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who prophesied against Jeroboam's altar for turning back to eat bread and drink water, contrary to God's command; in the controversy which God had so long with the Jews for their worship on the high places. It is the concern of those who desire to be found faithful, to fall in with every command of Christ, though it were about the smallest matters: and it is diametrically opposite to the new nature of his people, to account any deviation from the rule of his word a small matter. It is the Lord's way to bring his people, in the first place, to an organized church state; to a pure profession and pure ordinances. This order is represented in the vision of the dry bones, in the xxxviith chapter of Ezekiel. In the first place, bone came to its bone; flesh and skin covered them above: after that, breath came into them; they lived, and stood up a great army. The Lord will turn to the people a pure language; that is, a pure profession and pure ordinances, and then they shall call on the name of the Lord, and serve him with one consent.
Alex. Though I should grant, (what you urge so much, the impor. tance of the matters contended for by Seceders; yet, you allow, that they are expressed or implied in our confession of faith, in our catechisms, in our form of church government and discipline, or in our directory for the worship of God. Is not a profession, then, of adherence to all these forms, a sufficient profession of the christian religion? And is it not, therefore, unnecessary to adopt the particular acts of the associate presbytery; such as, their judicial testimony, their act concerning the doctrine of grace, their act concerning the renewing of the covenants, their declaration concerning civil government, and their sentence concerning the religious clause of some bur
Ruf. The adherence to the Westminster confession, which our church had agreed, in 1726, to require of candidates for the ministry, was accounted, by Seceders, lax and undeterminate; as it was attended with an exception of what any of our presbyteries might, in licencing or ordaining a candidate, “judge not essential or necessary “ in doctrine, worship and government." This exception is omitted in the form of adherence which our presbyteries are directed to require in the form of government adopted by our synod in 1788. The words of that form of adherence are, That the candidate sincerely 6 receives and adopts the confession of faith of this church, as con“taini
the system of doctrine taught in the holy scriptures; and “ that he approves of the government and discipline of the Presby6 terian church as prescribed in the form of the government and dis“cipline of the Presbyterian church in these United States.” But still our adherence to the Westminster confession, and to the Presbyterian form of church government will appear defective and lax, when the form of expressing it now recited, is compared with the terms in which the church of Scotland appointed candidates at their licence and ordination to express their adherence to that confession: every such candidate there being required to declare, that he owns and believes the whole doctrine contained in that confession; and that he owns it as the confession of his faith : when we consider, that our judicatories have not, by any judicial deed, renounced the prelatical and independent forms of church government, as contrary to the word of God;
gess oaths ?
nor acknowledged the exception above-mentioned in the act of 1726, to be so, though it is left out in the form of government and discipline more lately agreed to; and especially, while the scheme of occasional communion in sealing ordinances with Episcopalians and Independents is not censured, but rather countenanced and approved by ministers and people in our church. Besides, the difference between the state of the church at the time when the Westminster confession was composed, and her present state, may convince us that some other statement of various points of truth and duty, in opposition to the errors and corruption of our day, is necessary to a faithful exhibition of the cause of Christ now, than what was necessary to such an exhibition of it then.
Before we part, I may add some observations on the continued regard, which is due to such testimonies, or ecclesiastical deeds, as those, you have just now mentioned, of the associate presbytery.
The scriptures of the Old and New Testament are the store-house of all Divine truth; and nothing is to be received as such, but what is found in these inspired writings. The only ground upon which we are to receive any proposition, as a Divine truth, is the holy scriptures, and not any creeds, confessions or testimonies of men; and yet, the scriptures themselves bind us to receive and hold fast such creeds, confessions and testimonies, so far as they are consonant to the scriptures, and evidently express truths contained in them. Such acts or seeds of the church of Christ as exhibit any Divine truth, in opposition to error, are to be zealously maintained
1. As they declare what particular truths revealed, or duties en. joined in the Divine word, the church is, at any time, more especially called upon
appear for and defend. Such a truth or duty is called the word of Christ's patience, or the present truth.*
2. As they are laudable examples of the due exercise of that authority, with which Christ has intrusted the ministers of his church, in the judicial assertion of truth, and in the judicial condemnation of error. Such deeds of the church, passed in one time or place, are to be imitated in other times and places. The apostle commends the Thessalonians, because they were imitators of the churches of God, which were in Judea. There is nothing in which we ought to be more careful to imitate other churches, than in their acts for the maintenance of Divine truth.
