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that the synod should proceed according to the usual order, to hear the reasons of protest, with the draught of answers, which had been prepared by a committee. But immediately the protesters renewed their former question about the said decision being a term of communion, in this new and larger form; namely, “ Whether, or not, the decision “ of synod concerning the religious clause of burgess oaths shall now 66 or afterwards be made a term of ministerial and christian commu6 pion; until the making of it to be so shall be referred, by way of 5 overture, to presbyteries and kirk-sessions, in order to their giving
their judgement concerning it: that so there may in the mean time, “ be a friendly dealing among the members of the synod, in a way of 6 conference and prayer; in order to their coming, through the Lord's s pity, to see eye to eye, in the matter of the said religious clause ?”
On Wednesday, the 8th day of April, the first day of this meeting after these protesting brethren had insisted, till it was very late, that a vote should be taken on this question, some proposed a previous ques. tion, namely, Whether, or not, the synod should immediately proceed to call for the reasons of the protest and the answers thereto, and to read and consider them? A third question was then proposed, namely, Whether the votes should be taken on the question of the protesters, or on the other question now mentioned? As it was carried, that the votes should be taken on the former, three ministers dissented from this resolution; and in the forenoon of the next day, their dissent was adhered to by nine other ministers and ten elders.
The necessity of the dissent from this resolution is evident. For, in the first place, the question itself on which the votes were to be taken, was, in this case, unwarrantable; as it supposed the synod to have a power which it could not have. It was competent to the synod to review their former decision, and, if they found it wrong,
to reverse it. But they could have no just power-to make a new decision by which the former would be materially reversed, and yet left formally standing. Such, however, is the purport of this question. It proposes to leave the synod's decision standing, to be considered formally as such by presbyteries and sessions, and, at the same time, to render that decision of no more effect, with regard to ministerial and christian communion, than if it had been reversed. Again, this question sup. poses the synod to have a power, which it could not have, to tolerate among their people, the swearing of the said religious clause; while the swearing of it at present is declared, in their
standing act, to be contradictory to their bond for renewing the covenants, and to be inconsistent with the Secession Testimony as avouched in that bond. Farther, according to this question, a decision of synod,* in a controversy of faith or case of conscience, considered as a decision still formally standing, was to be referred to inferior judicatories, particularly to kirk-sessions in order to their judging, whether they should submit to it: as if a synod might warrantably say to subordinate judicatories concerning an act in which they have made a just application of the word of Christ to a particular case; You may be either under the obligation of this act, or not so, as you shall judge proper. Nothing could be more contrary to the nature of presbyteriál, or scriptural church government than such a proposal. It is true, that no synods or councils, since the days of the apostles, are infallible; but if the fallibility of courts of judicature, without sufficient evidence of their having actually erred, be allowed to deprive their decisions of obligatory force and operation, the authority and use of courts, civil and ecclesiastic, will soon be at an end.
*“ This is a false charge.” (say the defenders of this question, Re-exhibition &c. page 272) "for it was not the decision, but the question concerning its being a term of commu. “ nion, that was proposed to be transmitted.” But the fact is, that these two points can. not be separated : for, as one justly observes, neither sense nor conscience can admit of judging, that the sentence should not be a term of communion, but in the way of judging it to be wrong. They seem themselves to be sensible of this, when they add, “ Though “ it had been the decision, yet the transmission of it was necessary."
In the second place, the proposal of taking the votes of the synod on this question, before the reasons of protest and the answers to them were read and considered, was unjust; as the decision concerning the said clause was thereby liable to be materially reversed or annulled ; while the members of the court were precluded from the benefit of the most proper means of obtaining light as to the merits of the cause. To call members to vote on any question, and at the same time to with, hold the means necessary for enabling them to vote with judgement, cannot be denied to be most unbecoming a court of Christ, which, above all other courts of judicątyre, is bound to search after kņowledge, and to judge righteously.
