The Auchensaugh Renovation of the National Covenant and Solemn League and Covenant - Part 6

Part 6








"I have sworn, and I will perform it, that I will keep thy righteous judgments."--_Psalms_ cxix: 106.

"They (Egyptians) shall vow a vow unto the Lord, and perform it."--_Is_.

xix: 21.

The Corinthians "first gave their own selves to the Lord."--_2 Cor_.

viii: 5.


Vow, and pay unto the Lord your G.o.d.--_Ps_. lxxvi: II.


Having in prospect a united, public and solemn approach to our covenant G.o.d, some important principles should be understood, that we may proceed with intelligence and have sure ground for our faith.

"G.o.d is love;" and reciprocal love const.i.tutes "the bond of perfectness"

between G.o.d and rational creatures. Communion with G.o.d is the supreme felicity and highest honor of which angels and men are capable. The first emanation of divine love revealed to us was displayed in the covenant of works; although not called a covenant, the narrative contains all the elements essential to a federal deed, comprising a summary of the whole moral law. Thus the sovereign love of G.o.d was manifested through the medium of law and covenant inseparably combined; and this is the Lord's manner of dealing with mankind till the present time.

That covenant was made with us in Adam as our common father and public representative. By the breach of it we are born in Adam's image and "children of wrath;" for the principle of representative identification pervades the moral universe. Our rational and social nature fits us both for personal and federal responsibility.

When we had "destroyed ourselves" by apostasy from G.o.d, then did G.o.d "show the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus." The gift of his Son to be a covenant head to sinners is G.o.d's highest, and most glorious demonstration of his ineffable love. The breadth, and length, and depth, and height of the love of Christ pa.s.seth knowledge; and the displays of this love through the covenant of grace will doubtless furnish matter of admiration to holy angels, and of adoring grat.i.tude to redeemed sinners throughout eternity. Rev. i: 5, 6.

Ever since our fall in Adam G.o.d has dealt with our sinful race by covenant. This covenant was made with Christ as Mediator between G.o.d and man, and as the representative of all whom the Father gave him to be redeemed and brought to glory. John xvii: 2. Accordingly, the Lord Jesus, immediately on the fall of our first parents, entered upon his work of mediation. To them first he announced his commission, declaring his purpose to "bruise the serpent's head--to destroy the works of the devil." Gen. iii: 15; 1 John iii: 8. Christ is given "for a witness to the people; a leader and commander to the people; to have power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many as the Father hath given him."

Throughout the whole of the mediatorial administration the law and the covenant are distinct, though inseparably connected: and although many covenants are mentioned in the Scriptures, and even distinguished as _old_ and _new_. Jer. x.x.xi: 31; Heb. viii: 8; yet we must understand these as only different and successive modes of administering one and the same Covenant of Grace. This covenant was proclaimed before the deluge by prophets, as Enoch and Noah; after the flood by patriarchs; then by the ministry of Moses and other prophets, when John the Baptist and the Messiah in person proclaimed it; and from the day of Pentecost till the end of the world is the last dispensation--still, the covenant is immutably the same. The most solemn and memorable act of covenanting with G.o.d was at h.o.r.eb, otherwise called Sinai, when the Israelites were first and formally organized in ecclesiastical and civil relations. Then "Judah was his sanctuary, and Israel his dominion." Ps. cxiv: 2.

Besides circ.u.mcision and the pa.s.sover, both of which involved covenant obligation, G.o.d inst.i.tuted the additional ordinance of public and social federal transaction, that the whole body might glorify him by a united act of solemn dedication as his special property separated visibly from the world. Is. lxiii: 19. And that this is a moral ordinance, and of perpetual obligation, is evident from the practice of G.o.d's people, both under the Old and New Testament, and the language of prophecy. Deut.

xxix: 10-12; 2 Cor. viii: 5; Is. xliv: 5.

