutual forbearance, giving a toleration for a joint swearing of two oaths supposed to be contradictory, even in the general matter of religion.
But, Thirdly, upon the supposition of the synod's forbearing a present decision of the question, these brethren would, by no means, agree to forbear, in the mean time, an adınission of those, engaged in such burgess oaths, into the bond for renewing the covenants; any more than if the synod had decided according to their mind. It could not therefore appear, that the forbearance proposed was genuine, or really mutual, or any wise calculated for preserving peace or for preventing different practices.
It may be added, that there was an obvious difference between the case of the one party and that of the other. It appears even from the overtures that were proposed by the defenders of this religious clause, that they did not consider the practice of swearing the said clause as necessary, or the prohibition of that practice as inconsistent with their religious profession. Some of them declined asserting the lawfulness of the burgess oath in its religious clause. One of the protesters* publicly declared, that he was not to be looked upon as having any freedom to stand in opposition to the decision of the synod condemning that clause. Besides, they might have agreed, that the swearing of this clause should be prohibited upon some of the grounds on which members of the synod reasoned against it; particularly, on this ground mentioned in the Display of the Secession Testimony, namely, that the laws of civil society do not warrant the limiting of burgess privileges, to persons of the moral and religious qualifications requisite to the swearing of a solemn religious oath. But the case of the other party was very different. They understood this religious clause as an oath of formal and full communion with the established church in its present state ; and as quite inconsistent with the maintenance of their profession in the way of a secession from that church. They also believed, that whoever should swear both this religious clause and the bond for renewing our covenants, would swear contradictory oaths. Hence it is evident, that all the.conscience they made of holding their testimony in the way of secession from the established church, required them to condemn the swearing of that religious clause.
$ 68. Alex. I understand, that the question, which at last occasioned the runture of the associate synol, was different from that about the lawfulness of swearing the religious clause of some burgess oaths.
Ruf When the decision which has been recited, concerning the reJigious clause of soine burgess oaths, was passed, five ministers and two elders protested against it, and proposed reasons of their protest. At the next meeting, which was in September 1746, two ministers and two elders, declared an adherence to their protest. At this meeting these protesting brethren introduced the question, Whether the deci. sion of synod concerning the said clause should be a term of ministerial and christian communion ? When the synod met in April, 1747, the consideration of that decision having been resumed, it was proposed,
* Mr. Hatton, minister at Slow. See a Display of the Secession Testimony, page 90. + Page 33.