The Right of Continued Protest

“We ought to obey God rather than men”

Acts 5:29

“Paul, earnestly beholding the [ecclesiastical] council, said, ‘Men and brethren, I have lived in all good conscience before God until this day.'”

Acts 23:1

“I say the truth in Christ, I lie not, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Ghost…”

Rom. 9:1

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Order of Contents

The Right of Continued Protest
Unjust Church Sentences are not to be Obeyed for a Moment
On Gag-Orders Against a Righteous Cause
The Right of Continued Protest Outside of Church Courts
On Continued Protest Against the Ruling of a General Assembly
On Appeals
On the Barring of Those Training for the Ministry due to Continued Protest
The Resolutioners
The Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland

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The Right of Continued Protest

Articles

1600’s

Guthrie, James – pp. 95-118 of Protesters no Subverters, and Presbytery no Papacy; Or, a Vindication of the Protesting Brethren, and of the Government of the Kirk of Scotland  1658

Note that Guthrie, a Protester, here makes and proves from Scripture many of the points made by the Free Church of Scotland in their legal paper below.

As may be seen in this article, and in other resources on this page, the Resolutioners were generally against the Right of Continued Protest, and the Protesters were for it.  See this webpage for more on the Resolutioner-Protester Controversy.

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2000’s

Free Church of Scotland (Continuing) – ‘The Right of Continued Protest’  2011/2013

The birth of the Free Church of Scotland (Continuing) in 2000 largely came from their insistence on the right of continued protest within the Free Church of Scotland at that time, against constitutional injustices in a major disciplinary case.  The majority of the Free Church at that time did not see it that way, and defrocked overnight (also unconstitutional) the officers who were continuing to protest the decisions of the General Assembly.

Here is the legal paper of the Free Church of Scotland (Continuing) justifying their doctrinal position.  The first section surveys the history of the Right of Continued Protest, the second section applies the principles to the events of A.D. 2000, the third section gives a summary and the last section gives the paper’s concise conclusions.

While the historical survey is very interesting and persuasive, read the summary and conclusions for the short take.  Unfortunately the historical survey begins around the time of the Secession in Scotland in 1733.  Thus on this page we have traced the matter back into the 1600’s during the 2nd Reformation in Scotland.

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Unjust Church Sentences are not to be Obeyed for a Moment

Samuel Rutherford

A Survey of the Survey of that Sum of Church Discipline Penned by Mr. Thomas Hooker  1658

Epistle to the Reader

3. Nor does it belong to the essence of Presbyterial Government, that all members of this Church, and inferior judicatures, should so submit to the superior respective judicatures, that if they be grieved with the sentence, they ought to acquiesce thereunto, and not to contra-act, but only appeal, until there shall be a general assembly to determine the matter.

This never was, and I trust, nor shall ever be their mind who are for presbyterial government; nor do our brethren justly father it upon the general Assembly, 1648. Session 30.  For our Church acknowledges no subjection nor subordination of inferior judicatures unto superiors, but in the Lord, and so to submit to any sentence, and to forbear a duty of preaching the Gospel, praying, visiting, exhorting, catechizing pastorally in families, to abstain from the Lord’s Supper, and from acts of due censure necessary for the flock upon the known unjust sentence of a synod, until a general Assembly (which possibly cannot be convened in an age to determine) is to:

1. Obey men unjustly forbidding a called minister of Christ to preach in season, and out of season, rather than God; for they unjustly forbid, and the Lord justly commands; therefore the called minister must act and contra-act to their unjust sentence, and not forbear for an hour, as the Scripture clears, 2 Tim. 4:1-2; Acts 20:17-20; 1 Cor. 9:16; Isa. 58:1; Jer. 1:17; Eze. 2:3-5 & 3:10,17; Acts 5:28-29; and so this is unjust.

2. It is to make synods and ecclesiastical judicatures lords of our faith, which the Reformed Churches detest in popish councils; for all men and councils most lawful can challenge only limited obedience and submission in the Lord to their determinations, if they speak and command according to the Law and the Testimony, Isa. 8:20, otherwise there is no sight in them. And so it is popish.