3. As they declare what the church of God has attained. In this view, we cannot refuse to espouse and retain acts or deeds of church judicatories, the scope or design of which is undeniably the maintenance of truths revealed, or duties enjoined in the scriptures, without being chargeable with backsliding, or declining to go forward in the path of duty; nay, without disobedience to the solemn charge which Christ gives to each particular church, Hold fast that which thou hast.
4. As they are memorials of the Lord's goodness in bringing his church in particular times and places to the scriptural profession of the truth, or to the scriptural order represented in such acts or deeds. Every such attainment is of the Lord; and belongs to the salvation of the church which he is working.* Whatever belongs to the reformation of the church is to be acknowledged as an instance of the great goodness he has bestowed on the house of Israel, according to his mercies, and according to the multitude of his loving kindnesses.t
* Revel, jö. 10.
+ 1 Thessal. ii. 14.
# Revel. ij. 25-ii. 11.
5. As every such act or deed is a public profession of adherence to some particular truth or duty; and implies an engagement to abide in that profession. Such an act or deed is, in fact, the consent or promise of the particular church, by whose ministers, in their judicial capacity, it was enacted. It is of the nature of a vow, as it is a promise made to God, and therefore, a particular church can neither retract nor lay aside such an act or deed, without being chargeable with breach of promise, and with treachery to her God.
Alex. Our conversations, to which we must now put a period, have taught me to think and speak more favourably of the profession of the Seceders. I must own, I am now ashamed of the opinion I once entertained of the principles of the Seceders, while I had not perused their judicial deeds, and had my knowledge of them only through the medium of partial or superficial representations.
Ruf. It is obvious, that the misrepresentation of the principles of the Secession church, is less excusable than that of the principles of other religious societies; for while our information of what is held by other societies must be derived, in a great measure, from conversation or private writings, the Secession church has taken care to have every particular, belonging to their peculiar profession, stated with accuracy and precision in their public and judicial deeds. Having, since we began our conversation on the Secession Testimony, reviewed the principal objections against it; and having weighed them in the balance of God's word, looking up to the Father of mercies for his enlightening Spirit; I now find myself fully determined to espouse that cause, and, through grace, to live and die a sincere professor of it. I am persuaded, that the steadfast adherence, which the Secession Testimony requires, to the whole doctrine, worship and government of the church of Christ, and the unanimity, which that testimony also requires, not only of ministers, but of all other church members, in their adherence to all the real reformation which has been attained, since the erection of the reformed churches, will, in a great measure, constitute the more iminent glory of the latter days. For, when the light of the moon shall be as the light of the sun, and the light of the sun shall be seven-fold, as the light of seven days; the Lord will bind up the breach of his people, and heal the stroke of their wound :f they will then see eye to eye, and call on him with one consent.
Psalms Ixxiv. 12.
† Isai. Ixii. 7.
