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not to be made terms of communion in the christian church; that confessions of faith ought not to be terms of communion; that our Lord Jesus appointed no particular form of government in his church; but left it to ministers or to civil magistrates to appoint whatever kind of government they should think proper; that public covenanting is not a duty in New Testament times; and that, if it be a duty at all, it is not seasonable in the present divided state of the church. One article of it is against the opinion of those who deny the duty of acknowledging the present civil government and of obeying its lawful commands. Some articles refer to opinions or practices, which seem to be more prevalent now, than they were at the time in which the secession took place in Scotland ; such as, the articles testifying against this opinion, that the sonship of Christ is founded in his office of Mediator; against the practice of singing human compositions in public worshipping assemblies instead of the psalms or songs delivered to the church in the sacred scriptures ; against the custom of baptising privately, or when a congregation is not publicly called together to wait on the dispensation of the word.
The opinions and practices now specified were stated in the Testimony of the associate presbytery in Scotland, or in that of the associate presbytery of Pennsylvania, as evils prevailing and obstinately persisted in either in the established church of Scotland, or in the Presbyterian church of America; and as reasons for a separate communion from these churches.*
* From this enumeration of particulars in the Secession Testimony appears the injustice of saying, that to decline from a public and express adherence to that Testimony, is only to lay aside some local peculiarities. For these particulars have no peculiar relation to the situation of the church in any place of the world. They especially who profess adherence to the Westminster confession of faith, the larger and shorter catechisms, the form of presbyterial church government, and directory for public worship, cannot, consistently with their profession, represent the Secession Testimony as made up of local pecu. liarities. For the truths and duties maintained, not only in the assertory part of that Testimony, but even in the articles referring to facts, are the same with those exhibited in the composures of the Westminster Assembly now mentioned; and therefore, in giving up the public profession of the former, persons decline from the due profession of the latter.
Thus, for example, to decline from the article of that Testimony against the acceptance of the indulgences granted to ministers by Charles the second, is to recede from the public profession of the principle contained in chap. XXX. sect. 1, of the Contession : “ The Lord "Jesus, as King and Head of his church, has therein appointed a government in the hand “of church-officers, distinct from the civil magistrate."
In declining from the article against the form of swearing by kissing a book, persons depart from a due adherence to the public profession of the principle exhibited in chap. xxi. sect. 2, of the Confession: “ The acceptable way of worshipping the true God is in“stituted by himself; and so limited by his own revealed will, that he may not be wok"shipped according to the imaginations and devices of men, or any other way not preØscribed in the holy scriptures." In dropping the article of that testimony against the General Assembly's omission of adequate censure in the case of Mr. Simson's venting and maintaining Arian tenets, persons recede from the public profession of the principle expressed in the Confess. chap. xxx. sect. 4: “Church censures are necessary for the re
claiming and gaining of offending brethren, for the deterring of others, for vindicating " the honour of Christ, &c. For the better attaining of these ends, the officers are to “proceed by admonition, suspension and excommunication from the church, according to " the nature of the crime and demerit of the offence." There is an article of that testimony against the submission of the ministers of the church of Scotland to the act of parliament concerning captain John Porteus enjoining each of them to read this act from the pulpit the first Sabbath of every month for a whole year, under the penalty of being declared incapable of sitting and voting in any ecclesiastical court; because such submission was a profanation of the Lord's day, and an unlawful subordinating of then selves in the exercise of their office to the civil powers: To decline from a testimony against such submission, is to recede from the public profession of what is taught in the Larger Cat.
Several things evidently follow from this account of the nature of the Secession Testimony; such as, Ist, That when a warrantable secession from any particular church takes place, such a testimony is indispensably necessary; as it is the ground upon which any can rationally or conscientiously accede to the cause of the secession; which cause, upon the supposition that the secession was just and necessary, is the cause of God and truth. 2. That the Westminster confession of faith cannot answer the
purpose of such a testimony: it cannot be rationally supposed to be a proper statement of the grounds of an event, which the Westminster Assembly never had nor could have in contemplation; and this is more evidently the case, when the party, from whom the secession is made, professes adherence to that confession. For, in this case, there is the same necessity for a testimony against the erroneous who own the Westminster confession, that there was for that confession against the erroneous, who owned the former confessions of the reformed churches, or what is called the apostle's creed.
3. That occasional testimonies, such as the associate reformed synod proposes to publish from time to time, do not ansiver the purpose of a secession testimony: because, when a testimony is published under the name of an occasional one, it does not certainly appear whether it belongs to the ground of the separate communion of those who publish it: for there may be various other occasions than a secession, for such testimonies; such as the case of one or two members falling into error; or the rise and spread of errors among those with whom the people of the secession body were never connected in church communion. "It is obvious, that the occasional testimonies of the associate reformed synod could not be intended to shew the necessity of their separate communion; as that communion existed a considerable time before this method was adopted; and as their occasional testimonies are not represented as terms of communion.