3. We conceive in performing acts of that government which Christ owns in his Word, we do not sin; for no authority of a judicature can make that to be the word of God, and obedience to God, which was not, as to the matter, obedience to God before that authority, nor on the contrary.  Now to abstain from preaching, praying, eating and drinking as the Lord’s Supper in a called minister, and in a visible professor, duly called and fitted, is sin; then cannot the authority of the Church, far less their known unjust sentence make it lawful.

4. Suppose the general Assembly should ratify and confirm the unjust sentence of the inferior judicature, or annul their just sentence, the people of God are not obliged to stand to either the one or the other. So we disown the point which our Brethren delivered to us in their papers for union sought by us, as nothing belonging to the essence of presbyterial government, but reject it as unsound, tyrannical and popish.”

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On Gag-Orders Against a Righteous Cause

Samuel Rutherford

A Survey of the Survey of that Sum of Church Discipline Penned by Mr. Thomas Hooker  1658

Epistle to the Reader

“2. As we desire not presbyterial government to be reproached for such judging, so neither are prelatical acts of synods for debarring from the holy ministry men of an holy and unblameable conversation, and for the grace of God in them, and their knowledge and utterance, able and fit to preach the Gospel, upon this account, because they are unpeaceable and hold up debates, that is, because they will not be satisfied with the public resolutions for taking into places in the Church, Parliament, Army, Committee of Estates, all the malignant party in the land, or will not promise silence in their matters.”

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James Guthrie

Protesters no Subverters, and presbyterie no papacie; or, A vindication of the protesting brethren, and of the government of the kirk of Scotland from the aspersions unjustly cast upon them…  1658

pp. 72-73

“It has been ordinary for righteous men, whose consciences could not suffer them to be silent and to couch under public corruptions without bearing testimony against the same, and endeavoring a remedy thereof, to meet with such reproaches from oppressing and loose parties and persons that have stood in the way of Reformation…”

p. 103

“4. This [absolute] submission concludes a man under a necessity of sinning against God, by omitting those necessary duties that are commanded him of God, upon a non-relevant reason, to wit, the mere will and pleasure of men, to whom God has given no power against the Truth, but for the Truth; no power to destruction, but to edification.”

pp. 106-107

“Will not such submission to these sentences as excludes all counteracting, unless it be to appeal, necessarily infer submission to the decrees themselves, so as the person censured must be silenced, and not profess, nor preach, nor plead any more for the one Truth, nor against the other Error?”

pp. 113-114

“And shall we now set up a Church-tyranny, the mere will and abitriment, yea, the unjust sentences of Church-judicatories for laws, and require absolute submission thereunto, not only of private and single persons, but of all inferior judicatories, not allowing the congregational-eldership once to whisper against what is resolved by the presbytery, or the presbytery against what is resolved by the synod, or the synod against what is resolved by the General Assembly.

If then the superior judicatories will tyrannize, what remedy is there? or if they become corrupt, how shall the ruin of religion, or the persecution and oppression of these who desire to keep faith and a good conscience, be avoided?  Have the Ministers and saints and courts of Jesus Christ received religion and His ordinances upon these terms, that if a superior Court will have it so, they shall all crouch down as asses under the burden, and let them, without gainsaying (they being now cudgeled into silence by a sentence of suspension from the sacrament, or deposition or excommunication) ruin Church, and Ministers, and ordinances, and professors, and all the precious interests of Jesus Christ; And shall we say that such a submission is required in this case, as though they ought to do nothing but weep and pray in secret?  How great tyranny is this, and how remedy-less a way to ruin?”

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The Right of Continued Protest Outside of Church Courts

Samuel Rutherford

A Survey of the Survey of that Sum of Church Discipline Penned by Mr. Thomas Hooker  1658

Epistle to the Reader

“2.  As we desire not presbyterial government to be reproached for such judging, so neither are prelatical acts of synods for debarring from the holy ministry men of an holy and unblameable conversation, and for the grace of God in them, and their knowledge and utterance, able and fit to preach the Gospel, upon this account, because they are unpeaceable and hold up debates, that is, because they will not be satisfied with the public resolutions for taking into places in the Church, Parliament, Army, Committee of Estates, all the malignant party in the land, or will not promise silence in their matters.”

