I have not sent these prophets, yet they ran: I have not spoken to them, yet they prophesied.—Jeremiah 23.21.

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ACT of the REFORMED PRESBYTERY,

For a PUBLIC FAST,

With the CAUSES thereof.

Douglas, 12th Nov. 1788.

THE Presbytery met, and taking into their serious consideration the mournful state of religion in the nation, both with respect to errors in principle, and immoralities in practice, are persuaded, that there is a loud call to all ranks and denominations of professors, to consider their ways, and to be deeply humbled before the Lord;—to return to him in the exercise of fasting, weeping and mourning;—to sigh, and cry on account of all the abominations done in the midst of the land;—and to say with the prophet, Oh that my head were as waters, and mine eyes as a fountain of tears, &c.—and, as the symptoms of God’s wrath seem to be gone forth against us, and appear visible, in the alarming commotions abroad in the world;—the great and numerous bankruptcies at home;——the rapid progress of impiety and licentiousness;——the deluge of profaneness, immorality, and every other species of vice, which has overspread the nations;—the withdrawing of God’s Spirit from ministers and professors;—blasting the ordinances of his grace;—dividing us in his anger;——giving us up to the hand of our spiritual oppressors;—and letting loose a spirit of error and delusion in the midst of us, the Presbytery have condescended on the following grounds of God’s controversy, which they judicially exhibit {2} as causes of deep humiliation before the Lord at this time.

1. Breaking down the carved work of God’s sanctuary, erected in the time of our glorious Reformation, by admitting the known enemies of that work into places of power and trust;—Cromwell’s toleration of the sectaries;——the restoration of Charles II. without any security from him in favours of the true religion;—allowing him a blasphemous headship over the church;—admitting the Duke of York, a professed papist, to the throne of these covenanted kingdoms;—granting a toleration to quakers and papists;—ministers taking bonds and tests directly contrary to our solemn covenants, and accepting of indulgences under sinful limitations——together with the nation’s guilty, in shedding the blood of the saints, for the long space of twenty-eight years, which blood is yet crying for revenge, saying, How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth, Rev. 6.10.

2. When the sword of open persecution was sheathed, and the nation restored to external peace, at the Revolution, there was a returning, but not to the Most High; yea, a turning aside, like a deceitful bow, [Hos. 7.16]; as the settlement, which then took place, was contrary to the interests of true religion, and subversive of the church’s former attainments, so that the evils of that constitution, and administration, both in the state, and in the church, afford matter of deep lamentation to this day: For as to the civil constitution; the supreme magistrate was not a professor of the true religion, nor a brother in that respect; did not take the covenants, according to the reforming laws of the nation;——was engaged, by his coronation-oath, to maintain prelacy, a false religion, which the nations were bound, by their oath, to use all lawful means to root out;——was vested with an Erastian supremacy over the church;—established two different forms of {3} religion, according to the inclinations of the people, without a due regard to God’s law, which is but one;—and the majority of the members of the first parliament after the Revolution, were such as had their hands imbrued in the blood of the saints during the late persecution.——And as to the civil administration; the supreme magistrate still continues to exercise his spiritual supremacy over the church, in calling, adjourning, and dissolving her assemblies at pleasure; and in fixing her diets of fasting, and thanksgiving;—he appoints oaths of allegiance, assurance and abjuration, as qualifications, without which, ministers are not to exercise their office;—an incorporating union was entered into with England, on terms inconsistent with our covenanted uniformity;—a toleration was granted to false professions of religion;—patronages were restored, and God’s people thereby robbed of a precious privilege, purchased to them by the blood of Christ;—a royal command was given, unto the ministers of this nation, to read Porteous’s paper, a civil deed, on the first Sabbath of every month, for a whole year, to the gross profanation of God’s holy day;—Popery has been established in Canada;—the penal statutes against it, have been repealed in England and Ireland; and an attempt made, to extend said repeal to Scotland;—and public theatres, these seminaries of vice, have been licensed by authority;—to which may be added the late royal proclamation, concerning immorality and profaneness, in which (whatever good things it may otherwise contain) the Erastian power of the civil magistrate is evident, in giving command and charge to ecclesiastical rulers, stiled in the act, our Officers and Ministers, as if they were solely the servants of the state, to observe and read said act.

As the above evils shew, that the state-constitution and administration have been bad; so, if we attend to the church, we will see, that, in respect of both {4} these, she has been mournfully defective:  For, as to her constitution; the far greatest part, if not the whole, of the members, who composed the first assembly, after the Revolution, consisted of the indulged and curates, who had sinfully complied with the evils of the times;—they passed over the best time of our Reformation, and went back to the year 1592, when the land’s attainments in reformation were not come to their greatest purity;—they accepted of the oaths, prescribed by government, to a Prelatic constitution;—submitted to the King’s spiritual supremacy;—and did not formally, by any one judicial deed, assert the divine right of Presbytery; nor Christ’s supreme and alone headship over his visible church.—And as to the church-administration; the ministers, at the King’s command, received the Episcopal curates among them, without censure;—suspended, and deposed the most faithful among them;—slightly passed over such as taught damnable errors;——they have exercised their oppressive power, in settling intruding hirelings, against the inclinations of the people;——have sold the censure of the church for money;—allow and practise private baptism;—and admit persons that are openly profane to the seals of the covenant;—to which may be added their unfaithfulness, in not executing the discipline of the church, on such of their members, as, both from pulpit and press, have taught doctrines, subversive of the very nature of the gospel, as well as of the salvation of the sinner, concerning the divinity, substitution, atonement, and proper intercession of Christ;—and their late judicial commemoration of the Revolution-settlement in the way of thanksgiving:  For, although at that period, there was a remarkable interposition of divine Providence, in putting a stop to the shedding of the blood of the saints, and giving a respite from the hot furnace of persecution, which we ought gratefully to acknowledge, as an instance of God’s goodness towards us; yet it is matter of sorrow, {5} that the cause and testimony of Jesus were virtually buried under that establishment, so that those who were acquainted with the church’s glory, in the Reformation period, had just ground of weeping, rather than thanksgiving, when this new settlement was made.