4. That the excellence of a secession testimony does not lie in the extent and variety of the articles, of which it consists; but in the plainness and faithfulness, with which it exhibits the cause of a necessary secession or of a continued separate communion. There is rather
quest. 116: “The fourth commandment requireth of all men the sanctifying or keeping
holy to God expressly one whole day in seven :"--and what is taught in the Confession, chap. xxx. i: “The Lord Jesus, as King and Head of his church, hath therein appointed “a
government, in the hands of church-officers, to whom the keys of the kingrlom of “ Heaven are committed.". To decline from a testimony against holding church communion with Mr. Whitefield avowing his adherence to the superstitious chareh of England, is to recede from a public adherence to the plan of church government laid dowu from the word of God by the Westminster Assembly. To decline from a public testimony against the forming of any representations of Christ in the imagination, is to recede from the public profession of the principle expressed in the Larger Cat. quest. 109: “The second com“mand forbids the making of any representations of God at all, or of any of the Three “ Persons, either inwardly in the mind, or outwardly in any kind of images.”
Thus we might go through the other articles of the Secession Testimony, and shew that our adherence to them is no more than what is implied in a due adherence to the Westminster confession and catechisms. But it does not follow that a public profession of adherence to the Westminster confession supersedes the necessity of a public profession of adherence to that testimony; as it is a more particular statement of doctrines and duties, which are opposed by many who own that confession in some way or other. For many will own general truths and declarations of duty, who obstinately rejeet the application of them to particular cases and present circumstances. A general proposition is often admitted; and yet the native and necessary consequences of it denied.
an impropriety in introducing articles, which, however important, have no particular concern in that cause; and which are held forth with sufficient precision in former judicial declarations, particularly in the Westminster confession of faith.
5. That it is a fanciful and even ridiculous objection against the exhibition of a secession testimony, that it tends to an excessive mul. tiplication of testimonies; since there never was, nor is, nor will be any more than one occasion of such a testimony; and that is the secession, the grounds of which the testimony is designed to set forth. At this moment I can recollect but two secessions, which deserve to be called necessary and scriptural, since the compiling of the Westminster confession of faith; of which the one was that of a great many ministers and people from the church of England on account of the imposition of the liturgy and ceremonies, in the time of Charles the second. And that of the associate ministers from the church of Scot. land. Nor is it less ridiculous to speak of such a testimony swelling to an unwieldy bulk; since the reasons of a necessary and scriptural secession are usually plain and sensibly felt by the sincere lovers of Christ and his cause, and may be comprised within a small compass. Several of the confessions of the reformed churches make but a few pages; and yet each of them comprehends a faithful and even a particular testimony against the abominations of the papal antichrist. Now one should think, that the secession from the church of Rome required a larger testimony, than the secession from any degenerate Protestant church would require.
Alex. Your observations on the words, which I quoted from the associate reformed synod, have been long. I hope you will be more concise in giving your opinion concerning the following words of that synod. Such a testimony, say they, could not deter from application for ministerial or christian communion with the synod any who are not really friendly to the doctrines of grace; since one who can profess attachment to the confession of faith, while he is secretly hostile to its truths, is too far advanced in dishonesty to be impeded for a moment by any testimony, which the wisdom of men can frame. It .could not silence the objections and cavils of such as incline to misrepresent the principles and character of the synod.
Ruf. My answer to these reasons shall be short; since they seem to proceed upon the same mistake as to the nature and design of a secession testimony, with the former passage. For it is not the business of such a testimony to detect the errors that have been taught in opposition to the doctrines of christianity in general; or to silence cavils and objections; but only to state plainly and faithfully the reasons which caused a necessary and scriptural secession. Besides, what is here said serves the synod no better as an excuse for their not exhibiting a more particular judicial testimony, than it would have served the Westminster assembly as an apology for declining the work of compiling the confession. For they might have said, that one who would profess attachment to the former confessions of the reformed church, and yet continue secretly hostile to the truths contained in them, was too far gone in dishonesty, to be impeded for a moment from seeking .communion by any confession which the wisdom of man could frame; nor could they expect, that it would silence the cavils and objections
of such as were inclined to misrepresent the principles and character of that assembly. This is too much in the spirit of an indolent watchman, who, having neglected to give the people seasonable warning of their danger, should attempt to excuse his omission, by alleging his apprehensions, that no warning, that he could give, would be regarded. Such apprehension of consequences, is by no means the rule of duty.*
Alex. The synod further observes, that such a testimony could not lift up a perpetual banner for truth; since, from the ever fluctuating state of religious controversy, and the impossibility of foreseeing the different shapes which error may assume, some parts of it would gradually grow obsolete, while some would be deficient; and the same necessity for occasional testimonies would still remain. In the na. ture of things, it would, after a short time, at most a few years, be out of print and out of date; and, ceasing to interest the public curiosity, would utterly fail of accomplishing its end.