Alex. The burghers say, that this charge of suppressing the light, which was to be had by hearing the reasons of protest and the answers to them, is false. For in case it was for light and information to members, the synod was content that all should be read. But the separat: ing brethren, say they, evidently designed victory more than light: for unless their brethren, who protested against that decision, should be held pannels or parties, they themselves would not suffer these reasons and answers to be read. They say farther, these separating brethren themselves occasioned their not being read at the meeting immediately preceding, at Stirling.*
Ruf. These brethren solemnly protested, that they had no other design in requiring the reasons of protest to be first read and considered, than that the doing so was necessary according to good order and for the information of members. And there seems to be no ground from the facts established for supposing that they had any other design. The charge, on the other hand, against the party of the protesters, of suppressing light by getting the votes of the synod taken on their question without the previous hearing of the said reasons and answers, cannot be disproved by the instances you have mentioned. The fact is not denied: it is only alleged, that they had inducements or temptations to do as they did. When it was said, that those, who composed the committee appointed to prepare answers to the reasons of protest, occasioned that they were not read in the preceding meeting at Stirling, it should have been added, that they had not been able to finish their draught of them before that meeting. Nor should this failure be imputed to them as a fault; since it is not denied, that the court had admitted their excuse, on account of sacramental occasions and other necessary duties, to be sufficient. With regard to the assertion, that the defenders of the decision concerning the said religious clause would not suffer these reasons and the answers to them to be read, un:
• Re-exbibition, pages 174, 175.
less the protesters should be pannels or parties; the fact alluded to is thus represented by one who was fully acquainted with all that passed on this occasion. In the course of reasoning on the 9th of April, when a hearing of the reasons and answers was still urged, one of the protesters, without being contradicted by the rest,) proposed to yield to a previous reading of them, upon this condition, that the voting of their question should immediately follow without any farther reasoning on the subject. Were not the fact so ascertained as to leave no room to doubt it, one could scarcely conceive, that any member would seriously propose, as a condition of the court's observing a point of common and necessary order, the consent of their brethren to the voting of a question immediately after; while these brethren had been all along, and were now openly and earnestly contending against the sy. nod's voting on such a question at all; under a full conviction, that their doing so, as the case was circumstanced, was incompetent to the court, and exceeding sinful. The proposal does not seem to have been seconded ; and no wonder considering the gross impropriety of it.
Alex. It has been said, that in September, 1746, and on August 8th, 1747, the opposers of this question allowed, that it was lawful and regular to vote on it; though they afterward reckoned it a criminal question.
Ruf. It is evident, that the defenders of the synod's decision, opposed voting on this question from the first proposal of it. In September, 1746, after long and earnest contending against it, they obtained a delay; and such a delay as its friends then accounted not an allowance, but a material rejection of it. On the 8th of April, 1747, they endeavoured by a previous question to get it set aside; insisting all along on the inconsistency of it with the profession and constitution of the synod. On the next day, they opposed it in the way of solemn protestations. Thus they used all proper means for preventing the synod from voting on this question. Some of these members, indeed, acknowledged their sin in giving so much countenance to the putting of this question, as to offer an opposite side to it, or to vote the delay of it. But no candid person, who attends to the history of this affair, will deny that their opposition, though sometimes not carried so far as it might have been, was all along open and decided. They gave no ground for any to say, that they ever allowed it to be lawful and regular, for the synod, to vote on such a question. These endeavours indeed were unsuccessful. The protesters and their party, after it was carried, as I have already stated, for the synod's voting on their question, urged, that the votes of the members should be taken imme. diately. But the moderator and clerk declined acting on this occasion. So that the step which was the immediate cause of the rupture might have been prevented at that time, if two members had not presumed, without any appointment of the court, to act, the one as moderator in calling the names, and the other as clerk in marking the votes. Twenty members voted in the affirmative; of whom six ministers and one elder, being protesters against the decision concerning the religious clause of some burgess oaths, were directly parties in this ques. tion. The twenty-three members, who were standing under a solemn protestation against the putting of such a question, could not vote. On this event, a member who had been moderator of the former meeting declared, that as those who had gone into a resolution to transmit the decision concerning the religious clause of some burgess oaths to presbyteries and sessions in order to their judging, whether that decision should be a term of communion, had, in so doing, departed from the constitution and testimony of the associate synod; so the constitution of that court remained in the majority of ministers, who had all along at this meeting, contended against voting on that question, and also a considerable number of elders; together with any members, who might adhere to them; and proposed, that they should meet next day, at ten o'clock, forenoon, in Mr. Gib's house, in order to proceed in the business of the synod.
* Display of the Secession Testimony, page 328.
An Impartial Survey, &c. And Re-exhibition, &c. page 269. # Display, &c. pages 338, 339.