# Ibid. xxx. 26.
No. 1. Of the duty of the civil magistrate. As one principal end of those judicial deeds, which express the agreement of an association of christians in certain articles of Divine truth, and their rejection of contrary errors, is to promote mutual confidence with regard to their joint concurrence in the belief and support of such articles ; so in order that these deeds may answer that end, it is necessary that they be preserved inviolable. It is no sufficient reason for altering an expression in any passage of such a deed, that an opposer of the truth, which that passage was designed to express, misrepresents its meaning. Readers may often complain of obscurity, while the fault is not in the composition, but in their own inattention and unjust prejudice. When any passage of a judicial deed has been much abused, or is not sufficiently guarded against misconstruction, it seems better to illustrate the doctrine in a separate deed, than merely to alter some words of the former one: such a separate deed will be more satisfactory, as being a more correct and full declaration of the truth. It seems more especially improper, for one ecclesiastical body to alter any deed of another, making it rather express their own views, than those of the body by which it was originally framed. For hereby the sentiments of one body may be unfairly palmed upon another. Hence the members of the associate presbytery of Pennsylvania, in framing their Declaration and Testimony, declined making such alterations in the confession of the Westminster Assembly, as have been made by the general assembly and by the associate reformed synod, in the articles respecting the power of the civil magistrate; and chose rather to express their judgement on that head, as they have done, in the first part of their Declaration and Testimony.
It is granted, however, that, though these considerations require an ecclesiastical judicatory to be peculiarly cautious of altering public deeds asserting the truths of God in opposition to error; yet there may be cases in which it is proper for a judicatory to use this freedom with its own deeds, particularly, when it appears to the judicatory, that an expression in any of their deeds is liable to dangerous misconstruction; and that an amendment proposed is consistent with the explicit and faithful assertion of the truth. But the following expression in the 15th section of the first part of the said Testimony, to wit, His whole duty, as a magistrate, respects men, not as christians, but as members of civil society, is not liable to such misconstruction, but seems necessary from such considerations as the following:
1. To say, that the whole duty of the magistrate, as such, respects men, not as christians, but as members of civil society, is to say no more than that he is an officer not of the church, but of civil society. For it is obvious, that the duty of a person considered as an officer of any body of men, considered, for example, as the colonel or physician of a regiment, is that which respects the members of that body, and not those of any other.
2. The contrary opinion, namely, that the duty of the magistrate respects men as christians, tends to confound his opinion with that of the gospel-minister. These two offices are distinguished from one another in respect of their immediate end; that of the magistrate being the promotion of men's welfare in their secular concerns, and that of the gospel-minister being the promotion of their spiritual interests or of what belongs to their everlasting salvation. But to suppose, that the duty of the magistrate, as such, respects men as christians, is to overthrow this distinction. For if the duty of the magistrate, as such, respects men as christians, it must have the promotion of their spiritual interests or their eternal salvation for its immediate end ; that is, it must have the same immediate end with the duty of the gospel-minister, as such. Again, to suppose that the duty of the magistrate, as such, respects men as christians, would overthrow another great distinction between the magistrate, as such, and the gospel minister, namely, that they are officers of different kingdoms. The duty of the magistrate, as such, is the duty of ruling those to whom he stands related as a magistrate; and therefore if his duty respected men as christians, it would be his duty to rule them as christians, or as the church of Christ. Then this absurdity would necessarily follow, that the civil magistrate should exercise his carnal weapons, (for he has no other,) as well as ministers and elders their spiritual censures, in the government of the church. Bát the magistrate, as such, is not an officer in the kingdom of Christ. To ministers and elders, and not to him, has Christ committed the keys of government in his kingdom, which is not of this world. It is, then, a great distinction between the magistrate, as such, and the gospel-minister, that the duty of the former respects men as members of civil society, whilst that of the latter respects them as christians.
3. If the duty of the civil magistrate, as such, respects men as chrislians; then he may punish heretics and schismatics as such. For it cannot be denied that the magistrate has a right to judge men authoritatively, in the character in which they are formally and directly the object of his official duty, and to deal with them according to his judgement. And therefore, if the duty of the magistrate, as such, respects men as christians, that is, if they are formally and directly in that character objects of his official duty; then he has a right to judge authoritatively, whether they be heretics and schismatics, or not; and having judged them to be such, he has a right to punish them as bad christians. Thus the supposition, that the duty of the magistrate, as such, or as armed with fines, prisons, gibbets, respects men as christians, will justify the magistrate's bloody persecution of heretics and teachers of error, or of those whom he takes to be such. For with regard to intrinsic demerit, wrongs done to the church of God are more