3. If we take a serious view of the peculiar principles of different denominations, we will also see cause for deep humiliation, as some, who profess themselves to be witnesses for Reformation-principles, and the only successors of our renowned martyrs, have left the civil part of our Reformation, and essential part of their Testimony, out of their Bond;—deny scriptural qualifications to be essentially necessary, to constitute a lawful magistrate, in a Christian reformed land;—maintain that there is no proper difference, between the magistrate by precept, and by providence;—that the scriptures require subjection for conscience sake unto, and prayers to be made for, such rulers, as are set up by the representatives of the nation; though directly contrary to the express precept of God’s law;—and have given their practical approbation of the Revolution-settlement, in celebrating the centenary of that event, in assembling their people for public worship, on the same day appointed by the National Church for that purpose.—Others, under pretence of relieving men from the rigorous exercise of patronage, and legal doctrine, are entirely subverting pure Presbyterian principles, in making it consistent with their system, to hold communion occasionally with the open and avowed enemies thereof;—and in their bold attempts, both from pulpit and press, to decry the moral obligation of our solemn Covenants, and even to deny the lawfulness of National Covenanting, under the New Testament, by which means, many are become remarkable for their scoffing at these sacred bonds;—heretical sectaries, of all kinds, more and more abound, whereby the doctrines of original sin, imputed righteousness, {6} and efficacious grace, are denied; man’s ability and moral powers exalted; a gospel ministry despised; the divinely instituted form of church government, made the object of ridicule; and a general belief, common to devils, as well as men, substituted, in the room of true appropriating faith.—The idolatries of Popery, the superstitions of Prelacy, still abound in most of our great cities; and Sabbath-profanation, by the riding of posts, the transporting of goods, the driving of cattle, and unnecessary journeying, mournfully prevails.—

4. If we turn our attention homeward to ourselves, we will find, that we, as well as others, have cause to say, that with us, even with us, are sins, great and aggravated sins, against the Holy One of Israel: For, want of true zeal for God’s declarative glory;—sinful conformity to the principles and practices of the world;—little knowledge of true Presbyterian principles, and even a mournful ignorance of God, and gospel truths, respecting Jesus Christ, his person, offices and righteousness; and of the way of using him, for our justification and sanctification;—little sanctuary preparation for waiting upon God, in the ordinances of his grace, and carnal conversation, in going to, and coming from, the place of worship;—unfruitfulness under the frequent means of grace;—depending too much on a public profession, without a becoming practice, contented with a name to live, while spiritually dead [Rev. 3.1.]—great deadness and drowsiness in the duties of religion;—social fellowship much neglected, and the time set apart for it too often employed about the affairs of this life;—a total neglect, or careless performance, of family duties, in instructing and praying with children and servants;—great decay of the life and power of godliness, and of holy and tender walking in the pure ways of God;——little experience of saving grace on the soul;—self-examination, spiritual meditation, and pious conversation, too rare;—little {7} genuine love among professors, but differences almost irreconcilable in many places;—a chearful recital of our neighbour’s failings, under a false zeal for religion;—uncharitable censuring, and backbiting one another;—misimprovement of precious time;—frequenting taverns, with vain, and too often with profligate, company, so that tippling and drunkenness mournfully abound;—professors, desiring to appear the men of fashion, forgetting their state of captivity;—uncleanness, lying and dissimulation, common;—finding fault with the doctrine of ministers, when not agreeable to men’s own corrupt taste;——preferring one instrument to another, when all engaged in the same cause, and testimony;——want of due concern about the welfare of Zion, and the coming, and advancement of Christ’s kingdom;—and frequent apostacy from the pure ways of God, too plainly declare, that our name may be called Ichabod, the glory is departed.

For the above, and other reasons, specified in former papers of this kind, the Presbytery appoint the second Thursday of January next, being the 8th day of said month, to be observed by them, and all the people under their inspection, as a day of solemn humiliation, and fasting.  And they earnestly beseech all, seriously to lay to heart the above causes, and to make faith’s application to the blood of atonement; humbly depending on all-sufficient and promised grace, intreating, that God, for the sake of his Son, Jesus Christ, would avert his justly deserved wrath, both on account of our national, and personal sins;——return and visit the vine of his visible church;——make his Jerusalem become a praise in the earth;—cause kings to be nursing-fathers, and Queens nursing-mothers, to the church;——enlighten the Pagan world with the gospel;—hasten the ruin of antichrist;—put a stop to the delusions of the false prophet;—and bring in the Jews, with the greater fulness of the Gentiles; that, {8} as he is one, his name may be one over the world.—The Presbytery also enjoin their people, to observe God’s adverse-like dispensations, in afflicting, and even calling away, by death, some of his servants, when the harvest truly is plenteous, and the faithful labourers few; and in weakening congregations so, as not to be able to support the gospel among them;—and they exhort them to be thankful for the number of sacramental occasions this season, and for the countenance shewn to ministers, in carrying them through their work;——for the increase of labourers in his vineyard;——the addition of witnesses to his cause, in different corners;——and for the plentiful harvest—together with the favourable weather, for gathering in the labours of the husbandman into his garner.——The Presbytery appoint these causes to be read publicly on the Sabbath preceding the day of fasting, with suitable exhortations.

Extracted by THO. HENDERSON, Pr. Clk.