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James Guthrie

Protesters no Subverters, and presbyterie no papacie; or, A vindication of the protesting brethren, and of the government of the kirk of Scotland from the aspersions unjustly cast upon them…  1658

pp. 106-107

“Will not such submission to these sentences as excludes all counteracting, unless it be to appeal [within the Church], necessarily infer submission to the decrees themselves, so as the person censured must be silenced, and not profess, nor preach, nor plead any more for the one Truth, nor against the other Error?”

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Free Church of Scotland (Continuing)

‘The Right of Continued Protest’  2011/2013

(a) The first Union controversy

“23. In 1863 the Free Church appointed a Committee to confer with the United Presbyterian Church and others about potential union…

Dr James Begg and others tabled a protest in the following terms:
“We…  and all other office-bearers and members of the Church shall not be committed by the said resolution to any action that may be taken thereupon, and shall be at liberty to oppose all such action by every competent means”….

Dr. Begg proceeded to hold public meetings, publish books and pamphlets, and edit a monthly magazine The Watchword, all in support of the grounds stated in his protest. He also associated with others in the establishment in 1870 of a Free Church Defence Association (FCDA), which co-ordinated opposition to the Union negotiationsThese efforts were largely influential in the ultimate failure of the negotiations, which were not to be resumed for over twenty years.  Neither Dr Begg nor any of his co-adjutors were threatened with disciplinary action over their conduct.

25. In addition to campaigning actively against the proposals for Union, Dr Begg and his supporters continued to lodge formal Protests in the Assembly.”

(b) The Education (Scotland) Bill

“26. Dr Begg and his supporters were also involved in another controversial issue about this time. This concerned a Bill (which became the Education (Scotland) Act 1872) being promoted by the Lord Advocate for Scotland to establish a national education system for Scotland, into which would be absorbed the existing parish schools, including Free Church schools. When this matter was considered by the Commission of Assembly in March 1872 the Commission reached a finding in favour of the Bill, including a statement that it contained “due security for religious instruction.” Dr Begg and others lodged a strong Protest declaring the finding to be “dishonouring to the Word of God; contrary to the duty of any Christian Church; in violation of the principles and history of this Church; and because the clause in said finding which declares “that the Lord Advocate’s Bill provides due security for religious instruction” is contrary to fact. And we further protest that it shall be legitimate for us to use all competent means – by Deputation and otherwise – to have our views fairly represented before Parliament and the country.This was a particularly significant Protest as it envisaged specific action contrary to the finding of the Commission – i.e. the sending of deputations to Government – at a time when the Church itself was already instructing a deputation in support of the Bill. The Protest was nevertheless received by the Commission and inserted in full in its minutes.”

(g) The second Union controversy

“37. Like their predecessors in the first Union controversy, the constitutionalists in the 1890s supported their Protests with action. Early in 1898 they resuscitated the Free Church Defence Association, which had lapsed in 1873 following the earlier Union controversy. The revived Association embarked on an active programme of meetings, publication of pamphlets etc. aimed at showing the incompetence of the proposed Union and its inconsistency with the Standards of the Church. At no time were the Association’s activities called into question by the Assembly, or its members threatened with any form of disciplinary action.”

The emerging picture

“38. …Where the right of protest was exercised consequent upon the Assembly’s finding, it generally included a “continuing” clause pledging the protester to use all competent means (or some similar formula) to oppose the consequences of the finding and to act in support of his objection. The right of protesters to repeat their Protests was not questioned, nor was any restraint placed upon them in campaigning publicly against the Assembly’s decisions.”

The events of 1999/2000

“40.  A Dissent and Protest against the June 1999 finding was lodged in virtually identical terms to that lodged by Dr Begg in 1867, including a commitment to oppose all action consequent on the finding “by every competent means”. Although this Dissent and Protest was allowed and tabled, its specific reasons were not answered; rather, the tabling of these reasons was described in a Report to the October 1999 Commission of Assembly as “unnecessary and time-wasting.”