Again, when we renew our covenant, we do not mean that the obligation has ceased, or that we can increase its obligation, for this is infinite and permanent; we intend by our personal act to deepen and render more durable our sense of preexisting obligation. This is, indeed, the immediate object of all renovations, by Moses, Joshua, kings of Judah and Nehemiah. And as we have seen, this ordinance was observed by Christians in the time of the apostles, so their practice may be traced through history afterwards, however obscure, until the time of the Reformation from Popery; when in Europe, both continental and insular, this ordinance was revived and exemplified. Among all nations in Christendom Scotland stands preeminent since first emanc.i.p.ated from bondage in mystical Babylon, for the frequency and fidelity of her ecclesiastical and national vows to the Most High. After many struggles with Popery and Prelacy, during which Christ's witnesses in that land derived strength and courage from vows renewed to withstand these organized oppressors; at length by their example and influence the kingdoms of England and Ireland were brought into a confederation by that famous and grand doc.u.ment, the Solemn League and Covenant. Taken in connection with the National Covenant of Scotland, those three nations and the churches in them were voluntarily bound to G.o.d and to each other by all the solemnity of cords and bands made in heaven. Yet, through the corruption of human nature and the restless malice of the Dragon and his angels, these bands were treacherously broken and the cords cast away.

Although those symbols of the public faith were Scriptural doc.u.ments, yet the reformation as truly described by the late Mr. Robert Lusk, was to the majority "a reformation only on paper." Like Israel of old the hearts of most of the people were not right with G.o.d, neither were they steadfast in his covenant. Ps. lxxviii: 37. This was soon made manifest by the Public Resolutions, accepting Indulgences, and the subsequent twenty-eight years of persecution inflicted upon those who "stood to the covenant." Then followed, in 1689, what the apostates called, and their successors still fondly hail, as the "glorious Revolution settlement!"--a settlement which, by forms of law, consigned the nations' solemn vows to oblivion, with all possible expressions of detestation by the infamous "Act Rescissory." In the year 1707, the "Act of Incorporation" brought the church and kingdom of Scotland under degrading bondage to the anti-Christian, Prelatic and Erastian throne of Britain.

While these steps of apostasy were in progress, the Lord preserved a "wasted remnant" of witnesses, who "resisted unto blood striving against sin." These valiant Christian patriots--"the Society People"--kept themselves and their garments clean, and kept also the word of Christ's patience. They never were _dissenters_, nor properly called the "Old Dissenters." During this hour of temptation they were dest.i.tute of the help and guidance of a public ministry. At length, in the year 1706, Mr.

John M'Millan, wearing the honorable badges of suspension and deposition, imposed by his apostate brethren for advocating in their a.s.sembly the continued obligation of the Covenants. National and Solemn League, (Is. lxvi: 5,) was joyfully received as their minister by the voice of the Society people. In the year 1712, at Auchensaugh, Mr.

M'Millan, with the a.s.sistance of Mr. John M'Neil, licentiate, "resolved to set about this solemn and tremendous duty of renewing their national covenants with G.o.d." Their mode of procedure was Scriptural, following the examples of Moses and others to Nehemiah--"the footsteps of the flock." They framed three papers, History, Confession and Engagement.

The text of the Covenants of our fathers was left entire, only some explanatory words and phrases being placed in the margin. These explanations were then necessary to clear that question of questions--"Shall the throne of iniquity have fellowship with thee?"--a question to be finally settled only at the sounding of the last Apocalyptic trumpet. Rev. xi: 15. That transaction was ever after incorporated with the Terms of Communion.

Some years after this transaction another renovation took place in Scotland, at a locality called Crawford-John; but no attainments were then made, nor has any authentic record of the proceedings been transmitted to posterity. Also the Seceders, soon after their erection as a distinct organization in Scotland, and repeatedly since in Britain and America, by public covenanting have contributed to the preservation of sound doctrine and Christian practice. We cannot, however, accord to them the honor of being the successors of the covenanted witnesses, which they unwarrantably claim, seeing that they disowned the "civil part" of the public Covenants, and thus unwittingly, we charitably believe, pa.s.sed an implied censure on the One Lawgiver for having given us a second table in the moral law!

