Robert David Harper.

The church memorial : containing important historical facts and reminiscences connected with the Associate and Associate Reformed churches, previous to their union as the United Presbyterian church of North America online

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the doctrines, precepts, invitations and warnings that are contained in the
word, must necessarily be ineffectual. He is blind, and must therefore have
his eyes opened, that he may see : he is dead, and must therefore be quick-
ened, in order that he may hear. The apostle expressly tells us, (1 Cor. ii,
14,) that the natural man cannot know the things of the Spirit of God, be-
cause they are spiritually discerned. David prays (Ps. cxix, 18,) to God to
open his eyes, that he might behold wondrous things out of his law. The apos-
tle prays (Eph. i, 17, 18,) that God would give hose to whom he wrote, the
spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Christ, the eyes of
their understanding being enlightened, that thi-y may know what is the hope
of his calling. The Saviour, we are told, (Luke xxiv, 45,) opened the un-
derstanding of the disciples, that they might understand the Scriptures. The
Lord opened the heart of Lydia, that she attended to the things that were
spoken of Paul, (Acts xvi, 14.) Paul says: "I have planted, Apollos wa-
tered, but God gave the increase" (1 Cor. iii, 6—9.) These passages clearly
show that there is an operation of Divine power, distinct from that of the
word, and by which alone the word is rendered efficacious ; yet, though
this operation is distinct from the word, it is not ordinarily without the


word, (1 Pet. i, 23 ; Rom. x, 13— 17 ; 1 Cor. iv, 15; 2 Thess. ii, 13.) The word
is the light and food of the soul, (Ps. cxix, 103, 105.) The Spirit of God, in
thus operating upon the soul as a Spirit of light and truth, does not impart
any new faculties to the soul, but quickens and brings into exercise, and
sanctifies those which the sinner already possesses. Nor is there any vio-
lence done to the soul : the sinner is drawn, (John vi, 44, 65,) and made
willing in the day of God's power, (Ps. ex, 3.)

It follows as a necessary inference, that the sinner is altogether passive
in regeneration, it being the communication of a principle of spiritual life
to the soul ; and not, as some contend, a mere change of purpose.

Article XII. — Of the Headship of Christ.


We declare, That our Lord Jesus Christ, besides the dominion
which belongs to him as God, has, as our God-man Mediator, a
twofold dominion, with which he has been invested by the
Father as the reward of his sufferings. These are a dominion
over the Church, of which he is the living Head and Lawgiver,
and the source of all that Divine influence and authority by
which she is sustained and governed; and also a dominion
over all created persons and things, which is exercised by him
in subserviency to the manifestations of God's glory in the sys-
tem of redemption, and the interests of his Church.
Argument and Illustration.

The doctrine of Christ's Headship, as above exhibited, is in accordance
with the Confession, chap, ii, sec. 1.

The statement we have made on this important subject affirms Christ to
have, as Mediator, a dominion over his Church. For this we have the ex-
press testimony of the Divine word. He himself calls the Church his
kingdom, (John xviii, 36.) God, the Father, in speaking of him, says, (Ps.
ii, 6,)— l 'I have set my king upon my holy hill of Zion." The angel that
announced his birth declared that he should "reign over the house of
Jacob for ever," (Luke i, 33) The prophet Isaiah (Isa. ix, 6.) declared
that "the government shall be upon his shoulder;" and Paul speaks of
him as "a Son over his own house," (Heb. iii. G ) It is, therefore, his ex-
clusive prerogative to provide for the preservation and perpetuation of his
Church. In order to this he communicates grace. Hence he is said to be
the Head of the Church, (Eph. v, 23,) and the Church is said to be his
body, (Eph. v, 23;) plainly implying that all gracious and saving influ-


ences proceed from him, [John xvi, 26.] The authority, also, to appoint
officers and institute laws and ordinances must, in virtue of his preroga-
tive as King of Zion, belong to him alone; and to him it is expressly-
ascribed, (Isa. ix, 7; xxii, 22; Matt, xxviii, 18—20; Eph. iv, 8—13; John
xx. 21.) It is, therefore, an unwarranted assumption of power, and a di-
rect encroachment on the rights of the Lord Jesus Christ as King and
Head of his Church, for any man, or any body of men, either in the
Church or State, to exercise or claim a legislative power in relation to the
doctrine, government, worship and discipline of the Church, (Matt, xv, 9;
Isa. viii, 20.)