It is of interest that one of the points raised in that Protest which to this day remains unanswered was:

“It is incompetent to find the Free Church Defence Association guilty of misconduct without trial and therefore without trying the office-bearers for following divisive courses from the discipline and government of the Church.  If it be established that canvassing these matters outwith the courts of the Church is against the constitution of the Church, and if the Free Church Defence Association is suspected of guilt therein, then the remedy is to try the office-bearers of the Free Church Defence Association in terms of the Form of Process.

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On Continued Protest Against the Ruling of a General Assembly

For Protesting General Assemblies

See especially the legal paper by the Free Church of Scotland (Continuing), ‘The Right of Continued Protest’ (2011) for documentation on this from Scottish Church history since the Secession of 1733.

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Gillespie, George

Assertion of the Government of the Church of Scotland (1641), pt. 2, ch. 2, p. 44

“7. We must distinguish betwixt a dependance ‘absolute’, and ‘in some respect’; a congregation does absolutely depend upon the holy Scriptures alone, as the perfect rule of faith, and manners, of worship and of Church-Government; for we accurse the tyranny of prelates, who claimed to themselves autocratoric power over congregations to whom they gave their naked-will for a law: one of themselves told a whole synod that they ought to esteem that best which seems so to superiors; and that this is a sufficient ground to the conscience for obeying, though the thing be inconvenient.

We say that congregations ought indeed to be subject to presbyteries and synods, yet not absolutely, but in the Lord, and in things lawful: and to this purpose the constitutions of presbyteries and synods are to be examined by the judgement of Christian discretion; for a synod is judex judicandus [a judge which ought to be judged], and regula regulata [a rule having been regulated], so that it ought not to be blindly obeyed, whether the ordinances be convenient or inconvenient.”

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Rutherford, Samuel – Part 1, pp. 383-385  of The Due Right of Presbyteries (1644)

Some reformed folk believed that Church power derived from higher courts to lower courts; some believed that it derived from lower courts to higher courts.  Rutherford argues that that all Church courts have a divine right from Jesus Christ immediately.

Note that Rutherford was arguing this in 1644, about a decade before the Resolutioner-Protester controversy; hence his views cannot be said to be ex post facto from that division.  Rutherford was also the leading spokesman for Scottish presbyterianism (being a professor in their schools), hence his view may be regarded not simply as his alone, but as a significant strand, if not the significant strand of Scottish presbyterianism.

The Resolutioners (such as Hutcheson and Wood), in the 1650’s, appear to have argued that Church power derived from higher courts to lower courts in numerous significant ways.

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Sundry London Ministers, Divine Right of Church-Government  1646/1653

Part 2, Ch. 15

“5. It is granted, that the highest ecclesiastical assembly in the world cannot require from the lowest a subordination absolute, and at their own mere will and pleasure, but only in some respect; subordination absolute being only to the law of God laid down in Scripture. We detest popish tyranny, which claims a power of giving their will for a law. ‘Tis subjection in the Lord that is pleaded for: the straightest rule in the world, unless the holy Scripture, we affirm to be a rule to be regulated; peace being only in walking according to Scripture canon, Gal. vi. ver. 16.”

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ed. James Guthrie

The Nullity of the Pretended-Assembly at Saint Andrews & Dundee…  (1652)

p. 39

“Objection: It is without precedent that the constitution of a General Assembly has been protested against the Kirk of Scotland.”

Answer: It is the ignorance of the history and acts of the Kirk that makes men speak so; we shall give but one instance, because it does most quadrat [conform] to the present case, in the year 1597:

It being carried by [a] plurality of voices in the assembly, that the petition of the commissioners of the former assembly given in to the Parliament for ministers voting in Parliament in [the] name of the Kirk, and as the third estate of the Kingdom, should be approven; and that the Paper of Grievances, which was given to the assembly against that petition by several members thereof, should be buried and obliterate[d] for the continuance of peace and quietness in the Kirk; Mr. John Davidson for himself, and in the name of the brethren, entered his protestation in these terms, That this present Assembly is not a free General Assembly, and desired it be inserted in the books of the Assembly.”

p. 27

“Objection:  To protest against a General Assembly has always
been looked upon in this Kirk as a thing very censurable; and therefore in the year 1582 there is one Act of the General Assembly appointing such as decline the General Assembly to be summarily excommunicated.