We merely refer to the Octoraro transaction, (1743,) conducted by that unstable minister, Mr. Craighead, as being unworthy of anything more than historical notice.

The two most noteworthy instances of avowed covenant-renovation within the present century are those at Dervock, Ireland, in 1853, and in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania, in 1871; and we cla.s.s them together, because however the respective doc.u.ments differ in their provisions, and in our judgment some of these are irreconcilable, yet the parties have ever since agreed to coalesce. Reference is here made only to a sample of _essential_ discrepancies. In the Dervock bond the British Covenants are expressly mentioned and owned; in the Pittsburg bond they are neither owned nor mentioned, although both were urged at the time, while they were openly vilified without rebuke. In the former Prelacy is abjured, in the latter it is not so much as named. The fourth article of the former is irreconcilable with the fourth article of the latter. The former is limited by _recognized truth_; the latter subst.i.tutes for truth _supposed piety_. But since these two parties, in the face of such antagonistic fundamental principles, do actually harmonize in practice, coming down to treat with opposing parties in the plain of Ono, their example of treachery in covenant can be regarded only as a beacon of warning.

Strictly speaking, no new obligation has been imposed or a.s.sumed since the law was given at Sinai. We are to "keep the words of the covenant, the ten commandments." This is just what Christ still enjoins upon his disciples--"Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you." The footsteps of Christ's flock differ nothing now from what they were in the days of Solomon. Some turn back into Egypt, while others turn aside with the "flocks of the companions to right-hand extremes or left-hand defections"; for the harlot's "ways are moveable that thou canst not know them," and we are warned--"Come not near the door of her house."

The federal deeds which we propose to renew are, of course, those of our witnessing fathers, the National Covenant of Scotland and the Solemn League of Scotland, England and Ireland, adapting these public deeds to our time, and comprising all preceding and subsequent attainments, as was done by our predecessors at Auchensaugh. Our condition and surroundings are in many respects similar to theirs. "Their soul was exceedingly filled with the scorning of those that were at ease, and with the contempt of the proud"; but they were also exposed to many perils from the existing ecclesiastical and civil authorities which they publicly disowned.

All inspired records of public vows to G.o.d by his united people, from the time of Moses to Nehemiah, contained a synopsis of special providence towards themselves and others, of sins, mercies and judgments; and these were motives to this special duty, though not a rule--"And because of all this we make a sure covenant and write it."

After these examples, which we judge "written for our learning," we renew our own and our ancestors' covenants, neither ecclesiastically nor nationally as representatives of either church or state, as they are now confederated against the Lord and his Anointed: but we appear publicly as a "despised remnant," avowing allegiance to Zion's only King and "Prince of the kings of the earth," pledging adherence to those public deeds of our progenitors, in which the divine ordinances of Church and State are exhibited; and in which they are exemplified as co-ordinate, mutually independent, friendly, and helpful to the family and to each other. Thus acted the people of G.o.d under the covenant of grace in all ages; and so acted his servants at Auchensaugh, whose more immediate example we propose to follow.


All authentic history confirms the declaration of the Sacred Scriptures, That by one man sin entered into the world, and that there is not a just man upon earth that doeth good and sinneth not. Yet there is mercy with G.o.d that he may be feared, and plenteous redemption to redeem Israel from all his But we are a.s.sured that "he that covereth his sins shall not prosper, but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy."

Believing these teachings of G.o.d's word, and in view of renewing solemn vows to him, we now give glory to the Lord G.o.d of Israel by making confession of our own and our fathers' sins in violating our solemn covenants. We acknowledge the heinous sins of repeated violation of our covenanted unity--_First_, By joining in a military confederacy with the American Colonies in the revolutionary war of 1776. _Second_, Joining in a similar confederacy with Irish Papists and others to cast off the British government in 1798. _Third_, In a similar confederacy in the war between the United States and England in 1812. _Fourth_, By the like military a.s.sociation in the recent civil war: and these sins were aggravated by framing oaths of allegiance or fidelity in the years 1812 and 1863.

