O come, let us worship and bow down: let us kneel before the Lord our maker.—Psalm 95.6.

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OF THE

REFORMED PRESBYTERY

Enjoining the Obſervation of a

Public FAST;

And ſummarily exhibiting the

CAUSES thereof.

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PENTLAND, 11th Nov. 1789.

THE PRESBYTERY, constituted in the name of the church’s HEAD, and wishing to act in agreeableness to the sacred trust committed unto them, as spiritual watchmen on Zion’s towers, find it their present duty to sound an alarm in GOD’s holy mountain, calling themselves, and the people of their charge, unto the solemn work of fasting and humiliation.  The reasons for this exercise, they are sorry to find, in place of diminishing, or losing their force, are daily, yea hourly encreasing.  Because of heinous transgressions, both of ancient and later date; on account of sins committed by us, both in our public and more private capacities, JEHOVAH seems to be plainly declaring, with respect to our time in particular, “It is the day of the LORD’s vengeance, and the year of recompences for the controversy of Zion.” [Isa. 34.8.]

The national undervaluing of the glorious Reformation-attainments, between the [years] 1638 and 49; the public resolutions, natively springing from the former; the many authoritative and sinfully qualified tolerations and indulgences, granted, successively, in the times of Cromwell, Charles II, James VII, William III, and Queen Anne, as well as the countenance given to Popery during the present reign; the incautious restoration of Charles II, {2} together with the superstitious observance of a public anniversary on that account; the heaven-daring act recissory, in the year 1661, with other sinful acts of the same unhallowed parliament, overturning, at once, the glorious carved work of GOD’s Zion; the re-admission of Prelacy, with its numerous train of concomitant evils, after having been abjured, in the most solemn manner; the tyrannical restraining of ministerial freedom; the frequent imposing of sinful and, in some instances, self-contradictory oaths; the contemptuous burning and burying of the covenants, alongst with other publications of the same spirit and tendency; the barbarous and most inhuman persecution of the faithful witnesses for the REDEEMER’s cause, during the long period of twenty-eight years; the striking misimprovement of Heaven’s distinguished goodness at the revolution, 1688, by the formation of exceedingly defective constitutions, both civil and ecclesiastic, at that time, together with the sadly corresponding administrations, both in church and state, ever since[1]; the tame submission of all ranks unto the incorporating union with England, in the year 1707, notwithstanding its being diametrically opposite to the covenanted uniformity, solemnly sworn unto before; together with the restoration, and continuance of patronages;—these evils, with others of a similar nature, more fully exhibited in various publications to be readily met with, the Presbytery still consider as standing memorials of our departure from the LIVING GOD, lasting grounds of his righteous controversy, and subsisting reasons of deep humiliation at this time; inasmuch as they have never yet, in our national capacity at least, been suitably acknowledged, repented of, nor turned from.

If we consider the characters of later times, and take under review the state of matters amongst the different denominations of religious professors, who have separated from the established church, and formed into distinct bodies upon another footing; here too, alas, we shall find cause for deep humiliation.  None of us can wipe our mouth, and say we are clean; no, indeed: each class of professors stand chargeable with their own respective failings; particular instances of which have been frequently given in former papers of this kind.[2]  We have it particularly to lament, that religious disputes amongst us, are often managed in the most improper manner.  Bias, party-prejudice, and that {3} wrath of man which never can work the righteousness of GOD, [James 1.20,] how discernable, alas, amongst professors, both in their writings and verbal disputes![3]

Now, in a very discernable manner, the enemy comes in like a flood, by the universal spread of error.  Although it be a truth, most worthy of credit, that all Scripture is given by inspiration of GOD; yet, alas, Deistical opinions are openly avowed in every corner of the land.  The Scripture-doctrines of the Trinity, eternal election, Adam’s federal representation of all his posterity, original sin, universal depravity, regeneration, imputed righteousness, particular redemption, the undoubted perseverance of the saints, and such like, are, by many professors, denied a place among the articles of their creed.  Carnal reason steps into the place of the Sacred Oracles, and boldly presumes to determine all matters of faith; as well as to fix the standard of right and wrong, in every supposable case.  While it is the testimony of an infallible witness, that JESUS is the brightness of his FATHER’s glory, and the express image of his person, [Heb. 1.3]; we find the impudent Arian arraigning this truth before the bar of his corrupt {4} reason; and boldly averring, that our LORD JESUS CHRIST is not a divine person; neither did he ever claim such honours to himself in the days of his flesh.—Though it be the express doctrine of Heaven’s Oracles, that CHRIST was actually substituted in the room of his people, while he died the just for, or in the stead of the unjust;—that his sacrifice was a real atonement for the sins of the elect;—and that his death was indispensably necessary, as the ransom-price of their redemption; yet, alas, we find the Socinian, and that too among the professing prophets of GOD’s Israel, plainly refusing all these; and, without shame, maintaining, that “the benefits of our redemption by CHRIST, flow chiefly from the righteousness and holiness of his life; particularly from the eminent patience, piety, submission and benevolence displayed at the close of it, which avail with GOD in favour of sinners, in the same manner as do the piety and virtue of good men in general;”—that “our SAVIOUR himself seems not to have considered his excruciating death, in the manner it happened, as previously fixed by an absolute divine decree;” and that “to suffer many indignities in the world, and to die on a cross, were not the chief and ultimate ends of our SAVIOUR’s mission, nor any direct ends of it at all, but {5} only incidental calamities.”  And though these errors have met with opposition from different quarters, which is indeed particular ground of thankfulness; yet, alas, they are still espoused by many: their authors frequently meet with loud applauses, are openly caressed by not a few, and find their votaries in almost every corner.