Answer: To make such an act were either to suppose that a General Assembly could not be wrong constitute, and could not err in their proceedings; or else, that suppose they should be wrong constitute and err, yet they ought not to be declined or protested against, both which are equally absurd; and therefore we cannot think that the Kirk of Scotland has at any time made any such act in so general and unlimited terms.

As to that in the year 1582, it is grossly mistaken, because it is no ways anent declining of unlawful Assemblies, but against appealing from lawful Assemblies to the Civil Magistrate in Ecclesiastic causes, for stopping Ecclesiastic Discipline against the persons’ appealers, as is further evident by the occasion thereof…

From these things it may appear how unwarrantably the meeting at Dundee [controlled by Resolutioners] did upon allegiance of this act fall upon debate of the summar[y] excommunication of these who had protested.”

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James Guthrie

Protesters no Subverters, and presbyterie no papacie; or, A vindication of the protesting brethren, and of the government of the kirk of Scotland from the aspersions unjustly cast upon them…  1658

p. 17-18

“The first particular is (as they [the Resolutioners] call it) “The declining the authority of the supreme Church-judicatories of this nation once and again”; They mean the protestations [by the Protesters] against the two late pretended Assemblies at St. Andrews, and Dundee, and Edinburgh…

…they [the Protesters] have learned to distinguish betwixt the government of the Church, and the male-administrations and corruptions of the Church-governors; and not to condemn the one [the former] when they are necessarily called to give a testimony against the other [the latter]; Yea, the duty and care they owe to the preservation of the government [of the Church] constrains them to testify against the abusing and corrupting of it:

So did our fathers of old, whose protestations against corrupt National Church assemblies are upon record to this day, and so far have they been by men of sound judgments, from being judged because thereof to be against the government, that they are honored amongst the greatest patrons and preservers thereof…

…neither do they [the Protesters] think that testifying against the corruptions of many of these that are now in the exercise of the government of the Church, is to dissent from, or to do injury to the government it self;”

pp. 107-108

“7. To wave a little that which concerns private and particular persons, we offer it to consideration whether inferior Kirk-judicatories are subordinate to the greater and superior simply and absolutely, because they are greater and superior, or, because the inferior have no intrinsical power given them by Jesus Christ, but in, and with subordination to the greater, because greater.  If so, it would seem that all the inferior Judicatories of the Kirk, Congregational-Elderships, Presbyteries, and Provincial Synods must be fenced and act in the name, and by virtue of the authority derived from the General Assembly, as all those Civil Courts that have no intrinsic power in themselves, but in, and with subordination to the supreme Civil Magistrate are fenced in his name and act by virtue of his authority.

Inferior Kirk-judicatories, being ordinances of Jesus Christ, have the promise made to them when they meet in His Name and do adhere to His Truth, Mt. 18:18-19.  And if so, shall the sentence of the superior Judicatory, when wrong upon the matter, oblige them to submission?  If a Presbytery, or a Synod with the consent of the Presbytery, do in an orderly way of procedure, cast out an heterodox and scandalous minister, must they, because the Synod or General Assembly does sustain his unjust appeal, be obliged in conscience again to receive him as a member of the Presbytery or Synod, and acknowledge him for a lawful minister of the Gospel; or, if they have in an orderly way of procedure, admitted an able orthodox godly man to the Ministry: Must they, because the superior Judicatory commands them so to do, cease to acknowledge him or own him for one of their number, or as a Minister of the Gospel?

If so, it seems to be an ill-grounded truth that is commonly delivered by some divines writing of synods, that the power of synods is not corruptive, privative, or destructive to the power of classical presbyteries or single congregations, but perfective, acumulative, and conservative thereunto.