Some of those who had violated their covenants by military a.s.sociation with the United Irishmen fled for refuge to the United States; and without undergoing censure became active agents in const.i.tuting a presbytery without authority had from the parent body in Scotland, 1798; and proceeded in 1806 to frame and publish _Reformation Principles Exhibited_, a work which removed landmarks which the fathers had set; and which with an abstract of Terms of Communion unpresbyterially introduced, unsettled the foundations and issued in the lamentable disruption of 1833.

In Scotland the leaders of the people caused them to err by changing the Terms of Communion in the year 1822, and the Testimony in 1837. While these changes were made in the Covenanted Church's organic law some of the most popular and influential ministers--theological professors, were publicly transgressing our covenants by joining in affinity with divers confederacies for moral reform. Doctor Andrew Symington, the most influential minister in the Synod did actually and publicly co-operate with the Evangelical Alliance; and in 1841 the same professor was among the foremost in projecting a plan for a "concert of prayer," by diverse sorts of professors, those of the Established Church of Scotland being expressly mentioned. No wonder the hesitating _Covenanter_ ventured at least to express preferance for "more generally small meetings for prayer, to a large number of Christians of different names." This kind of amalgamation being contrary to Scripture was a breach also of the Solemn League, the sixth article of which was evidently designed by our fathers to prevent such social sins under the name of religion. The Theological Seminary in Scotland, as a corrupt fountain, polluted all the streams, the ministers taking the lead in the defection, as is now manifested to the world.

All along our history in Scotland, Ireland and America, the sin of the antediluvians and of Israel after the flesh has been imitated by us--joining with the known enemies of truth and righteousness, in the face of many fearful judgments for such breaches of solemn vows.

The ministers took the lead in joining and inducing others to join the Colonization Society, a scheme for the removal of colored freedmen from among the bondmen, that slavery might be more secure and more certainly perpetuated by removing the disturbing element; and all this under the guise of evangelizing Africa! The General Synod which had unanimously patronized that scheme in 1828, discovering the deception, did in 1836, by a majority transfer its patronage to the rival cause of Abolition, thus continuing and persevering in the same transgression, from which they are not reclaimed to this day.

About the same time when we were ensnared in these unscriptural confederacies, occasional hearing naturally became developed in a sabbath-school, which for a short time was conducted jointly by three denominations in Pittsburgh--Covenanters, Seceders and a.s.sociate Reformed, violating our covenanted unity and erecting an unauthorized agency for spiritual instruction. The General Synod did, in 1840, abolish its own deligation form and the Subordinate Synods in violation of conventional law and Presbyterial order, and still continues to adhere to this two-fold breach of the brotherly covenant. That body, carrying on defection, joined in military a.s.sociation as noticed above, during the late civil war between the Union and Confederate armies, framing an "oath of fidelity," and thus profaning a divine ordinance by pledging themselves to enforce an atheistical const.i.tution and execute the laws: and some of them glory in their shame and boast of this flagrant and complicated breach of solemn vows to the contrary.

While recognizing many precious principles embodied in the Dorvock bond, we cannot give it our approbation as an adequate renovation of our National Covenant and Solemn League, because it not only omits but obviously excludes the Form of Presbyterial Church Government and the Directory for Public Worship, and seems to subst.i.tute for these the Testimony which is incompatible with that of 1761; although the two doc.u.ments above named were received by our General a.s.sembly of Scotland as "part of the uniformity" to which we are bound in the Solemn League.

And besides, all their symbols of faith mentioned in the Dervock transaction as subordinate, are owned only as "_Doctrinal_ Standards,"

thus leaving at loose ends individual and social Christian _practice_.

This doc.u.ment is therefore a defective, evasive, and consequently inadequate renovation of our Covenants.