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still lie in the way of union between the Reformed Presbyterian and Original Secession Synods in Scotland. Well, the paper was not written with that view, nor with the view of being read in Scotland at all, but with the view of laying before our people in Ireland “a summary of the leading distinguishing principles of the Secession Church.” A lengthened statement on the details of the differences between Reformed Presbyterians and Seceders was the less needed, inasmuch as a joint committee of the two Synods in Scotland have been examining and discussing these for some years, and as the results of their labours are published, it was to be expected that Mr. M‘Donald would find there all that he desires on this head. Besides, I quite agree with the reviewer in the opinion, which he only half expresses, that I am incompetent to set forth the distinct standing-ground of the Secession Church (by which he means the ground whereon she and Reformed Presbyterians differ), in such a way as to make it plain to Mr. M'Donald's comprehension, more especially as a joint-committee of two synods have already failed in this. And when I do touch on the point in dispute, he speaks as if I had acted presumptuously in taking on myself “ to define the ground of difference between the Secession and the Reformed Presbyterian Churches." I cordially agree with Yr M‘Donald that it would be well if some one were found wbo would let us have such a statement of Secession principles as would go far “in removing misconceptions, and in leading to a better understanding.”
Then, again, my paper errs by excess. The object of the paper, Mr M‘Donald states, was to set forth “ the peculiar," the “ distinctive” principles of Seceders. By the distinctive principles of a church he means, as his remarks clearly show, those principles which no other church on earth holds hut herself. And in the light of this meaning of the term, he proceeds to examine the summary I have given of Secession principles, and as the result informs his readers that “whether in ignorance or otherwise” I have endeavoured to pass off “on the unthinking part of the population,” certain propositions as distinctive of the Secession Church which are common to all Evangelical Presbyterians. To this it is a sufficient reply, that I stated “Seceders have no peculiar principles. Their principles are the principles of the Reformed and Covenanted Church of Scotland, &c.” And as regards the term " distinctive," I did not use it in the sense Mr. M‘Donald attaches to it, nor am I aware that it is usually employed in that sense when applied to the principles of a church. Certain principles may be distinctive of a church by way of eminence, by reason of the prominence she gives them, and the importance she attaches to them, without being hers exclusively. And it often happens that a prin
ciple which is distinctive of a church's profession in one period of her history, is left to occupy a very subordinate place in a subsequent. The “establishment principle," for example, held a distinctive place in the profession of the Free Church of Scotland at the Disruption, but though still retained in her Creed, it is no longer the “distinctive" principle it was formerly. And were the distinctive principles of Reformed Presbyterians examined in the light in which Mr. M'Donald understands and employs the term “distinctive," it is to be feared they would turn out to be fewer than Reformed Presbyterians themselves are prepared to admit. It is a misrepresentation to say that I claimed each separate and individual proposition as distinctively in the sense of exclusively belonging to Seceders. But taking the four propositions in their entirety, in all their length and breadth, in their true sense and import, I do claim for them, as embracing a connected system of scriptural principles, a distinctive place in the profession of the Secession Church-a place which no other church in these lands, with the single exception of the Reformed Presbyterian, which I distinctly named, professes to accord them. As Seceders view these principles, no church can consistently bold and thoroughly apply one of them, without holding them all.
Mr M‘Donald need not be at such pains to inform his readers, that the first proposition I mention “is about as common to all churches deserving the name of Protestant, as that of the doctrine of the atonement." As if I had said the contrary ! Surely he did not read any but the first few lines of what I wrote under this head. If he did, he must either have failed to comprebend my meaning (perhaps because it was not plain enough), or he misrepresents it. He represents me as ignorantly claiming for Seceders the exclusive honour of holding “the Word of God as the supreme and only rule of faith and practice.” Well, I must be very ignorant indeed, if I did any such thing, and Mr. M'Donald must have been blind indeed, when he failed to see that I put forward no such a claim, but distinctly said, “ It is not to be understood that this doctrine is peculiar to Seceders, or that they are the only parties who acknowledge it. It is acknowledged in the Standards of all sections of the Presbyterian community." It is not in the profession of the principle, but in the practical application of it " in all its breadth and bearings,” that differences arise. And the practical disregard of it, by some sections of the church who profess to hold it, as in the cases I mentioned, is one of the defects or evils in their “administration," which Seceders feel bound to testify against. That the reviewer thinks that profession is not all that is necessary in some cases, appears from his opinion that when the admission I made in favour of Reformed Presbyterians comes to be
examined, it amounts to very little—credit for mere profession.” Credit for mere profession is enough in Mr. M'Donald's mind, for all "churches deserving the name of Protestant,” but the Reformed Presbyterian.
“As regards the third proposition-adherence to the Westminster Standards,”—the reviewer says, “it no more belongs to the Secession Church as a distinct feature in her creed than does the doctrine of original sin.” That is, the Secession Church can be distinguished from no greater number of denominations by adherence to the Westminster Standards, than by adherence to the doctrine of original sin, and hence that adherence to the former is as common a feature of the Presbyterian churches of the present day as adherence to the latter. Now, by adherence to the Westminster Standards, Mr. M.Donald means adherence in the same sense in which I explained it, or in a different. If in a different, then he misrepresents me," whether in ignorance or otherwise." If he understands adherence in the same sense that I did, then I ask him to name a few of the churches of the present day that adhere “to all the Westminster Standards, in matter and form, as standards of uniformity for the churches of the three kingdoms,"—that hold these standards in the same sense, and in the same extent, that the Reformed Church of Scotland held them. He can have little difficulty in doing this, since on his own showing they are as numerous as those who hold the doctrine of original sin. Mr. M‘Donald gravely informs his readers that I have endeavoured, * whether in ignorance or otherwise, to pass off certain propositions as distinctive of the Secession Church which are common to all Evangelical Presbyterians.” If he can show that any of the principles in question, except the first, are common to all Evangelical Presbyterians, I shall admit the charges, heavy though they be. I suspect the proof of Mr. M‘Donald's assertion will be as new to some Reformed Presbyterians as to Seceders. I suspect, too, he will have some trouble in persuading all Evangelical Presbyterians that they are publicly owning, as Seceders are, all or any of the four propositions, with the exception of the first.