8.  What is denied jure to ecomenic councils, and so lawfully called prophets and ministers of the Gospel, to Nathan, to David, to Paul, to an angel from heaven, Gal. 1:8, cannot warrantably be given to General Assemblies.  If ecomenic councils, lawfully called ministers, if Nathan, if Samuel, if Paul, if an Angel teach or decree but according to the Word of the Lord, we are to counteract, and to contradict, Gal. 1:8.  “But though we or an angel from heaven, preach to you, beside what we have preached, let him be accursed,” Gal. 1:8.  Therefore, etc.”

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Samuel Rutherford

A Survey of the Survey of that Sum of Church Discipline Penned by Mr. Thomas Hooker  1658

Epistle to the Reader

“4. Suppose the general Assembly should ratify and confirm the unjust sentence of the inferior judicature, or annul their just sentence, the people of God are not obliged to stand to either the one or the other. So we disown the point which our Brethren delivered to us in their papers for union sought by us, as nothing belonging to the essence of presbyterial government, but reject it as unsound, tyrannical and popish.”

James Durham – pp. 332-333  of The Dying Man’s Testament to the Church of Scotland, or, A Treatise Concerning Scandal 1659  This is about the common practice of the Early and Medieval Church to protest and decline synods and ecumenical councils.

Hutcheson, George & James Wood – Point 15 on pp. 17-18  of A Review and Examination of a Pamphlet Lately Published bearing the Title of Protesters No Subverters and Presbytery No Papacy, etc. (1659).  This was one of the last works produced in the controversy and responds to Guthrie’s work.

Notably, in this section, the Resolutioners, Hutcheson and Wood, affirm the liberty of their Protesting opponents to continue to protest as individuals against General Assemblies, without censure.  Hutcheson and Wood only objected to church courts of the Protesters protesting the decisions of the General Assemblies and nullifying them.

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Against Protesting a General Assembly

Hutcheson, George & Wood, James – pp. 17-18 of A Review and Examination of a Pamphlet Lately Published bearing the Title of Protesters No Subverters and Presbytery No Papacy, etc. (1659), p. 17-18.  This work was written by Resolutioners and responds to Guthrie’s work.

Hutcheson and Wood cite the example of the 1638 assembly censuring and immediately excommunicating prelates for protesting their decisions and assembly.  It could be argued though, that this, at the inception of the 2nd Reformation in Scotland, and dealing with persons who were contrary to that ideal of church government in the first place, had a peculiar context.

See also the subsection below on the Free Presbtyerian Church of Scotland.

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On Appeals

Samuel Rutherford

Due Right of Presbyteries (1644), Part 1, ch. 10, sect. 10, pp. 315-316

“Objection 9 [of a congregationalist to presbyterianism]: ‘From the church here spoken of [in Mt. 18] there is no appeal because the sentence is ratified in heaven.  It inflicts the highest punishment: the censure of excommunication; and a higher judicature can do no more.

There is no reason to appeal to a higher judicature because the inferior may err, because all above a congregation are courts which may err also.  For presbyteries, provincial councils, national, and the universal council of the catholic Church may err.’  So Mr. Mather (Richard Mather & William Tompson, Answer to Mr. Herle, ch. 2, pp. 13-14).

[Rutherford’s] Answer [1.]:  Because the sentence is ratified in heaven is no reason why we may not appeal from a congregation.  The sentence of an inferior judge proceeding rightly is ratified in heaven, yet we may appeal from him.  To appeal is but upon fears of ill administration; to desert a lower court and go to a higher court.  So when we fear that a counsel and advice given by a sister church is not according to the Word of God, which yet is
according to the Word of God, upon the supposal of that fear we decline that council and take another.

Neither are we to appeal de jure, ‘from a just sentence,’ in a presbytery.  Illud possumus quod jure possumus [‘What we can do, is that which we can do by law’].  What the inferior Sanhedrin of Israel did justly was ratified in heaven.  Yet by God’s Law there might be an appeal from it to the highest Sanhedrin.

2. Nor is this a good reason: that we may not appeal from a judicature which may inflict the highest censure.  For inferior judicatures in Israel had power of life and death, yet might man appeal from them.

3. The cause of appeals is not because inferior judicatures may err: for so we might appeal from all judicatures, even from a general council, for it may err.  But the true grounding [of appeals] is:

1. Because rarius errant, they [higher councils] ‘do not so frequently err’.

2. They are not so inclined and disposed to err, ‘for many eyes see more than one,’ and many eyes do more seldom miscarry in not taking up the right object than one.

3. Because we conceive more equality and less partiality in higher courts.”

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On the Barring of Those Training for the Ministry due to Continued Protest

James Guthrie

Protesters no Subverters, and presbyterie no papacie; or, A vindication of the protesting brethren, and of the government of the kirk of Scotland from the aspersions unjustly cast upon them…  1658

pp. 20-23

“And when the diet of the General Assembly came, having first done what they could for incapacitating all Brethren of differing judgment from these Resolutions, to sit in the Assembly, by citing them to the Assembly as guilty persons…  did also make acts appointing and ordaining censures against all persons in this Church, whether Ministers or professors [professing Christians], that did not acknowledge the authority, and submit to the acts and constitutions of that Assembly concerning those Resolutions, and barring all such expectants [those training for the ministry] from entrance to the Ministry as should not acknowledge that authority, and submit to those constitutions;

And in their Assembly of the next year at Edinburgh, do provide and ordain presbyteries to take special care, that upon the calling of any expectant to a particular charge of the ministry, before they admit him to his trials, they require him under his hand to pass from the Protestations and Declinators against this and the preceding General Assembly, if he has been accessory to the same; and to promise and give assurance that he shall abstain from holding up debates and controversies about matters of differences in this Kirk since the Assembly, 1650, in preaching, writing, or otherwise; upon the performance whereof, the presbytery shall proceed to his trials; If not, in that case the presbytery shall forbear to proceed, until the next General Assembly; leaving liberty to the presbytery or congregation for planting of the place otherwise:

…By these proceedings and practices, the most unjust and irregular that we have known in this Church since we did begin to look at reformation in the year 1638, and which were indeed the great cause of the distempers and distractions that have since followed, malignant and disaffected men in congregations and presbyteries have got up the head, and having the advantage of the acts already mentioned, they do make a bar thereof to shut the door against the calling of able and godly men to the work of the Ministry, who cannot bring their consciences in bondage to these things;…

…though yet the protesting Brethren have been tender even of these things [of order in due process], and have made conscience as to do nothing evil and sinful in itself, so to do nothing from contempt or disrespect to the least point of order; yea, they have been careful to keep within the bounds, warranted and allowed unto them of God; And, if it be fit to compare, we may truly say, that for all the noise our Brethren make against them, for the violation of order, and taking irregular courses, they have been more careful than themselves have been, and that they have more just and weighty grievance against them, even upon this accompt [account], than they have against the protesting Brethren:”

pp. 77-78

“…yet has there been too much mischief done by these acts, to wit…  the barring of hopeful young-men from trials, in order to public preaching, and of able and godly expectants from being called and tried, in order to their entrance in the ministry, because they had no freedom in their consciences to take upon them the bonds required, which we have already set down: for, this act, as it has kept sundry congregations from calling expectants of that judgment, because there was no probable way how they could be tried or admitted to the ministry; So have sundry expectants, being called, been thereby barred from proceeding to their trials…; and sundry hopeful young-men have been necessitated to remove from the presbyteries and provinces wherein they do live, before they could be admitted to give any proof of their gifts for preaching…”

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The Resolutioners

Wood, James – A Vindication of the Freedom and Lawfulness of the Late General Assembly Begun at St. Andrews and Continued at Dundee, in answer to the reasons alleged against the same in the Protestation and Declinature  1652  49 pp.

Wood was a professor and friend and colleague of Samuel Rutherford.  See Guthrie for a response to this work.

Wood, as a Resolutioner, comes close to denying the Right of Continued Protest, however note that most of his criticisms are as to the manner that the protests were done by the Protesters, and not the right of protest itself (however these things are often one and the same issue).