We have also, in the above Declaration, ascribed to our Lord Jesus Christ
a dominion over all created persons and things. The testimony of Scrip-
ture in proof of this, is equally direct and explicit. All power is given
unto him in heaven and in earth, (Matt xxviii, 18.) God has given him a
name which is above every name, (Phil, ii, 9.) He has set him at his own
right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality, and might,
and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but
also in that which is to come ; and hath put all things under his feet, and
gave him to be the Head over all things, (Eph. i, 20 — 22.) He has put all
things in subjection under his feet, and left nothing that is not put under
him, (Heb. ii, 8.) He has given him power over all flesh, (John xvii, 2.)
Jesus has the keys of hell and death, (Rev. i, IS ) These passages clearly
hold forth the idea that Christ, as Mediator, possesses universal power.

This dominion over all persons and things, we have declared to be exer-
cised by our Lord Jesus Christ, in subserviency to the manifestation of
God's glory in the system of redemption, and the interests of his Church.
This follows as a necessary consequence from the fact that this power has
been delegated to him as Mediator ; for the distinct and formal end of the
mediatorial office is the manifestation of the glory of God as the God of
grace, and in subordination to this, the salvation of an elect world. Hence
our Lord is said to be Head over all things to the Church, (Eph. i, 22,) — to
have power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many as the
Father gave him, (John xvii, 2;) and all things, we are assured, work to-
gether/or good to them that love God, (Rom. viii, 28 ) The subsidiary char-
acter of this dominion of Christ over all persons and things, is also clearly
taught in the vision of the wheels seen by Ezekiel, (Ezek. i, 19, 20.) Ac-
cordingly, we find our Lord, as Mediator and Redeemer of his people,
overthrowing nations to make way for his Church, (Hag. ii, 7 ; Heb. xii,
26,27; Dan. ii, 44,)— raising up rulers that knew him not, to deliver his
people from oppression, (Isa. xlv, 13,)— employing wicked men to correct
them, (Isa. x, 7,)— and punishing these wicked men for their malignant
opposition to them, (Isa. Ii, 22, 23 ; Isa. xxxiv, 2, 8 ; Dan. vii, 26, 27 ; Isa
lxiii, 1—7,)— casting the ungodly into hell, (2 Thess. i, 6— 9,)— exercising a


control over Satan, the god of this world, (Luke x, 18; John xii, 31 ; Rev.
xx, 7, 10; Mark xvi, 17, 18,)— and employing even the inferior parts of
creation as instruments of good to his people, and of evil to their enemies,
(Ex. viii, 9, 10; Ps.cxlviii, 8.)

Such being the universal dominion of our Lord as Mediator, it follows
that all intelligent beings to whom he has been revealed in this character,
are bound to acknowledge his mediatorial supremacy in all their respec-
tive stations and relations. The angels are called upon to do so, (Heb. i,
6.) This is enjoined upon all men, (Phil, ii, 10; Col. iii, 17.) It is required
of civil magistrates, ^Ps. ii, 10—12; Isa. lx, 12; Ps. lxxii, 10, 11.) While
this, however, is unquestionably the duty of the civil magistrate, a failure
to perform this duty does not, of itself, as our Confession truly declares,
(chap, xxiii, sec 4,) " make void his just and legal authority, nor free the
people from their due obedience to him." Nor is he, on the plea of re-
garding the authority of Christ as Mediator, to do violence to the rights
of conscience, or encroach upon the liberty of the Church as a distinct
and independent kingdom. The civil magistrate, as such, is bound, as are
all others in their respective spheres and relations, to recognize the
authority of Christ in the performance of the duties that are appropriate
to his calling, and ever to keep in view the nature and end of his calling.

We deem it a matter of importance that the doctrine which we have de-
clared in relation to the headship of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ,
be faithfully maintained, and distinctly exhibited by the Church, as it has
an important bearing upon the honor of Christ, the purity of the Church,
and the welfare of civil society, and cannot fail, when duly appreciated by
Christians, to impress their hearts with a sense of the obligations that are
resting upon them to devote themselves to his cause, and to labor for the
spread of his gospel throughout the world.

Article XIII. — Of the Supremacy of God's Law.


We declare, That the law of God, as written upon the heart
of man, and as set forth in the Scriptures of the Old and New
Testaments, is supreme in its authority and obligations ; and
that where the commands of the Church or State are in conflict
with the commands of this law, we are to obey God rather than


Argument and Illustration.