The ancient charge, of doing violence to the law, meets us, of this generation, very full in the face.  Ignorance of GOD, his true worship, the laws and ordinances of his house, the doctrines of the gospel in general, and of reformation-attainments, mournfully characterizes even the professors of the age.  Hence it is that many can no longer endure sound doctrines, without being highly offended.—A strong desire to seek righteousness as it were by the works of the law, together with an inordinate attachment to the world and time’s transitory pleasures, seem evidently to take the place of that genuine love to GOD and men, which is the fulfilment of the law.—While the religious fear of an oath, and a deep sense of the obligations we lie under, from the Word of GOD, our baptismal engagements, our own profession, our sacramental vows and the covenants of our fore-fathers, ought, undoubtedly, to characterize the Christian; alas, it is for a lamentation, that from the lisping infant to the man of gray hairs, just stepping into the grave, we meet with the most striking and exceeding numerous instances of profane cursing and swearing, together with idle, obscene and most abominable discourse.  Add to this, that unwarrantable lottery, in all its shapes, is every-where in vogue; and fortune-tellers infest our streets, wantonly assuming the prerogative of JEHOVAH, by pretending to penetrate into dark futurity.—Sabbath profanation, strongly announcing the decline of religion in general, is, every season, making more rapid progress.  Unnecessary visiting of friends in health, adjusting accounts about civil business, forming plans, reviewing buildings, pleasure-walking, journeying in prosecution of civil business, driving cattle, trifling away the precious moments in sloth, or in idle and worldly discourse; these and such like, are now, alas, substituted in the room of those public and private exercises of GOD’s worship, in which the sacred time should be spent.—The importance, necessity, and propriety of relative duties, in the various departments of human life, are, with the generality at least, no longer the objects of attention.—Bloody crimes; uncleanness, in all its shapes, with a free indulgence in the various incentives unto it; as well as fraudulent and deceitful dealing, are also common in every corner of the land.—The most false and ungrounded charges, are, oftentimes {6} even by professing disciples of the same LORD, brought against each other; while faithful witness-bearing for the injured truths of the REDEEMER, is ordinarily contemned.  And, alas! how frequently do men, claiming the first place in the rank of professors, belie their profession, reach the deepest wounds to religion, and open the mouths of the adversaries to blaspheme, by the many sad and shameful blunders in their practice.  Ah, how often do we mingle with the people of these abominations!  The professing friends of CHRIST, shamefully dropping their genuine character, strangers and pilgrims upon the earth, [Heb. 11.13,] forgetting that the LORD hath covered the daughter of Zion with a cloud in his anger, unmindful of the divine injunction, “Be not conformed to this world,” [Rom. 12.2,] and strangely ambitious to appear the men of fashion, stand chargeable with mournful conformity to the carnal generation, in their extravagantly ornamental dress, their unhallowed associations for tippling and diversion, their much idle and unprofitable discourse, as well as their murdering of precious time.

If we look abroad, still a mournful prospect is before us.  By means of an unguarded coalescence of different denominations in America, many have unwarily been caught in the snare; and stand chargeable, in some respects at least, with undervaluing the word of the REDEEMER’s patience, in the hour of trial: while others, wishing to appear more faithful in their generation, are scattered like sheep without a shepherd, exposed to the reproach of tongues, and languishing under a famine of the word of the LORD.

If particular providential dispensations at home are the objects of attention: these also do often wear a gloomy aspect.  For several seasons running we have evidently received our mercies with a frown.  It hath been particularly noticeable in the end of the past harvest.  When the expectations of the husbandman were raised high, by a very luxuriant appearance on the fields; JEHOVAH was pleased to open the bottles of heaven, and make the showers descend in such abundance, as not a little to endanger the fruits of the ground: though, at last indeed, he graciously interposed; and, in the midst of justly deserved wrath, remembered mercy.—It also merits our attention here, that, partly by death, and partly by other afflictive dispensations of divine providence, many corners of our church are rendered exceedingly destitute, with respect to the enjoyment of gospel-ordinances.