Ruf. The members of synod still proceed upon the same mistakes For if they had attended to the nature of a secession testimony, they could never have supposed, as they do, that it would be necessary, in composing such a testimony, to foresee the different shapes which error may assume; while it is evident, that such a testimony has nothing to do with error, in any other shape than that in which it occasioned the secession; the grounds of which the testimony exhibits. Upon the same false ground, they suppose that a secession testimony for the truths of God will grow obsolete, or be altogether neglected. There are only two ways, that I can see, in which this can take place. One is, an universal prevalence of the errors against which it is lifted up, and an universal oblivion of the Divine truths which it is designed to maintain. This is a tremendous event indeed: But it will never be permitted by Him whose eyes are upon the truth; who has given his church a promise, that his name, which includes all his truths and ordinances, shall endure forever. The other way is, when the truths of God, for which the testimony had been lifted up, comes, through the effusion of the Spirit of truth, to be generally and cordially received, and particularly by the ecclesiastical body, from which the secession had been made. The genuine friends of such a testimony desire nothing more than to see it brought, as to its present form, or as maintained in a separate communion, to such an euthanasia, or comfortable issue. Upon this condition, they care not how soon it should be, as the synod say, out of print and out of mind.
• Rufus' time does not permit him to examine abstraotly the sentiment here of the associate reformed synod; which is, that a more particular declaration of a point of truth, as in the secession testimony, may be as easily avaded or perverted, as the more general cleclaration of it in the confession of faith. But it may not be amiss to take notice of a just observation in a publication by the late Rev. Mr. Beveridge, of Cambridge, in the state of New York, viz. “That many have perverted the thirty-nine articles of the “ church of England to an Arminian sense, who would never have attempted to ex. " pound the Lambeth articles in favour of opinions, which they so expressly condemn.” So, many will attempt to reconcile the distinction between the covenant of redemption and the covenant of grace, and the holding of true repentance to be,
the order of nature, before saving faith, to the Westminster confession, who will never think of reconciling these tenets to the declaration and testimony of the associate presbytery of Pennsylvania. The ease is the same with many other points of truth. See the Differ. ence briefly stated, page 17.
$ 86. Alex. So, then, you mean, that we ought to adopt the testimony
of the Seceders. Ruf. We should receive the love of the truth, that we may be saved. I am persuaded, were we in our judicial capacity, to assert every truth of God's word, which is an article of their testimony, and to condemn the contrary errors; and were we to comply with the calls they give us to reform, so far as their calls coincide with those of God's word, in a fair and honest application of it to our circumstances, we would soon annihilate the secession body in America. 0, Sir, were ministers, elders and people excited, in their several places and stations, to set earnestly about this blessed work of reformation; our land would soon come to be called, as Scotland was in her better days, Hephzibah and Beulah, delighted in and married to the Lord.
Alex. I have no doubt, that glory would dwell in our land, would the inhabitants duly receive the fundamental doctrines of the gospel, and make real heart-religion their care. For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; like many of the punctilios which the Seceders contend for; but righteousness and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.
Ruf. I apprehend, we cannot, with any propriety, rank the evils against which the Seceders testify, among indifferent matters; such as the observation of meats and days among the Jewish converts, between the time of Christ's resurrection and the destruction of the temple at Jerusalem. For all the reasoning of Seceders about these evils, goes to prove them to be breaches of the moral law, and to shew, that the practice of them is greatly aggravated, as being contrary to what the reformed churches have attained, and engaged by solemn covenant to keep pure and entire. So that, if we will justify ourselves with regard to what the Seceders call evils, it will not be sufficient for that purpose, to term them indifferent matters, meats and drinks :-We must first prove them to be so: we must shew, that there is no moral evil in the opposition we have made to the testimony which the Seceders have lifted up against the corruptions of the church of Scotland; in our occasional communion with Independents, and other opposers of presbyterial church government; in our neglecting to censure those who propagate error by the press; in the singing of hymns of human composure in public worship, instead of the scripture Psalms and Songs; in allowing many in our communion to continue in such practices as those of swearing by kissing a book, taking the Mason oath, and encouraging public lotteries. We must shew their reasoning on these and the like subjects to be inconclusive. Our attempts to this purpose have hitherto been unsuccessful. I must own, I cannot reflect without astonishment on our inattention to the necessity and importance of obedience to God's revealed will as to the externals of religion. The Seceders often urge, that God's commands about these things bear the same stamp of his authority, with his commands about other things; that he has often given awful manifestations of his wrath, on account of men's neglect of some observance in the external part of his worship; as in his declaring Saul to be rejected for taking upon him to offer sacrifice before Samuel came; in smiting Uzzah for touching the ark; in slaying the man of God