Page images
PDF
EPUB

about the union with the associate presbyteries, which constituted the associate reformed synod, designed as a step towards a union of all the presbyterian body who professed the same faith of the gospel. My personal knowledge of these things pointed it out as my duty, to vindicate them from the doctrines contained in the Sons of Oil. Having been also engaged in the early committees, &c. which promoted the independence of the United States, and in making or ratifying the constitutions of this state and of the United States, and, for a long period, in legislating on the one or other of them, it appeared to be my duty to engage in their vindication, when they were so grossły traduced. These reasons: had such weight in my own mind, as to induce me to make observations on this extraordinary work, notwithstanding that my other engagements, and time of life, might have afforded a strong apology for declining it.

The old dissenters, from whom I am descended, were a very pious people, exact in their morals, and so inoffensive in their de portment, that they were trcated with great respect and sympathy by their neighbours; but when they came to have ministers, and their numbers increased, their respectability had not a proportionuble increase; they began to make some deviations, seemingly inconsistent with their testimony; they began to consider paying tithes to the episcopal clergy, whom they did not acknowledge, as compounding with a robber-as Mr. Wylie does with paying road and county taxes, of which he and his people receive equal benefit with others. But though, because of the rescinding of the covenants, the establishment of episcopacy, and the king's headship over the church, the reformed presbytery of Scotland disowned the authority of the civil government; they did not like those who assume that name in this country, claim its proteetion; they did not apply to courts or magistrates for the recovery of debts, damages, &c. or the protection of constables to their presbytery, as those as. suming that name do in this country. Doing so, was there esteem. ed highly censurable ; they did not act so inconsistent a part as to claim protection where they refused allegiance. They, indeed, laboured under mistakes by trusting to tradition. They believed that not only the solemn league and covenant, but even the national coyenant of Scotland, neither of which were ever taken by the king

dom of Ireland, or their representatives, were binding on that nation. They appear to have been led into this mistake by reading the title of the solemn league, affixed to it by the committees of Scotland and England, who prepared that instrument, but to which Ireland never acceded ; and also by the local testimonies of the sufferers in Scotland, of those who laboured under the same mistake. They also believed that those covenants were legally taken in England, agreeable to the constitution of that nation-whereas the solemn league was only taken by authority of an ordinance of parliament, which never became a law, and for which the clergy of England, which were deprived of their livings, and persecuted under Charles II. to more than five times the number of the clergy of Scotland, who were deprived, on the same occasion, and persecuted also for not complying with prelacy, never during that persecution, nor after it ceased, claimed the legal obligation of that cove. anant on England. With the national covenant, England and Ireland never had any concern. Upwards of fifty of the English presbyterian ministers, many of them very eminent divines, whose works yet praise them, outlived the persecution, and afterwards enjoyed protection; but none of these ever set up a claim to the solemn league, as of legal or moral obligation, or as a term of christian communion, as the old dissenters in Scotland did.

They were also under a mistake in believing, that any act of a human fallible legislature could be in its own nature unchangeable, thus setting human authority on all equal footing with the unchangeable God; or that one legislature had not equal authority to

revise or repeal a law, as another had to make it ; or that either .. law-makers or subjects had a moral right to engage, by oath, to

to make rules of conduct unchangeable, which were, by the providence of God, rendered changeable in their own natures. Into this mistake they were led by the unhallowed union of church and state, and the misapplication of the Sinai covenant. The old dissenters being few in number, and left without a minister, when they commenced their testimony in Scotland against the establishment of church and state, in 1689, had not the opportunity of correct information-correct records respecting them not having been then published, and they themselves being strongly prepossessed in fayour of national churches. They never, however, pretended that

[ocr errors]

the obligation of these covenants extended to the American colo.. nies (now United States) nor did their presbytery, when they obtained one, as is evident from their judicial testimony, apply it to them. Nor did they ever teach, that civil protection could be claim ed, where allegiance was not due. They claimed, indeed, the right of native borrt citizens of Britain, but not of the colonies. The new presbytery which has assumed that name in this country, howe. ver, has, by its own authority, transferred these local, and, in their own nature, changeable obligations, to the United States, which they might, with equal justice, have done to any other nation. They have also taught the immoral doctrine, that protection and obedience to the lawful commands of the civil government are not of reciprocal obligation, and Mr. Wylie has supported this doctrine solely from a misapplication of the judicial law of Moses, and the decrees of emperors and councils; and he has appealed to the reformers and approved commentators for the support of his doctrine, without giving extracts from any of them.