This Declaration is in accordance with the Confession, chap, i, sec. 2,
chap, xx, sec. 2.


The Declaration we have made on this subject is so plainly in accord-
ance with the principles of the word of God, that it seems to be scarcely
necessary to adduce any arguments in its defense ; and yet the principle
which it embodies has been not a little opposed in this land by some, and
entirely lost sight of by many professing Christians. Subjection to civij
and ecclesiastical authorities is strictly enjoined upon us in the word of
God, (Rom. xiii, 1—7; Tit. iii, 1 ; 1 Pet. ii, 13; Heb. xiii, 17,) and it is no
doubt, therefore, a principle of the Bible, as well as of our Confession of
Faith, that " they who, upon pretense of Christian liberty, shall oppose
any lawful power, or the lawful exercise of it, whether it be civil or eccle-
siastical, resist the ordinance of God," Confession of Faith, chap, xx, sec.
4,) yet the power must be "lawful;" and the "exercise," even of that
power, must be " lawful," to make resistance of the ordinance of God.
When, therefore, either the Church or State passes laws requiring us to do
what the law of God forbids us to do, obedience to such laws would be re-
sistance to him who is the source, (Rom. xiii, 1,) of all authority. Authority
exercised in opposition to the law of God, is so far null and void, and can-
not bind the conscience. Open and violent resistance may not be a duty;
for it is sometimes the duty of Christians to take wrong, and submit to
oppression, (Matt, v, 39; 1 Cor. vi, 7 ; 1 Pet. ii, 18.) Yet where human au-
thority requires us to do what the law of God forbids, or forbids us to do
what the law of God requires, it is in that particular instance to be disre-
garded by us, let the consequences be what they may. Upon this princi-
ple Daniel acted with divine approbation. A "royal statute" was enacted,
forbidding a petition to be asked of any god or man, save the king, for
thirty days. This statute Daniel violated, (Dan. vi, 1— 10.) Upon this
principle, also, did Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego act, in refusing, at
the command of the king, to worship the image which had been set up,
(Dan. iii, 18.) Upon this principle, also, did the apostles act when com-
manded that they should not speak in the name of Jesus, affirming that
they ought to "obey God rather than man," (Acts v, 29.) Those, there-
fore, who plead the statutes of man as a justification for the doing of what
the word of God forbids, are guilty of exalting human laws above the di-
vine law. Those who pass unrighteous decrees expose themselves to the
displeasure of that God who " has prepared his throne in the heavens,"
and whose " kingdom ruleth over all, (Ps. ciii, 19 ; Isa. x, I, 2;) and those
who carry out those decrees, "have fellowship with the throne of ini-
quity," (Ps. xciv, 20.)

We therefore solemnly testify against those who will plead the law of
the land or of the Church as a reason for doing what the law of God for-
bids, and against those who do not oppose those sins that have received
the sanction of law.


Article XIV. — Of Slaveholding.


We declare, That slaveholding — that is, the holding of unof-
fending human beings in involuntary bondage, and considering
and treating them as property, and subject to be bought and
sold — is a violation of the law of God, and contrary both to the
letter and spirit of Christianity.

Argument and Illustration.

This Declaration is in accordance with the Confession of Faith, chap, iv,
sec. 2, Larger Catechism, ques. 142.

That slaveholding is, as we have declared it to be, a violation of the law
of God, will appear from the following considerations:

1. The word of God represents the whole human family as possessing a
common nature. The slave is a man— as really and truly a man as the most
gifted and illustrious of the human family. He is a child of Adam, who
was made in the image and after the likeness of God, (Gen. i, 26.) He is
of " one blood " with him who holds him in bondage, (Acts xvii, 26 ) This
being the case, his natural rights must be the same as those of any other.
If man possesses, by the law of his creation, any natural and inalienable
right, that right must be inconsistent with the condition of a person who
is considered and treated as property, subject to be bought and sold. Slave-
holding, then, is at war with humanity.

2. The word of God, in the grant of dominion which it makes, restrains
the power of man thus to treat his fellow man. He has, by the authority
of God his Creator, dominion over all the lower creatures, (Gen. i, 26.)
The possession of such a dominion by a person is, in its very nature, in-
consistent with his condition as a slave— a person who is himself considered
and treated as property. While, therefore, he is held in this condition, the
grant of his Creator is rendered a nullity. Nor is this all: while this grant
of dominion secures to the slave his right to liberty, it interdicts, by the
clearest implication, the assumption of that right which the slaveholder
claims. The grant of his Creator gives him dominion over the lower creatures.
These he may make his property ; thus far his dominion as owner extends,
but no farther. Slavery, however, assumes this power. It reduces to the
condition of property him who, by divine right, is lord of all. (Ps. viii, 6.)

3. The law of God recognizes the right of all men to use the powers of
body and mind, which their Creator has given them, in the pursuit of hap-
piness. It sanctions labor with a view to their support, (Gen. ii, 15; iii, 23;
1 Thess. iv, 11; 2 Thess. iii, 10— 12.) But slavery, while it dooms its vic-
tims to toil, lays its hand upon the fruits of that toil, and appropriates it to


him who has not performed the labor. It thus takes away from man that
incentive to labor which the Creator has given to him, by giving to him a
right to its fruits. The slave, being himself the property of another, can
own nothing, and of course can acquire nothing.

4. The law of God enjoins it upon masters to give to their servants " that
which is just and equal," (Col. iv, 1.) The slaveholder gives nothing to his
slave, as a right acquired by labor. What he gives as a slaveholder, has a ref-
erence merely to the support of his slave, that he may thereby be qualified
to labor. The fruits of that labor he appropriates to himself. He there-
fore violates the law of justice enjoined upon the master, and exposes him-
self to the wo pronounced against him who " useth his neighbor's services
without wages, and giveth him not/or his work," (Jer. xxii, 13) Neither
does he give his servant that which is " equal." There is no proportion be-
tween the labor performed by the slave and what he receives from his master.
The slave may be hired out to another, by whom he is fed and clothed ; but
the owner of the slave receives from the man to whom he is hired, the wa-
ges. Nor is there any proportion between what the slave receives and what
another receives who performs the same amount of work. He therefore
violates the principle of equality, which he is bound by the law of God to

5. The law of God recognizes marriage as the right of all, (Heb. xiii,
4.) It requires the parties to dwell together, (1 Pet. ili, 7,) and makes the
relation indissoluble by man, (Gen. ii, 24; Matt, xix, 6.) But the right
which the slaveholder claims to his slave as his property, subject to be
bought and sold, is in direct conflict with these divine requisitions. He
may, by the exercise of his right as a slaveholder, forbid his marriage, or
place him in circumstances in which he cannot enjoy this divine right; or
if married, he may, at will, entirely and forever separate the parties. The
laws which govern and control property imply all this.

G. The law of God requires parents to bring up their children in the nur-
ture and admonition of the Lord, (Eph. vi, 4.) The slaveholder, in virtue
of the relation which he sustains, and by the right of ownership which he
claims, may not only interfere with the government of the parent over his
children, but entirely and forever separate them from each other.

7. The law of God requires every man to search the Scriptures, (John, v,
39.) The right of the slaveholder interferes with this. The laws which
govern all property necessarily secure to him the right of prohibiting his
slave from doing any thing which may operate against the attainment of
the end for which this species of property, in common with all others, is
held — his own gain.

8. The law of God forbids man-stealing, (Deut. xxiv, 7 ; 1 Tim. i, 9, 10.)
In this the alleged right of one man to make merchandize of his fellow
man, must have originated. As the fountain is corrupt, the stream cannot
be pure.


The foregoing considerations clearly show this relation to be, as we have
declared it to be, in violation of the law of God.

We have also declared it to be contrary both to the letter and spirit of
Christianity. What says the Author of Christianity? He says :—'' All
things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to
them," (Matt, vii, 12.) There is no slaveholder who would not resist being
made a slave, and who would not feel an irrepressible conviction that a
wrong had been done him. This being the case, he is bound by this express
precept of the Saviour to break the yoke and let the oppressed go free, (1
Cor. vii, 21 ; Isa. lviii, 6.) And what is the spirit of Christianity ? It is
surely love, (Rom. xiii, 10; 1 John iv,20,21; Luke x,27— 37.) Is not, how-
ever, the reduction of a fellow being (he may be a brother in Christ) to
the condition of a piece of property, liable to be bought and sold, in viola-
tion of this holy and divine principle ? Who, that is not a stranger to the
impulses of a Christian's heart, will deny it ?

We have, therefore, in the law of God, and in the letter and spirit of Chris-
tianity, abundant reasons for testifying against slaveholding as a sin, and
consequently a disqualification for membership in the Church of Christ. It
is the relation itself, which we have examined in the lightof Scripture, and
which we have found to be so inconsistent with it, and not the many cruel
laws which blacken the statute books of the slaveholding States, and the
many gross and fearful evils that result from this relation. A considera-
tion however, of these laws and evils which everywhere attend it, cannot
fail to impress the mind with a sense of the inherent wickedness of the

Article XV. — Of Secret Societies.


We declare, That all associations, whether formed for politic-
al or benevolent purposes, which impose upon their members an
oath of secrecy, or an obligation to obey a code of unknown
laws, are inconsistent with the genius and spirit of Christianity,
and Church members ought not to have fellowship with such

Argument and Illustration.

This Declaration is in accordance with the Confession of Faith, chap, xxii,
sees. 1-— 5.

In making the above Declaration, it Is freely admitted that there are many
things with which an individual becomes acquainted which it would be
improper for him to reveal, (Prov xi, 13; xx, 19.) The same thing, also,


may be affirmed in relation to associations. It is not, therefore, the fact of
secrecy, simply considered, that we condemn. What, then, is it ? It Is the
fact of a person giving an oath or promise that he will not make known to
others matters which are to be subsequently communicated to him; or that
he will obey a code of laws with which he is not made acquainted until
after the oath or promise be given by him. This we believe to be wrong
under all circumstances; and all associations founded on this principle
are to be condemned, whatever be the object for which they are formed.

1. Such an obligation is inconsistent with our subjection to the law of
God. This law is the supreme standard. We are always to obey it, (Gal.
iii, 10; Isaiah viii, 20; Acts iv, 19.) When, therefore, we come under an
oath or promise to keep the transactions of a society of men concealed, we
know not but that the law of God may require us to reveal them. When
we bind ourselves to support the principles of a society with which we
have not been made acquainted, we know not but that the law of God may
bind us to oppose them. When we pledge ourselves to obey a system of
laws of which we are ignorant, we know not but that they may be in con-
flict with the law of God. We are, therefore giving promises, obligations
and pledges to do that which, for aught we know, may involve us in sin.
These, under such circumstances, cannot be given "in judgment," as re-
quired by the command of God, (Jer. iv, 2.)

2. Such an obligation is ensnaring and enslaving to the conscience. God
alone is Lord of the conscience, (Jas. iv, 12; Rom. xiv, 4 ; Matt, x, 28 ) To
bring ourselves, however, under an obligation to obey a code of unknown
laws, is, in the very act, whatever may be the character of these laws, do-
ing violence to the freedom of conscience. It is making ourselves the *' ser-
vants of men," (1 Cor. vii, 23.)

3. Such an obligation is not only not countenanced by the example of
the saints in the Scripture, but is inconsistent with it. When Abraham di-
rected his servant to swear to him, although he informed him of the mat-
ter of the oath, yet his servant did not swear until he first understood what
he would be required by his oath, under certain circumstances, to do. This
was made known to him by Abraham, (Gen. xxiv, 2—9 ) See, also, the case
of David and Jonathan, (I Sam. xx.)

We deem the foregoing considerations in point, whether the pledge given
be a promise or oath, for the principles to which we have referred are
equally applicable to both. When, however, an oath is given, the person
swearing, under such circumstances, involves himself in the additional guilt
of profaning the name of God, and does not, as our Confession properly
requires, take an oath when imposed " by lawful authority," nor " duly
considers the weightiness of so solemn an act," or "avouch nothing but
what he is fully persuaded is the truth," and what he " believes to be good
and just," and is therefore guilty of " swearing vainly and rashly." [See
Confession, chap, xxii.]


In addition to these considerations, while we would not deny the right of
associations to withhold some of their transactions from the public, when
it may be deemed advisable at the time, yet associations formed on the prin-
ciple of secrecy are liable to objections of a very serious character— such
objections as show them to be, as we have declared them to be, inconsistent
with the genius and spirit of Christianity.

1. The Founder of Christianity did not act upon this principle. He
could appeal to his enemies, and say, " I spake openly to the world ; I ever
taught in the synagogue and in the temple, whither the Jews always resort;
and in secret have I said nothing," (John xviii, 20.) He is a light that light-

Online LibraryRobert David HarperThe church memorial : containing important historical facts and reminiscences connected with the Associate and Associate Reformed churches, previous to their union as the United Presbyterian church of North America → online text (page 10 of 35)