For the above, and other such causes as may readily present themselves to every attentive observer, the Presbytery appoint {7} the last Thursday of January next, being the 28th day of said month, to be observed by them, and the people of their inspection, as a day of solemn humiliation before the LORD.  And they earnestly request all, both ministers and people, to take home the charge unto themselves; that each of us may see what part we, in particular, have in the provocation;—to ponder with seriousness, the grounds of the LORD’s controversy, in their own hearts, previous to the approach of the day appointed for public humiliation;—to table their own sins, and the sins of the land, before the LORD, in secret, fervently wrestling with him, that he may pour upon the house of David and inhabitants of our Jerusalem, the Spirit of grace and supplication;—to praise the LORD, at the same time, for the multitude of his mercies;—to cry mightily unto him for the accomplishment of the promises respecting glory of the latter days;—and to plead, that he may graciously dispose the nations, now struggling hard for civil liberty, to be no less anxious for the obtaining of that spiritual liberty, wherewith CHRIST hath made his church and people free.

The Presbytery appoint the several ministers, in their respective charges, to read these causes publicly on the Sabbath immediately preceding the day appointed for humiliation.


Footnotes:

1. See this general charge particularized in the two last papers of this kind, published [see 1788] by the Presbytery; and still more fully exemplified in a book intitled, PLAIN REASONS.

2. See the two last, already referred unto.

3. Instead of the humble and self-denied pleader, how frequently do we find the angry, the prejudiced and the unreasonable man appear, with a striking glare, in every page; affording ground to suspect, and would to Heaven it were only a suspicion, that while a tender regard to the glory of GOD, a conscientious desire to promote the interest of religion, and a deep concern for the edification of the person opposed, ought to be the springs of action; an ambition to appear at the head of a party, an ardent wish to gain the victory over his antagonist, and a strong inclination to make room for the boasting applauses of his votaries, as though his performance were unanswerable, seem rather to be the secret motives of the disputant: unmindful of the salutary injunction, “Let not him that girdeth on his harness boast himself, as he that putteth it off,” [1 Kings 20.11.]—Contrary to the laws of sound reasoning, terms are often used, in the most liberal manner, without ever so much as an attempt to define or explain them; while many pages are exhausted in teaching the propriety of obedience to lawful commands, without a single hint for informing the reader what constitutes a lawful command.—The question is frequently mis-stated; and the native consequence is, that much is both said and written entirely away from the subject.  If the dispute truly turn upon the principle on which human society, in general, is formed, whether it be by mutual consent, or by the majority lording it over the minority; at once we find a writer, who yet supposes himself engaged in the dispute; taking the latter for granted, and stretching every nerve to argue the minority into a compliance, whether reason be or none.  If the controversy really be concerning the declared conditions upon which the crown is held, and the sceptre swayed in such a nation, whether or not these be agreeable to the Word of GOD, and the former reformation-attainments of said nation; we soon meet with an author, who yet means to take a side, exerting his utmost to prove that “disloyalty to the just and legal authority of princes, is rebellion against GOD, and very hurtful to the religion of JESUS CHRIST;” while the very dispute is, whether the authority in question, all circumstances considered, be just and legal or not.—The most harsh and forced constructions are put upon each other’s assertions.  If one will needs maintain, that examples alone cannot prove a doctrine, till it be shewn that they are agreeable to the precept; at once we have the other taking hold of his words; and, without shame, declaring, that his antagonist hath rejected the approved examples of the saints in Scripture: tho’ the very thing contended for, was, that they should be approved; in order to make them the rule of conduct.—Comparisons are often made, where the objects are entirely dissimilar.  Hence elaborate arguings from the state of matters in a heathen country, where divine revelation is unknown, to the case of a people having long enjoyed the light of the gospel, reached high attainments in reformation, and been possessed of the written Word, which positively enjoins them, whereto they have already attained, to walk by the same rule, and to mind the same things.  These, and such like, mournful abuses, in the mode of conducting our religious disputes, are matter of deep humiliation before the LORD: and the more especially because they seem to be yet in the growth; they are chargeable, in less or greater measure, on almost all professors; they tend to bewilder and ensnare the ignorant and unwary, to alienate the affections of professing christians from one another, to confirm the infidels of the age in their false opinion that religion is altogether a delusive dream, and, in place of healing, to widen the breaches in the house of our New Testament David.