$ 69. Alex. As it is often the case in battles, that both sides claim the victory; so, each party, on this occasion, pretended to have the majority of votes. The burghers say they had a majority, thirty-two against twenty-two.*
Ruf. At the meeting of synod, in which that melancholy event took place, there were present twenty-nine of the thirty-two ministers who then belonged to the synod, with twenty-four elders. Twenty members, namely, six ministers and one elder, who had protested against the decision concerning the religious clause of some burgess oaths, with three other ministers and ten elders, voted in the affirmative, against twenty-three, consisting of thirteen ministers and ten elders, who, as has been observed, all along opposed this question in the most decisive and solemn manner.f The rest of the members were silent. Even though all the twenty, who voted for the affirmative on this question, had been legal voters, there was still a majority against it. But of these twenty, the seven protesters, as they were directly parties on the subject of the question, could not be legal voters. And with regard to thirteen of them, to whose right of voting no objection was ever offered, there was reason to say, that twelve of them voted without any proper knowledge of the subject of their vote. Two of them were ministers; of whom one had never been in the synod before. And the other minister, with the ten elders who voted on the same side, had not been present at any judicial examination of the subject. The case was the same with the elders on the side of those who were refusing to vote at all; but this was the very reason of their refusal, that they had not had an opportunity of understanding what they were to vote about.
Alex. On what ground, then, did the friends of this question pretend, that they had a majority of votes on their side.
Ruf. They reckoned, among the voters on their side, the moderator; (though, when they were proceeding to put the question, he refused to
• Re-exhibition, &c. page 261.
+ That the number of those, who stood under a protestation against the question about the synod's decision being a term of communion was twenty-three, is not disputed; viz. thirteen ministers, Messrs. Alexander Moncrief, Thomas Mair, James Thomson, Adam Gib, Andrew Clarkson, James Scot, George Brown, William Campbell, John Whyte, George Murray, Robert Archibald and William Mair, with ten elders.
call the roll, and immediately left them for that night;), and also, an absent elder, falsely supposed to be on their side. But when these two were added, they were still the minority; and therefore they reckoned to their side six ministers and two elders, who had not voted. Silent members may be added to the majority; but adding them to the minority is unusual in courts.
These silent members, indeed, continuing with the twenty voters, seemed to form a prevailing party, at that juncture, on the side of the voted resolution. But as the carrying of that resolution, in the manner now related, subverted the constitution of the associate synod; so a majority, made up in this manner, could not be justly accounted that court. Besides, it may be reasonably allowed, that in point of form, this title belongs to that party which, at the rupture, had the majority of ministers, who are the only constant and habitual members of the synod. It was then found, that these seven protesters had got no more than five ministers of the synod to take part with
em in forming a synod upon the ground of the resolution which occasioned the rupture; while nineteen ministers remained in the opposite body on the ground of a just and scriptural decision concerning the religious clause of some burgess oaths; a decision, the obvious design of which was no other, than that of maintaining the profession of the true religion, as it is stated in the Judicial Testimony, and the bond agreed on by the associate presbytery. It is contrary to presbyterial order, and even to the common principles of society, to suppose, that the minority of a court can become that court, in opposition to the majority; excepting in the case of the minority being so constituted by a superior court, to which it is subordinate. It was, therefore, most unreasonable, for twelve ministerial members, without the judgement of any superior court, to assume to themselves the name
of the associate synod, in opposition to nineteen ministerial members. When the heat of passion and prejudice is over, it will be easily seen, that this conduct is contrary to Presbyterian parity, and even to the humility and brotherly love which are so necessary in the followers, and especially in the ministers, of Jesus Christ..
$ 70. Alex. The defenders of the synod's decision concerning the religious clause of some burgess oaths, reckon, that the protesters against that decision were parties in the question about its being a term of communion. But those on the other side, judged, that they would rather have been parties, if the question had been about reversing the decision.
Ruf. No manner or degree in which persons may have previously appeared on one side of a public cause in the church, can make it their personal cause, or make them such parties as have no right to judge in it. How absurd would it be to suppose, that our reformers were parties in the cause between them and the church of Rome, having no right to judge in it, after they had protested against it, or had becoine Protestants.
In the proceedings of the synod of Dort, against the Remonstrants or Arminians, who then insisted, that such as had avowed their opposition to them on these points, should not be admitted as judges of their cause, there is a just observation to this purpose;
66 What rea