Again, I cannot but regard the reviewer as giving a gross misrepresentation both of the origin and grounds of the Secession, and of my statements regarding these. The fact that the first Seceders continued in the Revolution church till they could no longer consistently remain in it, is adduced as evidence, that " in their view there was but little, if anything, wrong with the settlement of the Church in 1689." On the same ground, M Millan and Nairn, who constituted the first Presbytery of Reformed Presbyterians, saw little wrong in the Revolution church either, nor Luther and Knox in the Romish
church, till they were “ expelled.” On the contrary, there is abundant evidence to show that the Seceders invariably complained that the Church sat down,” to use their own words, “under the shadow of the civil establishment at the Revolution, without remonstrating against what was defective in the same.” Whilst acknowledging her defects, the great majority of those who represented the Reformed and Covenanted Church entered the Revolution Church to maintain and carry out their covenanted principles. Though there was a general fainting in the day of trial, there was always a constitutional party within her bosom who remonstrated and protested against her abuses and corruptions. The Seceders represented this party, and took
up their cause, which was the cause of the second Reformation. Being in communion with the National Church, and believing that no particular church was to be separated from till she appeared obstinate in apostasy, they continued to use every lawful means of reformation till she refused to be reformed, and thrust them out for their pains. The insinuation that the early Seceders were satisfied with the attainments of, " and had no objection to the Revolution Church,” so long as they were in her communion, is refuted by the fact that their Testimony, which sets forth the aim of their contendings, both within and without her pale, was planted on and covers Second Reformation ground. I deny entirely that my “paper clearly leads to the inference " that it was the resiling of the Church of Scotland from the position of the Revolution Settlement, “that necessitated secession in 1733." “ Her former self,” in the passage quoted to support this view, clearly points to the state and position of the Church at the Reformation, and not at the Revolution period. This is plain from the sentence which follows, where I mention that what caused the Seceders sorrow and alarm was seeing the “grand old Scottish Church, that had been baptized with the blood of the noblest. in the land, now drifting before the wind," &c. Whilst Seceders acknowledged the Revolution as a glorious work, they deplored its sinful defects, and by their acts and writings showed that they invariably regarded the glory of the former period as far exceeding that of the later.
Mr. M‘Donald cannot but be regarded as dealing unfairly with history and the memory of the early Seceders when he asserts "that what is termed the secession of the four ministers is not so much a secession as an expulsion, that they would not have seceded had they not been expelled, and that it was their expulsion that opened their eyes to evils and defects in the Church they had not seen before.” This version of the matter, however plausible, does not very well agree with the testimonies of those who had the best right to know the true state of the case, the Seceders themselves, and their persecutors. The former, in stating the ground and object of their withdrawal from the National Church, say—“ The prevailing party will not allow us to maintain a proper testimony in a way of ministerial communion with them; and, therefore, it is not only warrantable for us, but we are laid under a necessity to lift up a testimony in a way of secession from them, that we may do what it us lies to transmit to succeeding generations those invaluable truths, that have been handed down to us by the contendings and wrestlings of a great cloud of witnesses," &c. It is true they were suspended by the Commission of Assembly, because they protested against an unrighteous sentence arbitrarily passed on ministerial faithfulness, and refused to withdraw their protest, even on pain of the highest censures. It is also true that it was after they were suspended they seceded. But it is not true, as Mr M'Donald insinuates, that they seceded because they were suspended. They seceded because the ruling party, by their conduct in censuring them, had laid an embargo on ministerial freedom and faithfulness, and proved they were determined “on carrying on a course of defection from our reformed and covenanted principles.” Ministerial freedom to testify for the reformation cause and against defections therefrom, was what they desired, and had this been permitted within the Church no doubt they would not have left; but since it was not, they went forth “ without the camp” to seek it. It was “harsh dealing” with the cause they had espoused, and not with themselves personally, that laid them “under a necessity" to secede. And when the sentence pussed by the Commission was removed by order of Assembly and they were invited to return, a chief reason of their refusal was that whilst favour was shown to themselves personally by the acts of the Church judicatories in seeking to have them restored, justice was not done to their cause. Besides, it was not till a number of years after they had formed themselves into a separate Presbytery-till every effort had been tried, by invitation, deputation, and otherwise, to induce them to return—that they were actually “expelled.” And the Assembly, in dealing with them to the last, speaks of them, not as the “expelled” but as the “seceding ministers," and by her Moderator assured them that “if they returned they would be received with open arms." Therefore, we have to confess that we cannot regard” our critic's version of the origin and grounds of the secession “ otherwise than a mis-statement, in fact, a gross misrepresentation-we do not say designed.” It is nothing short of a slander on the memory of the first Seceders to insinuate that the high measure of faithfulness they displayed was the result of persecution, and that they would have acted less faithfully had they been