In my Observations I have shewed, from the prophets, apostles, and approved commentators and reformers, that the Sinai covenant, including the judicial law, is not only abolished, but that it never was intended for any people but Israel, nor for any country but the typically holy land ; and that even there it did not authorise perse. cution for what has been since called heresy, &c. That the christian religion authorises no persecution, by the civil magistrate, for religious opinion; and that civil magistrates are not church officers, nor have any law-making power in, or over the church of Christ, &c. I have also endeavoured to shew the true moral foundation of civil magistracy. For these purposes I have inserted a few extracts from approved commentators, reformers, and church history, out of many that I had prepared; and have also endeavoured to refute his numerous mistaken charges against the governments and character of this country, some of which are truly slanderous, and to correct and explain some of the objections which he supposes we make to his doctrine, and the conduct which he patronizes.

The sixth chapter chiefly relates to the rise and progress of the numerous divisions of the presbyterian church, while they all profess the same faith of the gospel, &c. wherein it is shewn that they all, directly or indirectly, have originated from the union of church

[ocr errors]

and state, viz. political establishments of certain modes of religion, enforced by civil penalties and rewards ; and have endeavoured to demonstrate the impropriety of so many different sects holding the same faith, worship, government, discipline and order, and, at the same time, holding separate church commumion, and several of them treating each other as if they were enemies to the gospel of Christ. This indeed I have considered as a great evil, and have shewn that it is contrary to the practice of the primitive church, and of the reformers, and of the spirit of christianity.

I have used the word sect instead of denomination, not as a term of reproach, as it is applied to those who separate from a reli. gión established by human authority, which happily has no place in this country, but as a term of distinction, as it is used in the New Testament. In this country all denominations are equally sects. In Britain all are sects or sectarians, who separate from the establishment.

In page 42, I have commenced some observations on a manuscript" concerning toleration, and in the last chapter I have men. tioned a second reformed presbytery in this country. This manuscript was written several years since, by a respectable elder of that communion, and sent to me for an answer, which, as it had not a tendency to disturb the public peace, like the “Sons of Oil," I then declined-but in as far as it is connected with that work, I have taken notice of it in the following Observations.

As these Observations were expected to have gone sooner to press, it may be proper to offer some reasons for their delay. As soon as I could procure and peruse the Sons of Oil, I commenced my Observations on it. But as he has appealed to the reformers and approved commentators, boasts of being surrounded with a great cloud of witnesses, and, throughout the whole, states himself as the advocate of the reformation, and holds up all who do not agree with him, as enemies of that blessed work, I thought it necessary to examine and give extracts from the writings of the reformers and approved commentators, and also from the history of the chris. tian church in the fourth and fifth centuries, which he introduces as the period of the greatest perfection. I also thought it proper to introduce the doctrine and example of the primitive apostolic church, which he has wholly passed over, except in so far as he

has given such a gloss or comment on the doctrine of the apostles, as is in direct contradiction to their own practice, and the obvious meaning of the words, and to the sense in which they have been taken in all the protestant Confessions of Faith, and by all protes.. tant commentators to which I have had access. From these I took such numerous extracts, as, with my own observations, would have made a volume much larger than I had intended. In this state the work was, when I was called abroad on public business during the winter, and also during several of the summer months, and the winter following. Some family distresses also occupied my atten. tion.

Besides the above reasons for delay, I was informed that the presbytery (of which Mr. Wylie was a member) was employed in preparing a testimony against the sins and errors of the times, and I was certain, that if they held the same principles with the reforme ed presbytery of Scotland, they must testify against at least á num. ber of Mr. Wylie's extravagant errors, and from his books being so withdrawn from sale, as that there was not a copy left, I thought it probable that he himself would make such retraction or explana. tion, as would render my observations unnecessary. I had heard, above two years ago, that this testimony was in some hands, but never saw it advertised for sale, and I did not suppose that such a candle was lighted to be put under a bushel. However, when on a journey after harvest, 1810, while I lay by to rest, I had an oppor. tunity of the perusal of that testimony, and found that the author of the Sons of Oil was still sustained as a regular member of that presbytery, and observed that no censure was passed on his book of errors—I then justly considered that presbytery as responsible for them, and, on my return home, set about revising and making an abstract of the work, which, in the first draught, was too exten. sive for the design. Numerous extracts from approved commenta.. tors, &c. were withdrawn, and so many only retained as carried the doctrine of protestants down from the commencement of the reformation, to the present day. Observations on many positions in the Sons of Oil, of minor importance, were also suppressed, and the printing engaged—but the printing press was not set up till a few months since.

My object was, to promote truth and peace in both church and

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »