How The Last Will and Testament of the Springfield Presbytery relates to
To understand the purpose of this document, it will help the reader to know the context. Here is Barton Stone’s perspective of what led to the separation of Presbyterian ministers from the Presbyterian church.
“an account of a wonderful meeting at Shiloh in Tennessee - that many had been struck down as dead, and continued for hours apparently breathless, and afterwards rose, praising God for his saving mercy - that the saints were all alive - and sinners all around weeping and crying for mercy - and that multitudes were converted and rejoicing in God.
The work spread and progressed like fire in a dry stubble. The sparks, lighting in various parts of the field, would quickly raise as many blazes all around. So the Christians from various and distant parts met together; and returning home in the spirit and power of religion, they became preachers, successful preachers, in their neighborhoods, by simply stating what they had seen, heard, and felt; and so spake that many believed and turned to the Lord.
I knew an old Presbyterian in a barren neighborhood. He heard of this strange work, and went 60 or 70 miles to one of these meetings. The work was very great and strange. He felt the flame of it in his own heart, and returned home in the power of the spirit. He had a very wicked son. He went to see him, he burst into a flood of tears, and cried out, O my son Reuben. The son was instantly convicted of his sins, and immediately repaired to the woods, and cried for mercy; nor did he cease till he obtained it. He straightway began to exhort and warn his companions in wickedness to repent and believe the gospel; and many turned to the Lord. From that period to his death, about 20 years, he laboured without ceasing, in the vineyard of the Lord, and was eminently useful.
In the spring of 1801, the Lord visited his people in the north of Kentucky. In Fleming, and in Concord, one of my congregations, the same strange and mighty works were seen and experienced. On the fourth Lord's day in May, we had an appointment for a communion at Concord. Various causes collected an unusual multitude of people together at this time, - between five and six thousands, of various sects, and many preachers. The house could not contain them, and we repaired to the woods.
Worship commenced on Friday, and continued without intermission day and night, for four or five days. From this meeting, the flame spread all around, and increased till the ever-memorable meeting at Caneridge, in August following.
Here an innumerable multitude collected, estimated at 25,000 souls. The meeting commenced on Friday, and continued six or seven days. It was truly a solemn scene to see the multitudes coming together, and the number of wagons and carriages bringing provisions and tents to stay on the ground; for it was found that no neighborhood could entertain and support the multitudes that came together.
The members of the church and the neighbours brought their provisions to the encampment, for themselves and strangers. Long tables were spread with provisions, and all invited to eat. This was the beginning and introduction of camp meetings.
Editors Note: Stone is incorrect in saying this was the beginning and introduction of camp meetings. Presbyterian Sacramental meetings had been held in Scotland since the beginning of the Protestant religion in that land. All the “strange occurrences” described by Stone had happened MANY times in Europe and America. For more information, see the introduction to Lyle’s Diary. END OF NOTE
During this time, night and day worship continued. Hundreds were lying as men slain in battle; many engaged in prayer for the distressed in every part of the camp; many in the woods around crying for mercy; many rejoicing aloud in songs of praise. In other parts many of the preachers of various names, were proclaiming the gospel of salvation. The number of converts could never be ascertained: it is thought to have been between 500 and 1000.
The doctrine preached by all was simple, and nearly the same. Free and full salvation to every creature was proclaimed. All urged faith in the gospel, and obedience to it, as the way of life. All appeared deeply impressed with the ruined state of sinners, and were anxious for their salvation. The spirit of partyism, and party distinctions, were apparently forgotten. The doctrines of former controversy were not named; no mention was made of eternal unconditional election, reprobation, or fatality.
The spirit of love, peace, and union, were revived. You might have seen the various sects engaged in the same spirit, praying, praising, and communing together, and the preachers in the lead. Happy days! joyful seasons of refreshment from the presence of the Lord! This work from this period spread throughout the western country.
It should not be concealed that among us Presbyterians, there were some, both of the preachers and private members, who stood in opposition to the work, and the doctrine by which it was promoted. They did not like that the doctrines of their confession should be neglected in the daily ministration. They therefore became jealous lest those doctrines should be entirely rejected by the churches; they began to preach them, and oppose the doctrine of the revival.
The other sects began to take the alarm and to oppose the doctrine of Calvin. The war commenced; and now there appeared to be more solicitude to establish certain dogmas, and to enlist members into a particular party, than to preach the gospel, and win souls to Christ. The pious wept at the sight, and were groaning at the devastations of Zion, the breach of union, and the unhappy check put to the work of God! Never before did partyism to my mind appear so hateful, so destructive to the progress of truth and vital piety, and to the salvation of souls. Many saw it in the same light, and felt determined to stand fast in the gospel of Christ, and labour to promote his work.
But here we were not permitted to rest. We must come into the party views and party spirit of the denomination by which we were called, and cease from preaching that doctrine which was considered contrary to the doctrines contained in our confession of faith, contemptuously called arminian.
These doctrines were, that the provisions and calls of the gospel were for all, and to all the family of Adam; that Christ died for all, and was the constituted Saviour of all; that the poor sinner must believe in him, and that he was capable to believe from the evidences given in the gospel. In this strain of preaching, a number of the Presbyterian preachers had been for some time past engaged.
But these by no means suited the sticklers for orthodoxy".
Now that you know the context, HERE IS THE DOCUMENT:
AN ABSTRACT OF AN APOLOGY, For Renouncing the Jurisdiction OF THE SYNOD OF KENTUCKY, By Robert Marshall, John Dunlavy, Richard M'Nemar, Barton W. Stone, John Thompson, who withdrew from the presbyterian Synod of Kentucky. Thes withdrawal took place in September of 1803.
This work, was written by Robert Marshall
AN APOLOGY for renouncing the jurisdiction of the Synod of Kentucky. To which is added, a compendious view of the Gospel, and a few remarks on the Confession of Faith.
BY THE PRESBYTERY OF SPRINGFIELD.
Whereas we have promised to give a fair statement of the causes of the late separation from the Synod of Kentucky, and many have expressed their anxiety to see it; we propose in the following sheets, to give a brief history of the circumstances which, in a gradual chain, contributed to bring the matter to that issue. The history shall be principally composed of authentic documents, extracted from the minutes of the Washington Presbytery, and the Synod of Kentucky.
It will be generally granted, that true religion consists mainly in a feeling sense of divine truth; and discovers itself by corresponding actions. With truth, religion ever has revived, and both die together. It flows from God as rays of light from the sun; stop the communication of light, and the world is instantly in darkness. All, who are acquainted with revivals of true religion, know the doctrine under which they generally commence, is simple, plain, practical and pointed to the conscience.
They also know what usually stops the gracious work; a lusting after forbidden food, and the loathing the manna of simple truth. Thus began the late extraordinary work of God; and thus, we fear, it will terminate with many. Christians, in the lively exercise of religion, generally agree respecting the simple truths of the Gospel; and while their attention is fixed on these, nothing stands in the way to prevent their union and communion. Their hearts burn with mutual love, and a kindred zeal unites their efforts in promoting the common cause.
At the commencement of this present revival, preachers in general, who were truly engaged in it, omitted the doctrines of election and reprobation, as explained in the Confession of Faith, and proclaimed a free salvation to all men, through the blood of the Lamb. They held forth the promises of the gospel in their purity and simplicity, without the contradictory explanations, and double meaning, which scholastic divines have put upon them, to make them agree with the doctrines of the Confession.
This omission caused their preaching to appear somewhat different from what had been common among Presbyterians; and although no direct attack was made on these doctrines, as formerly explained; yet a murmuring arose because they were neglected in the daily ministration. This murmuring was heard in different parts of the country; but, notwithstanding, preachers and people treated each other with toleration and forbearance, until a direct opposition to the new mode of preaching took place in the congregation of Cabin-creek.
This appears from the following complaints and charges, dated November 3, 1801, and laid before the Presbytery of Washington, met at Springfield.
"The Rev. Presbytery: As we expect some accounts of the unhappy situation of our congregation have reached you and excited anxiety, and as we consider ourselves under your care, and look up to you for counsel, and interference between our pastor, Mr. M'Nemar, and us, who are members of his session, together with a great part of the people; we take the liberty to give you a brief account of our differences, from their first commencement to the present time.
Thus we have given to the reverend Presbytery a brief account of our situation, and submit the business to superior judgment, praying that you will take such measures as in your judgment will best establish that faith, once delivered to the saints; and promote the interest and peace of Christ's kingdom among us.
Some time last winter he began, as we believe, in his preaching, to deviate from the doctrines contained in the Confession of Faith of the Presbyterian Church, which we believe to be perfectly consistent with the word of God; an account of which we enclose to the Rev. Presbytery. Some of us then privately conversed with him on the subject, but to no purpose. We then as a session collectively, conversed with him, but the consequence was, that the difference in our opinion was augmented.
We continued frequently as individuals to deal with him on those points; but to no other purpose than to make him more zealous in propagating those sentiments which we opposed. And although we endeavored to keep those differences private from the people, yet he frequently made use of such language, when on those points, as naturally led the people to understand that there was a difference between him and us, and repeatedly misconstrued our conduct and principles, ridiculing us from the pulpit; though not by name, yet in such language as to convince ever attentive person present, who and what he meant.
Our influence was hurt, and deviations in doctrine and church discipline increased to such a degree that we could do little or no business in session; and the people, over whom we considered ourselves guardians, were some of them sucking in those ideas, which we believed to be dangerous and pernicious. Others of them, from a sense of those dangers, were urging us to take some measures to prevent the people from being imposed upon.
In this situation we were, and the time of the meeting of that Presbytery, to which we designed to apply for redress, being far distant, we applied to a neighboring Bishop for advice; and finally concluded on a week day meeting, publicly to vindicate that cause in which we were engaged; and to show wherein Mr. M'Nemar's doctrine was inconsistent with the doctrine and discipline of our church; and after informing him, before a number of witnesses, of the measures we were going to adopt, and he remaining obstinate, we proceeded to the disagreeable though in our opinion necessary task. And ever being desirous of accommodating the unhappy difference, we lately proposed to Mr. M'Nemar, in the presence of the Rev. John Dunlavy, and Messrs. James Baird and John Donalson, two of his elders, that in the confession of Faith of the Presbyterian church, and that he would propagate and defend the same, and no other in contradiction to them, and be ruled by the book of discipline, that we would then bury all our former differences; that we would return and go hand in hand in countenancing and assisting him, as far as in our power, in his ministry among us.
But he replied that our proposals were improper, and that a compliance would be attended with bad consequences. And further added, that he would be bound by no system but the Bible; and that he believed that systems were detrimental to the life and power of religion.
The charges contained in the enclosed statement can be fully substantiated. We are, with due submission, yours, &c.
JOSEPH DARLINTON, ROBT. ROBB, ROBT. ROBINSON."
"A statement of such doctrines as have been advanced and advocated by Mr. Richard M'Nemar, which are considered to be inconsistent with the word of God, and the constitution of the Presbyterian church.
1. He reprobated the idea of sinners attempting to pray, or being exhorted thereto, before they were believers in Christ.
2. He has condemned those who urge that convictions are necessary, or that prayer is proper in the sinner.
3. He has expressly declared, at several times, that Christ has purchased salvation for all the human race, without distinction.
4. He has expressly declared that a sinner has power to believe in Christ at any time.
5. That a sinner has as much power to act faith, as to act unbelief; and reprobated every idea in contradiction thereto, held by persons of a contrary opinion.
6. He has expressly said, that faith consisted in the creature's persuading himself assuredly, that Christ died for him in particular; that doubting and examining into evidences of faith, were inconsistent with, and contrary to the nature of faith; and in order to establish these sentiments, he explained away these words--Faith is the gift of God, by saying it was Christ Jesus, the object of faith there meant, and not faith itself; and also, these words, "No man can come to me, except the Father who hath sent me draw him," by saying that the drawing there meant, was Christ offered in the Gospel; and that the Father knew no other drawing, or higher power, than holding up his Son in the Gospel."
Editor’s Note: The reader may wonder what’s all the fuss about because most evangelical ministers today teach that saving faith is “faith in your faith that you are saved”. One of the most pernicious heresies of the psychological view of salvation is saving faith is the same nature as common faith. This was one of the many errors of Scottish Common Sense Realism taught to all the Presbyterian ministers that broke away to begin the Restoration movement. For more on this error, see FALSE PREMISE 2: There is no difference between common and saving faith. Witherspoon wrote: “What is faith? Is it any more than receiving the record which God hath given of his Son, believing the testimony of the Amen, the true and faithful Witness?”
With respect to this petition, Mr. M'Nemar states, that previous to bringing it forward, the petitioners, with the advice of a neighboring Bishop, had engaged in a public vindication of the Confession of Faith; in which they undertook to prove, that the general call of the Gospel was inconsistent with the Westminster doctrine of Election, and Reprobation, and Faith.
These doctrines, as explained by the Westminster Assembly, being brought to public view, contributed much to the unhappiness of the congregation and tended to check the glorious revival which had taken place. When these charges were brought forward, and Presbytery refused to take them up, (as will appear hereafter,) Mr. M'Nemar asked liberty to make a few observations upon them, as explanatory of his ideas; which he said he would not have done, if the Presbytery had thought proper to investigate them, to institute a prosecution upon them.
Upon the first charge, he observed, that faith is the first thing God requires of a sinner; and that he had no idea of him praying but in faith: "For how shall they call upon him in whom they have not believed."--Rom. x. 14.
On the second, that the question in debate was, whether any other convictions are necessary to authorize the soul to believe, than those which arise from the testimony of God, in his word.
On the third, that Christ is by office the Saviour of all men.
On the fourth, that the sinner is capable of receiving the testimony of God at any time he heard it; for "faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God."--Rom. x. 17.
Upon the fifth, that the sinner is as capable of believing, according to the evidence presented to the view of his mind; for "if we receive the witness of men, the witness of God is greater."--1 John, v. 9.
The first part of the sixth charge he declared was wholly groundless.
On the second, which respects doubting and self-examination, his ideas were, that doubting the veracity of God, and looking into ourselves for evidence, as the foundation of our faith, is contrary to Scripture; which represents the promises of the Gospel as the only sure foundation, and that self-examination has respect to the fruits, and not to the foundation of faith.
On the third part, viz: explaining away those Scriptures, he replied, if that was explaining them away, he had done it.
The reader will observe, that the foregoing observations, not being reduced to writing at the time, we now attempt to give the general sense of them only; and for a more full explanation, he is referred to what will be said in the sequel. The decision of Presbytery, upon the foregoing petition and charges, you see in the following extracts from their minutes, dated Springfield, November 11, 1801:
"A letter, with certain other papers, from three of the former elders of Cabin-creek congregation, containing certain charges respecting doctrines, against the Rev. R. M'Nemar, was presented to Presbytery. Presbytery having taken into consideration the papers from Cabin-creek, concluded it irregular to take any further notice of them; as no person, at present, proposed to substantiate the charges stated in them."
This wise and prudent measure of Presbytery had a happy tendency to quench the flame of opposition; the contending parties became more and more reconciled; and finally came to an agreement on the 20th of March following, to bury all former differences, and unite in communion for the future: which agreement took place in the presence of the Rev. John E. Finley, and with his approbation; a copy of which is here inserted:
"Whereas, a difference has existed for some time between the Rev. R. M'Nemar of the one part, and Joseph Darlinton, Robert Robb, and Robert Robinson, ruling elders in the congregation of Cabin-creek, of the other part, upon certain points of doctrine, which has threatened much evil to that branch of the church:--We, having met, and entered into a free and full conversation on the subjects in controversy, do now mutually agree to pass over all past altercations, and cordially unite in communion for the future. In witness whereof, we have hereunto set our hands, this 6th day of March, 1802. Signed by:
J. DARLINTON, R. ROBB, ROBT. ROBINSON, Testis, JOHN E. FINLEY. R. M'NEMAR."
After the matter was thus settled, and the spirit of toleration restored, Mr. M'Nemar was called to take charge of the congregation at Turtle-creek, where, through the blessing of heaven, his ministrations in the Lord were abundantly successful. The people here were cordially united; not a dissenting voice among the members of the church, not a single sentiment called in question, until Mr. Tichner, one of the elders began to object in the doctrine in general, under the vague phrase of Free-will. As Mr. Tichner, for several months, expressed himself not only a friend to the revival, but also to the doctrine under which is was promoted, there is very good reason to believe that he became disaffected to both through the instrumentality of his particular friend Mr. Kemper.
We have it from his own mouth, that this person, early in the revival, endeavored to prejudice his mind against the work. A letter from the same quarter was handed him on one of the preparation days of the sacrament, which was read by several members of the congregation, but afterwards suppressed; which letter was evidently intended to irritate his mind against some of the leading members of the congregation, and draw him off from the approaching communion.
By whatever means the change might have been produced in Mr. Tichner, he took a very unfriendly method to manifest it. Without ever stating a single objection to Mr. M'Nemar, in private, he gave the first notice of his disaffection to a surrounding crowd of careless sinners, in the interval of public worship. On this impudent step, he was seriously and affectionately dealt with by the session: and advised to state his objections to the doctrine, if he had any, and lay them regularly before the Presbytery.
This, however, he declined; as it appeared evident, he had no accurate idea that anything specifically erroneous had ever been advanced. He likewise declared, that it never was his intention to complain to the Presbytery on the occasion. The small disturbance which his imprudent conduct had excited was amicably settled, and the scandal which it had brought on the church removed, and matters at least externally restored to their former train.
This took place a few days before the meeting of Presbytery at Cincinnati, October 6, 1802. When Presbytery met, nothing existed as a ground of prosecution; nevertheless, an elder of Mr. Kemper's congregation, being a member of Presbytery, arose, an entered a verbal complaint against Mr. M'Nemar, as a propagator of false doctrine; and desired Presbytery to look into the matter. The elder declared that he had it only by hearsay; having himself never heard Mr. M'Nemar preach.
He mentioned Mr. Tichner, who was then present, as being capable of giving Presbytery information. Mr. M'Nemar them opposed the measure, insisting that it was out of order; and informed Presbytery of the only method in which charges could regularly come before them, that is to say, in writing.
Nevertheless, Presbytery proceeded to what they call an examination of Mr. M'Nemar, on the fundamental doctrines of the sacred Scriptures. This, the Synod afterwards calls, "a previous orderly examination," and some of the members, "a friendly conference." It will hereafter appear to the unprejudiced reader, whether it was either a friendly conference or an orderly examination. The examination, or what may more properly be called, the Presbyterian Inquisition, was closed with the following minute:
"Whereas, it has been reported for more than a year past, that the Rev. R. M'Nemar, held tenets hostile to the standard of the Presbyterian church, and subversive of the fundamental doctrines contained in the sacred Scriptures: and, whereas, these reports have daily become more clamorous, notwithstanding Mr. M'Nemar has from time to time been warned of these things, both privately and more publicly, both by private persons, and members of Presbytery, separately and jointly: therefore, Presbytery have thought it necessary to enter into a more particular and close examination of Mr. M'Nemar, on the doctrine of particular election, human depravity, the atonement, the application of it to sinners, the necessity of a divine agency in the application, and the nature of faith; upon which examination had, it is the opinion of this Presbytery, that Mr. M'Nemar holds these doctrines in a sense, specifically and essentially different from that sense, in which Calvinists generally believe them; and that his idea on these subjects are strictly Arminian, though clothed in such expressions, and handed out in such manner, as to keep the body of the people in the dark, and lead them insensibly into Arminian principles; which are dangerous to the souls of men and hostile to the interests of all true religion.
"Ordered, that a copy of this minute be forwarded by the clerk, as early as may be, to the churches under our care."
With respect to the foregoing minute, we state the following facts: When this minute was introduced and carried in Presbytery, it was on the last day of the session. Presbytery met in the morning upon its own adjournment; the Moderator being absent, a new one was then chosen: Mr. Wallace, being sick, was absent; he had not attended during the examination. Mr. Kemper moved for an adjournment to his house, as it was certain, without his vote, this illegal minute would not have received the approbation of the majority.
As the members were not aware of the intrigue, his motion succeeded. When Presbytery met at Mr. Wallace's, it was moved that they should proceed to the consideration of Mr. M'Nemar's examination; upon which he was put out of the house, by the casting vote of the new Moderator. After he had withdrawn, a message was sent, directing him to retire to the meeting-house, and preach to the people, it being on Saturday, previous to the administration of the Lord's Supper.
Mr. Kemper then brought forward a written copy of the foregoing minute, previously prepared in private, which after some altercation, and perhaps a little amendment, was adopted. It is farther worthy of notice, that beside the then Moderator, Messrs. Kemper and Wallace were the only stated members present, who voted in favor of this extraordinary minute.
About sunset in the evening, Mr. M'Nemar returned. Presbytery was then at the point of adjourning, when the minute was read to him. He declared it was not a fair statement of his sentiments; and expressed his desire that it might be referred to the more respectable decision of the Synod; which was to meet at Lexington on the ensuing week. As to regularly appealing, he conceived he could not do it; because there had been no regular trial, nor judgment; and the members expressly declared that he was not under judicial censure; but that they had only barely expressed to the public their opinion of his sentiments. He saw no way, therefore, in which he could carry it before Synod, without bringing forward a charge against his Presbytery, which he felt no disposition to do.
He expected notwithstanding, that it would come before them, through the minutes of Presbytery, or in some other way. And in this expectation, he remained every day, during the session, till Synod moved an adjournment.
On what is here stated, the reader will observe, that in the above procedure, there was no regular statement of charges, nothing reduced to writing, but the minute of condemnation; no witnesses cited, none called, non-examined; no conviction of guilt, no confession made; and yet without precedent, and contrary to all law, human and divine, Presbytery ordered the above minute to be published as early as possible throughout the churches. And what is more extraordinary, at the same time, directed Mr. M'Nemar, with all his sentiments though "hostile to the interests of all true religion," to preach in the vacancies until their next stated session; as you will see from the following minute. "Mr. M'Nemar [was appointed] "one half of his time at Turtle-creek, until the next stated session: two Sabbaths at Orangedale; two at Clear-creek; two at Beulah; one at the forks of Mad-river; and the rest at discretion."
Those who are unacquainted with the circumstantial facts, would conclude from the foregoing minute, that the members of Presbytery had taken such pains to find out his sentiments, and set him right; but Mr. M'Nemar states that it was far otherwise: he was uniformly treated with shyness, and the principal warnings he received, where of the threatening kind; and better adapted to affright the dupe of a civil establishment, than to fix at mind at liberty to think for itself. It is easy to conceive what impressions the publication of the above minute was calculated to make upon the minds of the people; some were grieved to the heart; others rejoiced, and the opposers of the revival had now full scope given them to express their opposition at pleasure.
The conduct of the Presbytery in taking up and examining Mr. M'Nemar, on the verbal report of an individual, set a precedent for any to come forward, who chose to act in the same, or a similar way.
Accordingly a petition was preferred to their next session at Springfield, which was held in April 1803, praying Presbytery to re-examine Mr. M'Nemar; and not content therewith, directing them to include Mr. Thompson also, in the same examination. The brethren who had succeeded so well in the former examination, appeared anxious to go into the present one, upon the prayer of the petition, which occasioned considerable debate upon the subject; but finally, it was rejected, as you will see in the following extract from their minutes:
"A petition from a number of persons, in the congregations of Beulah, Turtle-creek, Clear-creek, Bethany, Hopewell, Duck-creek, and Cincinnati, praying the re-examination of the Rev. R. M'Nemar on the fundamental doctrines of religion; or on what the petitioners call free will or Arminian doctrines; and also that the Rev. John Thompson undergo the like examination. The petition was taken up, and the Presbytery determined that it was improper to go into the examination of Mr. M'Nemar and Mr. Thompson, on the prayer of said petition, as being out of order."
At the same session a call from the congregation of Turtle-creek, signed by about sixty persons, for the whole of Mr. M'Nemar's time, was presented through the Presbytery, which he accepted. This was the place of his residence; these the people among whom he chiefly labored, and who were best acquainted with his doctrines and manner of life; and therefore were more competent judges than those who lived at a distance, who seldom or never heard of him, and whose knowledge of him was founded chiefly on vague report. Against the proceedings of Presbytery, two of the brethren, with their two elders, entered the following protest:
"Messrs. Kemper, Wallace, Reader, and Wheeler, protest against the proceedings of Presbytery, in the case of the petition of Wm. Lamme, and others, praying the re-examination of Mr. M'Nemar, and also the examination of Mr. Thompson, because the people cannot be deprived of the right of proposing to the Presbytery for discussion, such difficulties respecting the doctrines taught them, as cannot be settled by the session; and especially because Mr. M'Nemar's principles, in particular, now stand condemned by the last meeting of the Presbytery, as Arminian.
The above named members also protest against the proceedings of Presbytery, in the case of the call of Mr. M'Nemar from Turtle-creek for the above reasons; and especially because the Presbytery now refuses to pay any attention to Mr. M'Nemar's principles or doctrines, notwithstanding the proceedings of the last Presbytery, as they stand upon our minutes."
On the subject of the foregoing petition, it will be necessary to observer, that it might be thought, that because you see so many congregations named in the minutes of Presbytery, it was a congregational business; but this was not the fact. The petition originated somewhere, and took in an extent of about fifty miles, and in the whole found fourteen subscribers, not acting in behalf of their congregations, but as individuals; and in several congregations there was not more than one to each of them.
But few of these petitioners had heard either Mr. M'Nemar or Thompson since the last session of Presbytery in Cincinnati, and it is probable some of them had never heard them. From the face of the above minutes you perceive there was a difference of sentiment in the members of Presbytery; some were going into the examination on the prayer of the petition; a majority were of a different opinion, which gave rise to the protest. It is also worthy of remark, that Mr. M'Nemar and Thompson, and those of the same sentiment with them, were a majority of the Presbytery; and had they proceeded to the business, it must have been by way of self-examination, and the result must have been very different from that of the preceding session.
Hence another publication would have gone out through the churches, contradicting the former, and declaring the brethren now orthodox, although they had not changed their sentiments. The Presbytery therefore waived the examination at that time, not only because they judged it illegal, but also hoped it would tend to the peace of the church.
During this session of Presbytery, the Lord's supper was administered at Springfield. The evident displays of divine power, on that occasion, carried sufficient evidence that our ministrations in the gospel were not injurious to the souls of men; and we still hoped that those of the contrary part would desist, lest haply they should be found fighting against God.
We felt ourselves under the patronage of heaven, and could sensibly bless the Lord that our souls had escaped as a bird out of the snare of the fowler. By circumstances unforeseen, a Presbytery was there providentially formed, to cover the truth from the impending storm, and check the flawless career of opposition.
We considered it formed by a gracious God, in answer to ten thousand prayers; as such it then existed, though one of our present members was absent in body; it now exists substantially the same; and such it will exist till He who formed it sees fit to pronounce its dissolution. From this time the minutes plainly represented to Presbyteries, one at Cincinnati, the other at Springfield. This took place without any intention in us to counteract the proceedings of the last session of Presbytery, but we felt ourselves bound in conscience to act according to truth and good order.
Had Presbytery acted upon the petition of Lamme and others, they must have contradicted the proceedings at a former session at Springfield, November 11, 1801, in rejecting the petition of Robb and others, which proceedings the Synod approbated. If the doctrines preached were of such dangerous tendency, there was time enough to have obtained regular charges against the session in April, 1803, at the same place. But no charges coming forward, according to the book of discipline, we were in duty bound to counteract the irregular mode of proceeding at Cincinnati. Thus existed two Presbyteries in one; and it remained with Synod, when the business came before them, to say which should be retained in its bosom.
In the interval between the meeting of Presbytery and that of Synod, no pains were taken by the disaffected members to obtain information from M'Nemar and Thompson respecting their sentiments, or bring about an accommodation; although they had desired in open Presbytery their willingness at any convenient time, publicly, or privately, to give a candid statement of their ideas on those subjects, and any satisfaction in their power.
When the business came before Synod, we had devised no method of defense. We felt ourselves at the disposal of Him who hath the key of David; Him that openeth and no man shutteth, and shutteth and no man openeth. We rested on the name of the Lord as our strong tower, and possessed our souls in patience. Through the committee of overtures, the matter was brought before Synod and called, were the minute of condemnation issued at Cincinnati, the petition of Lamme and others, the protest against the Presbytery of Springfield, together with several other petitioners, praying the examining process to be carried on against the free-will preachers, as you will see in the following attested extract from the minutes of Synod:
"Lexington, September 7, 1803. The committee of overtures report, that certain petitions, with sundry other papers, came before the committee relative to the Rev. Messrs. M'Nemar and Thompson, as to doctrines delivered by them; which petitions and papers the committee think it their duty to overture, and lay before Synod. These being read, were ordered to lie on the table for the consideration of the Synod.
"On motion, resolved, that Synod enter upon the consideration of the report of committee, relative to Messrs. M'Nemar and Thompson, on the subjects stated in the report of the committee of overtures relative to Messrs. M'Nemar and Thompson. Synod were of opinion, that the business contained in the papers lying before them, will regularly come before them, through the report of their committee, who are appointed to examine the book of Washington Presbytery; and ordered that said committee be prepared to report early to-morrow morning. The committee appointed to examine the Washington Presbytery book, report as follows:
'We, your committee, report that we have gone through the minutes of Washington Presbytery; we found nothing worthy of remark, except on omission, till we came to the session of April 6, 1803, at Springfield, We, your committee, think the Washington Presbytery acted contrary to the constitution of our church, and the interests of religion, in casting the petition of Lamme and others, under the table, and taking no farther notice of it, seeing said petition implicated a charge of a most serious and important nature.
If the charges were false, the Presbytery ought to have investigated and found it so, and have dealt with the complaints according to the calumny, or impudence of their conduct. This appears to us to have been necessary, in order to have complied with the book of discipline, and also, necessary to clear Messrs. M'Nemar and Thompson from the odium cast upon their characters. But on the other hand, as it appears from a previous orderly examination of Mr. M'Nemar, that he held Arminian tenets, Presbytery ought, as guardians of the churches under their care, to have entered upon an inquiry into those important matters laid before them. Your committee also report, that we think it was irregular in said Presbytery to present a call to Mr. M'Nemar, whose religious opinions stood condemned on their minutes.'
"On motion made and seconded, the question was put, shall the Synod approbate the proceedings of the Presbytery of Washington, in that part of their minutes, which respects the examination of Mr. M'Nemar. The yeas and nays being called for, were as follows: Yeas, Samuel Finley, Archibald Cameron, Matthew Houston, Isaac Tull, James Blythe, Joseph Howe, John Lyle, Robert Stewart, Samuel Rannels, ministers; James Henderson, Joseph Moore, William Nource, John Henderson, James Wardlow, John McDowell, Charles McPheeters, Willian Connel, Elders. Nays, Robert Marshall, James Welsh, Barton W. Stone, William Robinson, ministers: David Purviance, Malcom Worley, Elders; non liquet--Samuel Robinson.
"On motion, resolved, that the Synod now take up, and determine this question, viz: whether the Presbytery of Washington were in order, in publishing to the churches, under their care, that the doctrines Mr. M'Nemar held, were of dangerous tendency, and contrary to the constitution of our church; which question being called for, was carried in the affirmative.
"On motion, resolved, that the Synod take up and determine this question, viz: was the Presbytery in order in making appointments for Mr. M'Nemar, at the same session, in which they had taken a vote of censure, on some of his tenets. The yeas and nays being called for, were as follows: Yeas 7--nays 10--non liquet 4.
"The Synod went on further to consider the report of their committee, relative to the conduct of Washington Presbytery. It was moved and seconded, whether that Presbytery were in order, when they rejected the petition of Lamme and others. After mature deliberation, the question was determined in the negative. Nays 18, ayes 5, non liquet 1."
"It was then inquired, whether that Presbytery were orderly in presenting a call to Mr. M'Nemar, while he lay under a vote of century, by a preceding session, and determined in the negative."
Before we proceed farther, we will make a few remarks upon the extracts now before us. You will observe, that in the estimation of Synod, all things went right in the proceedings of Washington Presbytery, until the meeting at Springfield in 1803, except that they gave M'Nemar appointments to preach, after they had taken a vote of censure on some of his tenets.
For they tell you they find nothing worthy of remark, on their minutes until the time of that meeting, except one omission, which was only of a single word. Is it not strange then, that they could not see in the same minute, a plain contradiction, not in words only, but in actions? In the proceedings of the Presbytery, you will see that when the petition of Mr. Robb and others from Cabin-creek, stating charges against M'Nemar, was introduced, it was rejected, because no person in their opinion, had undertaken to substantiate these charges; yet this same Presbytery at another meeting, with far less legal foundation, went into an examination, and condemnation of the same man.
The Synod passed over this contradiction, as not worthy of notice, but at the same time approbated the examination, as stated by their committee to be orderly. The Synod also tell you through their committee, and by an express vote, that the Presbytery acted contrary to the constitution of our church, and the interests of religion, in casting the petition of Lamme, and others, under the table, and taking no farther notice of it; and again, that Presbytery ought to have investigated it, in order to have complied with the book of discipline; and as guardians of the churches under their care, to have entered upon an inquiry into those important matters laid before them.
If we have a right to inquire into those rules by which we are to be governed, and our actions tried, we can see no reason why the petition of Lamme should be treated with more respect than that of Robb; and why the same observations were not made on the former proceedings of Presbytery, as on the latter. But if there be a sovereignty in government into which is unlawful to pry, by which the conduct of some men is approbated, and similar conduct in others reprobated, the solution is plain, "reason not, but resign." The readiest way, no doubt, to account for Synod passing over the proceedings of Presbytery, November 11, 1801, their approbation of those of October 6, 1802, and their reprobation of those April 1803, is to resolve it into their sovereignty.
We are perfectly of the same mind with Synod, in considering Presbyteries as guardians of the church; that they not only have the right, but it is incumbent upon them, to inquire into, and decide upon all matters respecting the church, which come legally before them. The difference then between the Synod and us, is not, whether a Presbytery has a right to watch over their members, and censure them with impartiality, when necessary, and when the matter comes orderly before them; but whether the case under consideration ever came legally before them.
According to Scripture, we know of no legal process without a charge, and witnesses to support it. "Against an elder receive not an accusation, but before two or three witnesses." 1 Tim. v. 19. According to the book of discipline, we know of but two methods of bringing forward charges: chap. 2d. Sec. 3. "Process against a gospel minister shall not be entered upon, unless some person or persons undertake to make out the charge, or when common fame so loudly proclaims the scandal, that the Presbytery find it necessary to prosecute and search into the matter for the honor of religion."
In this case no person had undertaken to make out and support the charge, which the book of discipline requires. These petitioners could not be warned, according to chap. 2. Sec. 7, "that if they failed to prove the charges, they must be censured as slanderers of the gospel ministry." they did not come forward as prosecutors; they did not undertake to support charges; they appeared only by petition, and not in person.
Presbytery could not therefore, take it up upon the first mode as a regular charge; neither could they take it up upon the second, in compliance with the petition in a judicial process. In a trial by common fame, a specific charge must be exhibited, and the Presbytery become the prosecutors. They are to search into the matter, but where are they to search? Are they, in the first place, to search the heart of the suspected person, or put him on the rack to make confession of himself? This was indeed the method the High priest took with Christ, when he asked him of his disciples and his doctrines; and who will dispute the propriety of our Saviour's answer: "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. Why askest thou me? As them who heard me what I said unto them; behold, they know what I said unto them."--John xviii. 19, 20, 21.
If then an accused person is not obliged to bear witness against himself, where is the Presbytery to go to find it, but to the public, where common fame originates? And as in the present case it was a charge of false doctrine delivered by them, the inquiry must have been of those who heard them. The Presbytery itself must institute charges, and from the public they must bring forward testimony to support those charges. The accused must be furnished with a written copy, and the names of the witnesses--have time and opportunity allowed them to confront the witnesses--to defend themselves, and if they can, to prove a negative; chap. 2, sec. 5.
Could all this have been done at Springfield? It could not. We see, then, that the matter could not have been taken up at that time, and proceeded in as a trial by common fame. To have complied, therefore, with the prayer of the petition, and the wish of the two protesting brethren, would have been disorderly. It may be plead in favor of proceeding immediately against M'Nemar and Thompson, that the interests of religion required a speedy check to be put to the growing errors. But is it not astonishing, where so great a zeal for orthodoxy and good order abounded, that something could not have been collected, in so great a lapse of time, to lay a foundation for a regular process?
Synod seems to have taken it for granted that Mr. M'Nemar was regularly accused, convicted, and condemned; and on this presumption they have censured Presbytery for appointing him supplies, and presenting him the call from the congregation of Turtle-creek: but as we have shown above, that examination was not orderly, he was not under judicial censure, and therefore, the Presbytery was in order, in presenting the call. These observations not only show the impropriety of the conduct of Synod in condemning the proceedings of Presbytery at Springfield, but also in approbating those of the previous meeting at Cincinnati.
Synod having condemned the Presbytery at Cincinnati, for giving M'Nemar appointments to preach; and also that at Springfield for presenting him the call, did thereby implicitly declare that he was already suspended from the functions of his ministry. We evidently saw that the way was now prepared to censure any minister of the gospel, without charge, witness, or prosecution, through the short medium of presbyterial inquisition. These proceedings did not involve the fate of M'Nemar and Thompson alone, but also of us all; as we were in the same strain of preaching, and were viewed by Synod in the same point of light. We saw the arm of ecclesiastical authority raised to crush us, and we must either sink or step aside to avoid the blow.
Under these circumstances we retired, during a short recess of Synod, to ask counsel of the Lord, and consult one another. When we came to consult on the subject, we found it had struck each of our minds in the same light, without any preconcerted plan. To appeal to the General Assembly, so long as human opinions were esteemed the standard of orthodoxy, we had little hope of redress. We therefore determined to withdraw from the jurisdiction of Synod, and cast ourselves upon the care of that God who had led us hitherto in safety through many trials and difficulties; and who, we believed, would lead us safely on to the end.
We then concluded to draw up and enter our protest against the proceedings of Synod. While we were doing this, the Synod were debating as to the propriety of proceeding in the new inquisition, as will appear from the following extract:
"Whereas, the Synod have taken into consideration certain petitions and papers respecting the conduct of Washington Presbytery at Springfield, &c. On motion, resolved, that Synod now enter upon the examination or trial of Messrs. M'Nemar and Thompson, according to the prayer of the petitions, and the charges therein stated; and also, that this Synod resolve the questions of doctrines, seriously and reasonably proposed in their petitions."
"While Synod were deliberating on the propriety of adopting the above resolution, Mssrs. Marshall, Stone, Dunlavy, M'Nemar, and Thompson, appeared in Synod, and having given their reasons for not attending sooner, they presented a paper, through Mr. Marshall, which that gentleman stated to be a protest against the proceedings of Synod, in the affair of Washington Presbytery, and a declaration that they withdrew from the jurisdiction of Synod. This paper was read, and is as follows:"
"To the Moderator of the Synod of Kentucky.
"Reverend Sir:--We, the underwritten members of Washington and W. Lexington Presbyteries, do hereby enter our protest against the proceedings of Synod, in approbating that minute of the Washington Presbytery which condemned the sentiments of Mr. M'Nemar as dangerous to the souls of men, and hostile to the interests of all true religion, and the proceedings therewith connected; and for reasons which we now offer, we declare ourselves no longer members of your reverend body, or under your jurisdiction, or that of your Presbyteries.
1. We conscientiously believe that the above minute, which you sanctioned, gives a distorted and false representation of Mr. M'Nemar's sentiments, and that the measure was calculated to prevent the influence of truths of the most interesting nature.
2. We claim the privilege of interpreting the Scripture by itself, according to sec. 9, chap. i. of the Confession of faith; and believe that the Supreme Judge, by which all controversies of religions are to be determined, and all decrees of councils, opinions of ancient writers, doctrines of men and private spirits, are to be examined, and in whose sentence we are to rest, can be no other than the Holy Spirit speaking in the Scriptures. But from the disposition which Synod manifests, it appears to us that we cannot enjoy this privilege, but must be bound up to such explanations of the word of God, as preclude all further inquiry after truth.
3. We remain inviolably attached to the doctrines of grace, which, through God, have been mighty in every revival of true religion since the reformation. These doctrines, however, we believe are in a measure darknened by some expressions in the Confession of Faith, which are used as the means of strengthening sinners in their unbelief, and subjecting many of the pious to a spirit of bondage.
When we attempt to obviate these difficulties, we are charged with departing from our standards--viewed as disturbers of the peace of the church, and threatened to be called to account. The proceedings of Presbytery have furnished the world with ample encouragement, in this mode of opposition; and the sanction which those proceedings have now received from your reverend body, cuts off every hope of relief from that quarter from which we have at least faintly expected it. We, therefore, feel ourselves shut up to the necessity of relieving you from the disagreeable task of receiving petitions from the public, and ourselves from being prosecuted before a judge (Confession of Faith) whose authority to decide, we cannot in conscience acknowledge.
Rev. Sir: Our affection for you, as brethren in the Lord, is, and we hope shall be ever the same: nor do we desire to separate from your communion, or to exclude you from ours. We ever wish to bear, and forbear, in matters of human order, or opinion, and unite our joint supplications with yours, for the increasing effusions of that divine Spirit, which is the bond of peace. With this disposition of mind, we bid you adieu, until, through the providence of God, it seem good to your reverend body to adopt a more liberal plan, respecting human Creeds and Confessions.
Done in Lexington, Kentucky, September 10, 1803.
ROBERT MARSHALL, JOHN DUNLAVY, R. M'NEMAR, BARTON W. STONE, JOHN THOMPSON."
The introduction of the above protest put a sudden check to the examining system. The protest was read, and shortly after we retired from the house. Synod then appointed a committee to converse with us, as you will see by the following extract from their minutes:
"On motion, resolved, that Messrs. David Rice, Matthew Houston, and James Welsh, be a committee, seriously and affectionately to converse with Messrs. Marshall, &c.--to labor to bring them back to the standards and doctrines of our church, and report Monday morning. On motion, resolved, that Mr. Joseph Howe be added to the committee appointed to converse with Messrs. Marshall, &c."
The result of this conference you have in the report of the committee, as follows:
"The committee appointed to converse with Messrs. Marshall, &c., report as follows, viz:--They will answer any questions proposed to them by Synod, which may be stated in writing--in writing again; and that they are ready to enter upon the business, as soon as they may receive notice for that purpose. N.B. The whole of the questions shall be given in at once."
To this committee we further stated, that we were willing to return, and be considered under the care and jurisdiction of Synod, as formerly, provided they would constitute us into one Presbytery; and if they had any charges to bring against us, with respect to doctrines, or otherwise, let them come forward in an orderly manner, according to the book of discipline--criminate us as a Presbytery, and bring our sentiments to the word of God, as a standard, and we were willing to stand trial.
To these proposals we received no answer. It appears that Synod had considerable debating among them, whether they would comply with the proposal, contained in the report of the committee, in conferring with us in writing; and that there was a diversity of opinion on that subject. A resolution being introduced for that purpose, it passed in the negative, 12 to 7, as you see in the following minute:
"On motion, resolved, that Synod do accede to the proposal of Messrs. Marshall, &c., in examining them on their tenets. The yeas and nays being called for were as follows:--Yeas, M. Houston, J. Welsh, J. Howe, and W. Robinson, ministers: J. Henderson, J.  Wardlow, and C.M'Pheeters, elders: Nays, A Cameron, J. Tull, J. Blythe, J. Lyle, R. Stewart, S. Rannels, J. Kemper, J. Campbell, S. Finley, ministers: J. Moore, John Henderson, and T. Bennington, elders."
Why Synod did not agree to the proposal we could not then tell, for they sent us no answer. However, one of their reasons, as we afterwards understood was, that the whole of the questions must be given in at once. The weight of this reason we leave to the reader to determine. We were not only willing, but anxious to have our sentiments fairly and fully investigated, provided we were put in a situation to have a fair hearing.
This we knew we could not obtain, while the leading members of Synod were in their present spirit. We did not expect to have the privilege of discussing the subjects before Synod, in the capacity in which we then stood; and were unwilling to bring our necks again under a yoke which we had so lately shaken off. The only fair way, then, to prevent quibbling and misrepresentation, was to do it in writing; as we could not do it in any other way, unless we revoked our protest, and came again under the jurisdiction of Synod.
But the Synod had another objection to our proposal, viz: They could not confer with us as a body, because they could not acknowledge the legality of this body. Time has a wonderful power in legalizing bodies! A few years have legalized the self-created bodies of Luther, Calvin, and all the different sects of Christians, since the reformation! A few more years may legalize our self-created body, in the estimation of Synod, when we hope they will condescend to confer with us, and unity be restored.
Though we had withdrawn from the jurisdiction of Synod, it was of necessity, rather than of choice. We found we must forsake them, or what we believed to be the truth: and former were dear to us, but the latter was dearer. Under these circumstances, we again committed ourselves to God, and constituted ourselves into a Presbytery, as you will see from the minutes of our first meeting.
"We, the above named Robert Marshall, John Dunlavy, Richard M'Nemar, Barton W. Stone, and John Thompson, having entered the above protest, and withdrawn from under the jurisdiction of the Synod of Kentucky, and of the Presbyteries to which we formerly belonged, do now and formally unite in a body, as a Presbytery, to be known by the name of the "Presbytery of Springfield." After constituting with prayer, and choosing a moderator and clerk, we proceed to draught a circular letter to the congregations formerly under our care, which is as follows:
Dear Brethren: By the time this letter shall have reached you, you will, no doubt, have heard that a separation has taken place between us and the Synod of Kentucky, and the Presbyteries to which we formerly belonged. The reasons which induced us to withdraw, you see in the above copy of our protest, which reasons we intend more fully to unfold, as soon as we can obtain the minutes of Synod, and those of the Washington Presbytery, which are referred to in said protest. But lest you should form an improper opinion of the nature, or kind of separation, we take the liberty of giving you a short statement of it.
We do not desire, nor do we consider ourselves to be separated from the Presbyterian church, as Christians, whether ministers or people; we still wish to continue united to them in the bonds of love: we will admit to communion as formerly, and desire to be admitted. It is not our design to form a party. We have only withdrawn from the jurisdiction of those bodies with which we stood connected, because we plainly perceived that, while that connection subsisted, we could not enjoy the liberty of reading, studying, and explaining the word of God for ourselves, without constant altercation and strife of words to no profit.
We pass no uncharitable censures on those reverend bodies for their strict adherence to their standards; but as we are accountable to God for ourselves, so we must act for ourselves as in the sight of God; and can own no standard of faith but the word of God; and we desire ever to look to Him for his Spirit of wisdom to lead us into all truth.
Brethren, we wish to pay all due deference to the Confession of Faith, and other writings of our pious fathers; but we plead a privilege, which is granted in the Confession of Faith, chap. 1. sec. 9, 10, as we mentioned in our protest; that the infallible rule of interpreting Scripture, is not the Confession of Faith, nor any human writings whatever, but the Scripture itself. On this ground we have attempted, and still mean to proceed, to hold forth the word of life, peace and pardon to sinners, through the blood of the everlasting covenant. But as we are, by some, suspected of having departed from the true doctrines of the gospel, we design as soon as convenient, to explain to the public our views of the gospel. In the meantime, we are determined, by the grace of God, to preach the gospel, and administer ordinances as formerly. 'And now brethren we commend you to God, and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up, and give you an inheritance among them that are sanctified.' Farewell."
Late in the evening, after our adjournment, the following resolution was handed us from Synod:
"On motion, resolved, that Messrs. Rannels, Houston, and Kemper, be a committee to wait upon Messrs. Marshall, Dunlavy, M'Nemar, Stone and Thompson, to inquire of them, what objections they have to our Confession of Faith, or to any part of it, which they have, in their remonstrance declared they could not submit to be judged by; and that they transmit said objections to us in writing, to-morrow morning, or before the Synod rises."
As several of our members were under a necessity of leaving town that night, we concluded to meet next morning, to take into consideration the above resolution. The result of which meeting you will see by the following letter, addressed by us to the Moderator of Synod:
"Reverend and dear Sir: We received your resolution, from a member of your committee, requesting us to give you a statement of our objections to some parts of the Confession of Faith. We have taken the matter into consideration, and resolved to comply. But it is out of our power to state them to you, as soon as you require; but will, without fail, give you a statement, at your next annual session. A party is not our aim; and this we hope to evince to you, and to the world, at your next session.
In the meantime, we design to proceed no farther, than circumstances may require. Brethren, you are in our hearts, to live and die with you; our hearts are bound to you in love. We hope your intentions, in doing what you have done, were good; but we still believe as stated in our protest. In the meantime let us unite our prayers to our common Lord and Father, that he would in his kind providence, heal our divisions, and unite us more closely in the bonds of love. We remain, dear brethren, as ever, united to you in heart and affection.
ROBERT MARSHALL, JOHN DUNLAVY, RICHARD M'NEMAR, BARTON W. STONE, JOHN THOMPSON."
This letter was sent forward to Synod as soon as possible, on the same day of our meeting; but they did not wait for an answer, for before its arrival, they had passed a vote of suspension; an account of which you will see hereafter. Shortly after our return home, we were followed by heralds proclaiming our suspension from the ministerial office. In some of our congregations, the minute containing that extraordinary act was publicly read, and handed to us; which is as follows:
"On motion, the following resolution was introduced, and on a vote being taken, was carried in the affirmative. Whereas, Messrs. Robert Marshall, John Dunlavy, Richard M'Nemar, Barton W. Stone, and John Thompson have declared themselves no longer members of our body, or under our jurisdiction, or that of our Presbyteries; and, whereas, it appears from their remonstrance, laid before Synod, that they have seceded from the Confession of Faith of the Presbyterian church, and no more wish to be united with us until we adopt a more liberal plan, respecting human creeds and confessions; and whereas, a committee has been appointed seriously and affectionately to converse with the above members, in order if possible, to reclaim them to the doctrines and standards of our church, which committee has proved entirely unsuccessful; moreover, whereas, said gentlemen came into Synod and informed us, that they had constituted themselves into a separate Presbytery, and have refused to comply with every solicitation to return to their duty, but persist in their schismatic disposition: Therefore, resolved, that Synod do, and they hereby do solemnly suspend Messrs. Robert Marshall, John Dunlavy, Richard M'Nemar, Barton W. Stone, and John Thompson, from the exercise of all the functions of the gospel ministry, to which the above members may have belonged, to restore them as soon as they give satisfactory evidence of repentance; and their congregations are hereby declared vacant."
"On motion, resolved, that commissioners go to the several congregations where Messrs. Marshall, Dunlavy, M'Nemar, Stone and Thompson have statedly preached, to declare those congregations, not before vacated, now vacant; and state the conduct of Synod, respecting those men, and exhort to peace and unity; and that the commissioners be as follows, viz: Messrs. Shannon and Lyle, to Bethel and Blue-spring; Messrs. Rannels and Howe, to Caneridge and Concord; Mr. Blythe to Eagle-creek; Mr. William Robinson to Springfield and Turtle-creek.
A true copy, JAMES WELSH, S.C.S.K."
Here it is worthy of our most serious attention, to observe that the Synod had no legal grounds to proceed farther against us, after our withdrawing from under their jurisdiction. For, if the power of suspension is not legally vested in a Synod, their assuming and exercising it, must appear an empty flourish. We could humbly inquire upon what ground they proceeded? Their standard affords no pretext for such a step; the power of Synod is limited to certain bounds, which you will see, Form of Government, chap. 10, sec. 2. You see not a word there of suspension; their highest authority is to advise the Presbytery in such a case. [Form of Proc., chapter 2, section 11.]
It is unnecessary to prove a negative. We say they had no such authority from the word of God, or the Form of Government. --But seeing much has been said in support of their authority in that case, it is necessary that we should pay particular attention to the will of God, the consequences are serious indeed. We are bound on earth and bound in heaven--cast out of the vineyard as fruitless, withered branches; in no better circumstances than heathens and publicans; running unsent; and all that bid us God speed, must be partakers of our evil deeds.
On the contrary, if we have been called of God to minister in holy things, and have done nothing to forfeit that authority; and if any man, or set of men should rise up and command us to be silent, and forbid the people to hear us; the consequences may be serious to them in the end. It is certain that Synod had no authority from the book of discipline to suspend us; their authority must have been either from the word of God, or from such existing circumstances, as required them to dispense with order.
It is difficult to find from the minute, what was the real crime alleged against us. They tell you, that we had seceded from the Confession of Faith; that they labored in vain to bring us back to the standards and doctrines of the church; that we persisted in our schismatic disposition, &c. It is thought necessary, even in a regular charge, that such crimes be alleged as appear from the word of God, to merit the censure of the church.
What part of the above-mentioned conduct does the word of God criminate? Does it bind us to any human Confession of Faith, as a standard? Does it absolutely condemn every man, as unworthy to preach the gospel, who cannot be brought to that standard, or its peculiar doctrines? If all who differ from them in this matter, are bound to cringe to their authority as sacred, why do they not level their anathemas at others, as independent of their standards as we?
They will grant that authority does not extend to preachers of other persuasions; we ask, then, how it could possibly extend to us, which we declared we were neither of their persuasions; nor under their jurisdiction? Because their committee failed to reclaim us to the standards and doctrines of the church, is this crime of such a nature, as to warrant suspension? How did Synod know that their committee had used arguments sufficiently powerful to answer this end? Because we had constituted ourselves into a separate Presbytery, is this crime of such magnitude, that Scripture authorizes such to be suspended?
If so, they have no right to preach, in the sight of God. To suspend us for constituting a separate Presbytery, is not this to cut off at a blow, every minister since the Reformation? Luther and his followers constituted a separate Presbytery; and so have the various sects of Christians ever since. Have these, therefore, no right to preach, according to the word of God?
If not, the Synod, in their act of suspension, have virtually suspended themselves, and every minister of the reformation since Luther. They say we could not be prevailed upon to return to our duty.--They take it for granted that it was our duty to return and follow with them; and for the neglect of this duty they pass their act of suspension! We have the judgment of Christ in a similar case. John, in the name of his brethren, lodged a verbal complaint against a certain seceder, whom they had taken under a "previously orderly examination," and silenced, because he followed not with them. But Jesus said, "forbid him not; for there is no man, which shall do a miracle in my name, that can lightly speak evil of me; for he that is not against us, is on our part."
Can it be a crime to withdraw from those with whom we cannot remain in peace? No! it is the inalienable right of every moral agent, to withdraw from that society, when the rights of conscience are invaded. If the Presbyterian church, deprives its subjects of this privilege, it must be tyrannical. But there is not a sentence in that book to criminate any person for renouncing its authority. Its compilers were too well acquainted with the rights of man, either to deny the privilege of withdrawing, or to inflict censure on any for doing it. For proof of this, read attentively their introduction to government and discipline.
It may, however, be alleged, that there was something criminal in the manner of our withdrawing. The book of discipline admits it to be proper to suspend a minister for contumacy, which is a refusal to attend Presbytery, after being three times duly cited, to answer for atrocious crimes, of which he is accused. (Forms of proc. chap. 2, sec.8.) This appears to be the only kind of contumacy noticed in the constitution of the Presbyterian church. It may be supposed that a minister thus cited, may not only refuse to appear, but may withdraw from under the jurisdiction of Presbytery.
This step is by some called declinature, a higher degree of contumacy. But does this apply to our case? What was the atrocious crime laid to our charge? Where was the due citation? There was no such thing in the case, and therefore contumacy or declinature is by no means applicable in our case. If any suppose we withdrew, lest we should be charged with atrocious crimes, not yet stated; then our withdrawing could not come under the charge of declinature, seeing there was nothing to decline. Besides, the only thing of which we were ever accused, and which could give occasion for a future charge, was never determined by the protestant church to be an atrocious crime.
If we wished to decline anything on the occasion, it was vain jangling and strife of words to no profit, on those subjects about which the wisest and best have differed. All judicial authority which any society has over an individual, is in consequence of a voluntary compact, tacitly or explicitly made, by which he is connected with that society and under its laws.
When such compact is dissolved, which may be done at any time, by the voluntary act of the individual, the authority ceases of course. Our voluntary act, in putting ourselves under the care of the Presbytery, put it in their power to license, ordain, watch over, censure, suspend, or depose, so long as we stood in that connection; but when we voluntarily withdrew, being under no judicial censure, it may be properly said we withdrew from them all that power over us which we had given them.
When the church is satisfied that any person is called of God to preach the Gospel, it is their duty to encourage and forward him to the work. This they may do by their Presbytery, as representatives of the church, as is common in the Presbyterian government; or they may do it in a church capacity, as is done by the Independent and Baptist churches. When the church, or their representatives, take a candidate on trial, it is not with a view to call and authorize him to preach, but to inquire into the validity of that call and authority which he professes to have received from God. If they approbate his profession, they express it by the act of licensure.
The candidate is then to make full proof of his ministry, whether it be from heaven or from men; and when the church is satisfied, they manifest it by ordaining him. In all this the church confers no power, human or divine; but only the privilege of exercising the power and authority in that particular society, which they believe he has received from God. This privilege the church may recall; the candidate may forfeit, or voluntarily resign.
But neither the refusal of the church, his own forfeiture, nor resignation of that particular privilege, can disannul the original call of God, nor the obligation of the candidate to obey. These principles are confirmed, both by the New Testament and church history. Those who can consult Dr. Doddridge's paraphrase on the New Testament, Moshiem's Church History, and Dr. Watt's Constitution of a Christian Church, will see that the practice of the primitive church, in such matters, was exceedingly simple; and according to the principles of common sense, as stated above. Some have supposed that the legal authority, for transacting church business, wholly independent of the spirit of grace, has been committed to the rulers of the church; so that the transactions of those thus authorized, and those only, are legal.
Now, upon this principle, none have legal authority to preach, administer ordinances, &c., unless he has received it through regular succession from the Apostles. This regular succession has been so often broken, that it is impossible ever to get into order again, unless we make the Church of Rome the standard, and return into uniformity with it. For every division and subdivision from that has shared the same fate of suspension, or deposition.
This was the case with Luther. "He was commanded (says Dr. Mosheim) to renounce his errors within sixty days, and cast himself upon the clemency of the Pope, on pain of excommunication. At first he purposed to appeal from the sentence of the lordly pontiff to the respectable decision of a general council: but as he foresaw that this appeal would be treated with contempt at the Court of Rome; and that when the time prescribed for his recantation was elapsed, the thunder of excommunication would be leveled at his devoted head, he judged it prudent to withdraw himself voluntarily from the communion of the church of Rome, before he was obliged to leave it by force; and thus to render the new bull of ejection a blow in the air, an exercise of authority without any object to act upon.
At the same time, he was resolved to execute this wise resolution in a public manner, that his voluntary retreat from the communion of a corrupt and superstitious church might be universally known before the lordly pontiff had prepared his ghostly thunder. With this view, on the 10th of December, in the year 1520, he had a pile of wood erected without the walls of the city of Wittenberg, and there, in the presence of a prodigious multitude of people, of all ranks and orders, he committed to the flames, both the bull that had been published against him, and the decretals, and canons relating to the Pope's supreme jurisdiction.
By this he declared to the world he was no longer a subject of the Roman pontiff, and that of consequence the sentence of excommunication, which was daily expected from Rome, was entirely superfluous, and insignificant. For the man who voluntarily withdraws himself from any society, cannot, with any appearance of reason, or common sense, be afterwards forcibly and authoritatively excluded from it. However, he only separated himself from the Church of Rome, which considers the Pope infallible, and not from the church considered in a more extensive sense; notwithstanding, in a month after this noble and important step had been taken by the Saxon Reformer, a second bull was issued against him, by which he was expelled from the communion of the church, for having insulted the majesty, and having disowned the supremacy of the Roman pontiff.
He was also condemned the next year by the Diet of Worms, as a schismatic, a notorious and obstinate heretic; and the severest punishments denounced against those who receive, entertain, maintain, or countenance him, either by acts of hospitality, by  conversation, or writing. And his disciples, adherents, and followers, were involved in the same condemnation."--Mosheim's Eccl. History, Vol. 4, pp. 51, 52, 55. Against this edict the reformed party protested, by which they got the name of Protestants.
Synod were of a different opinion from Dr. Mosheim, as they have acted on the very same principles with the lordly pontiff: and to justify their arbitrary proceedings, and consequently those of the Pope with respect to Luther, they adduce the example of the General Assembly in the case of Mr. Birch. (See Cir. p. 21.) But anyone who will read the minutes of that reverend body, will see that they acted on very different principles. Mr. Birch had never been a member of their body, but was only entering on trials necessary for a foreign minister.
By his conduct he forfeited a right to their protection and encouragement, and became liable to judicial censure, or suspension, if he had belonged to their body. This not being the case, they only determined to have no more to do with him, and declared to their churches that plain fact, that he had no authority from them to preach the gospel. (See the minutes of 1803, p. 14.)
"Resolved, that in consequence of his conduct, and also of his never having been in regular communion with the Presbyterian church in the United States of America, the General Assembly decline all further proceedings with Mr. Birch, and declare to the people, and to the several Presbyteries in their connection, that he is a person henceforth possessed of no authority derived from our church to exercise any part of the ministerial functions." It is pitiful for Synod to misrepresent and disgrace the proceedings of that respectable body, to justify their illegal and unreasonable conduct.
On the above extracts from Dr. Mosheim, we also observe that Luther was guilty of the crime of declinature. He declined the jurisdiction of the Church of Rome, when charged with an atrocious crime, to avoid excommunication. He was afterwards excommunicated by the high court of that church. His sentence was not for false doctrine, of which he was before charged; but for insulting the majesty, and disowning the supremacy of the Roman pontiff; and also, for schism. And yet he did not withdraw from the church in a large sense, but from that part of it only, which considered the Pope infallible.
In like manner, we have not separated from the Presbyterian church at large; but from that part only, which considers the Confession of Faith infallible, that is, as the standard of the church. How easy it is to see the similarity between Luther's case and ours; and yet he never suspected that he had lost his authority to preach, nor has any Protestant since his day called it in question.
Synod takes it for granted that we received all our authority from them to exercise the ministerial functions, and they have taken it away, we therefore have none. Let us apply this to the case of Luther: if he received his authority from the Church of Rome, and this authority was taken from him, though what medium, then, has it been transmitted to the Synod of Kentucky?
We would be glad to see authentic testimonials of their spiritual genealogy, provided their orderly descent from the Apostles of Christ. Or if this cannot be done, we must consider them as illegitimate as ourselves. It is commonly used as an apology for the Saxon Reformer, that the suspension was wholly invalid. Let this be granted, and what will it argue? Certainly, that her power of ordination was also invalid. This proves at once that the ordination, not only of Luther, but also of Calvin, and every other Protestant minister is null and void; seeing they all received their ordination from that corrupt church. Therefore, if the filthiness of the Church of Rome is taken to plaster the character of our reformers, it will render the apostolic authority of our synodical brethren not only suspicious, but absolutely blank.
As the proceedings of Synod were evidently arbitrary, and unauthorized, we need not wonder that we are represented to the world under the odious name of schismatics, without any fair statement of the crime, or evidence to support it. A schismatic is one who aims to divide the church into sects and parties; not only by separating from its communion, and drawing away disciples after him, but also, by loving the pre-eminence in the church, receiving not the brethren, forbidding them that would, and casting them out of the church, as did Diotrephes--3 Epis. of John.
We have before proved, that merely forming a separate association is not a schism; provided that association be not intended to dissolve the union and communion of the church.
But the Synod takes it for granted that a separation from their reverend body, is a separation from the church; thus implicitly declaring, that they are the only true church on earth. We would hardly have thought that a body of men, so liberal in their principles as to admit Christians of other denominations to their communion, would exclude those of their own for merely renouncing what others never acknowledged.
Is it not confessed by all, that a schismatic spirit and a party spirit is the same? If so, let the reader judge on which side the party spirit operated through the whole of this business. Was it a party spirit that induced the preachers at first to lay aside those points of controversy which had been a means of keeping the children of God apart? What spirit prevailed in Fleming county when the late revival first commenced; when Dr. Campbell and Mr. Northcut, a Methodist preacher, gathered their flocks together, and fed them at the same table?
It was justly confessed that heaven smiled upon the union. Was it not under the same spirit of union that the flame spread to the east and to the west? Let bigotry blush and be ashamed at the recollection! But when former things were thus forgotten, and former differences laid aside, was it a spirit of union or a party spirit that prompted some who were spectators only of this glorious work, to bring forward those speculative opinions, which, at that time were neither publicly disputed, nor combatted, and involve the church in a controversy? This may be emphatically said to be dangerous to the souls of men, and hostile to the interests of all true religion.
We neither felt nor expressed a wish to leave our own society, nor proselyte others to follow us: but on this ground we could not long remain in peace. The Bible doctrine was too simple for those who had been accustomed to solve riddles, and reconcile contradictions. Read attentively the complaints laid before Washington Presbytery, 1801. If you can discern between your right hand and your left, you must see that the creed of a party is preferred to the Bible.
For what was this party creed introduced? To establish doctrines which we think no denomination of Christians on earth holds. Such as this: that it is proper for a sinner to pray without faith, &c., &c. Any person of common sense knows that such are not the Catholic principles of Christianity. Consequently all that divide the church in support of such notions must be schematical. When these extraordinary sentiments were prudently cast under the table, peace and union were the consequences: no separation, no expulsion were the consequences; no separation, no expulsion was threatened, till the meeting of Presbytery at Cincinnati, 1802.
Whether it was a party or catholic spirit that influenced the proceedings of that body, let the humble followers of the meek and lowly Jesus say: let them take the most favorable review of their publication against M'Nemar, and say what spirit it breathes: no sentiment there laid open to view, or its dangerous tendency showed; but party names raised from the dead to set Christians at variance. Was there no schismatic design in this? Was there no expulsion intended? And under what pretext? Not for a deviation from the plain principles of Christianity, but because the suspected person would not be bound to fight under a party standard, and wound his fellow Christians around him with the words of disputation.
Were these measures (painful and almost insupportable as they were) ever resented in any way to produce schism? Instead of forming designs to effect a separation, the spirit by which we were influenced, led us to form a concert of prayer for those, who we believed had despitefully used us, and fatally stabbed the cause of our divine Master. When the fairest opportunity was offered us, at Springfield, of rendering evil for evil, and railing for railing, did we accept it? No, we were for peace, but when we spoke, they were for war." What cause of offence, or separation did we give? None but what our brethren had given in the same place before; and which experience had confirmed to be for the peace of the church.
If our measures tended to unite, the protest of Messrs. Kemper and Wallace, certainly was intended to divide. It not only proved its intention in the end, but the author of it, Mr. Kemper, actually began the schism, a few weeks after, at Beulah. He was appointed by Presbytery, to assist in the administration of the Lord's supper, in that place. He attended, but publicly refused to administer or partake; and drew off as many disciples after him, as he could, from the communion of the church. Thus he not only protested against Presbytery, renounced its authority, but voluntarily separated himself from the communion of the Presbyterian church.
He not only began the schism, but incessantly promoted it, from that time forward; traversing the country to get petitioners against us; and finally, as an independent, voluntarily separated from us. If there is a division in our communion, let Mr. Kemper be considered as the author of it. If the Synod chose to join in the communion of Mr. Kemper, and shut the door against Presbytery, they have their choice. We mean to abide in the same principles expressed in our protest. We neither separate from their communion, nor exclude them from ours.
With what face, then, can Synod publish to the world, that we are the schismatics, the partisans, the dividers? The churches know too well, that we have been, and are in the habit of a general communion, and that nothing has appeared to contradict those principles; and it is notorious in the place where this scene has been transacted, that the person who has headed the separation, is a stickler for the peculiarities of a party; and we are confident the reader will need no other proof, than to turn back and read the minute from his pen, at Cincinnati.
The Synod, in following the above schismatic, have again raised their standard, which for three happy years had been gathering dust. The lines will probably now be cleared; the enemies of orthodoxy, however pious, be driven out of the pure church, drowsy bigots recalled to arms, and another bold push furious onset, and revive in the breasts of Christians, a spirit of forbearance and love!
And may we, while we go under the name of schismatics, be ever kept from the thing. It is not uncommon to give the blow, and raise the cry. We are brought up to public view, pronounced as the leaders of a party, thundered against by the bull of suspension, and our congregations declared vacant!
Could the Synod imagine that we would be silent? No. The measures carry too strong marks of ecclesiastical tyranny, to influence us farther than we are driven. Were we sticklers for what some call order, we might enter upon a fair and candid proof, that the Synod of Ky. are partisans, headed by Mr. Kemper, and that our protest was simply declining to follow them in their career of separation. We are confident that in the nature of things, it remains with the General Assembly to say, whether we, or the Synod, belong to their body; as much as it did with Synod to say, whether the Presbytery of Cincinnati, or that of Springfield, should be taken into its bosom.
From the friendly intercourse, and plans of union which exist between the General Assembly and other churches, we cannot suppose that reverend body considers the Confession of Faith, in the same point of light, with our Synodical brethren; and we are the more confirmed in this persuasion by the following extract from the minutes of their last session:
"Resolved, that the Revs. Drs. Blair, Tennant and Green; the Rev. Messrs. Irvin, Milledoler, Linn, Pott, and Janeway, be a committee to take into consideration the expediency of publishing a new edition of the Confession of Faith, &c., of this church; to consider whether any, and if any, what alterations, ought to be made in the said Confession of Faith; and to make such preparatory arrangements, on this subject, as they shall judge proper; and report to next Assembly."
If any inquire why we did not appeal to the General Assembly? We answer, it appeared to us unnecessary; because the business most naturally come before them, through the minutes of Synod. David did not immediately go to his father-in-law to learn his disposition towards him, till the flying arrows determined his doom. If we learn from the minutes of the Assembly, that they are for peace, we are near at hand, and ready to obey the signal; but if otherwise, our empty seats must so remain.
We have stated notorious facts, and now let every impartial friend to order, judge for himself. If the prosecution was unprecedented, and disorderly, from first to last, let the candid reader say, whether it was not an orderly step to withdraw. We have said in our protest, that we only withdrew from the judicatories with which we stood connected, and not from the church; we say so still. They have beaten us uncondemned, being Presbyterians, and then would cast us out of the church.
Nay, their letter of suspension will not do. We must again call for order, and desire that body to produce authority, not from the annals of the church of Scotland, but from the word of God, or at least from the constitution of the Presbyterian church in America, to justify their proceedings.
If they have suspended us without authority, the General Assembly will have to say whether they were in order or not. So long as we believe their proceedings were out of order, that belief will bind us more firmly to the church. The hireling may flee when his congregations are declared vacant, and his salary called in; and set out in search of another benefice; but we pledge ourselves, through the grace of God, to stand fast in the unity of the spirit, and without respect of persons, endeavor to gather into one, the children of God, who have been "scattered in the cloudy and dark day."