For some of the most relevant material coming close to denying the RoCP, or actually denying it, see pp. 4-6 & 16.

Hutcheson, George & Wood, James – Point 15 on pp. 17-18  of A Review and Examination of a Pamphlet Lately Published bearing the Title of Protesters No Subverters and Presbytery No Papacy, etc. (1659).  This was one of the last works produced in the controversy and responds to Guthrie’s work.

Notably, in this section, Hutcheson and Wood affirm the liberty of their Protesting opponents to continue to protest as individuals against General Assemblies, without censure.  Hutcheson and Wood only objected to church courts of the Protesters protesting the decisions of the General Assemblies and nullifying them.

Baillie, Robert – ‘For Mr. Robert Douglass’, pp. 375-381  of Letters and Journals, vol. 3  July 31, 1658

Baillie responds to Rutherford’s ‘Epistle to the Reader’ in his A Survey of the Survey of that Sum of Church Discipline (1658).

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The Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland

Free Church of Scotland (Continuing), ‘The Right of Continued Protest’  2011

Background

“3.  In no case is there historical support for the proposition that submission of a Protest against the highest Court of the Church necessarily severs the connection between the protester and the Church. That such a proposition has come to be the view of the Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland is evident from several cases of discipline in her Courts, notably that involving Rev Ewen MacQueen in 1938.

The record of the Synod proceedings in that case is as follows: “The Rev E. MacQueen thereupon tabled the following protest: ‘To the Synod of the Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland, met at Inverness this 29th day of June 1938, I protest against your finding because I consider it to be irregular, unconstitutional, and unscriptural.’

The seriousness of this action, which meant that he was separating himself from the Church, was pointed out to Mr MacQueen, and an earnest brotherly appeal was made to him by the older ministers to withdraw his  protest. Mr MacQueen, however, refused to be advised on the matter and left the Synod.” So far as is known, the Free Presbyterian Church is the only Presbyterian denomination which adopts this position.

The Church has issued various statements over the years purporting to clarify its view of the issue, notably the “five points” issued in 1944 which were prominent in the determination of the Brentnall & Radcliff case in 1986. In substance however there is no reason to think that the stance adopted in the MacQueen case has been basically departed from, notwithstanding that this seems clearly at odds with the position taken by Rev Donald Macfarlane and other founding fathers of the Church in 1893 and the years immediately following.”

(d) The Declaratory Act controversy

“29.  In 1893, a number of overtures were before the Assembly [of the Free Church of Scotland] pleading for the repeal or review of the Declaratory Act.  The Assembly dismissed all these overtures.  Dissents were submitted by forty-five ministers and elders. In addition, Rev Donald Macfarlane, Raasay, tabled a Protest in the following terms:

“Whereas by the action of the General Assembly of 1892 in passing the Declaratory Act into a law of the Church, and by that Act being retained in her constitution, the Church, in our opinion, ceased to be the true representative of the Free Church of Scotland; and whereas by our ordination vows we are bound by the most solemn obligations to assert, maintain and defend the doctrines and constitution of the said Church, and to follow no divisive courses from the doctrine, worship, discipline, government and exclusive jurisdiction of the same, I, the undersigned minister of the Free Church, in my own name, and in the name of all who may adhere to me, declare that, whatever I may subsequently do, neither my conscience nor my ordination vows allow me to act under what has now been made law in this Church. I also protest against the despotic power exercised by a majority of the office-bearers of this Church in making changes in her creed and constitution, which are ultra vires of any majority in the face of any protesting minority, and I declare that I claim my sacred and civil rights according to the terms of contract agreed upon between me and the Free Church at my ordination, and in accordance with the creed and constitution of the Free Church in the year 1843.”

On the motion of Principal Rainy, the majority leader, the Assembly refused to receive this Protest as, in his words, it was “an express repudiation of the authority and validity of the final act of the General Assembly in this matter.” In reply, Mr Macfarlane said he wished to reserve the power of acting in any way he thought best. His words, and the terms of his Protest, suggest strongly that he did not regard the Protest as in itself separating him from the Church.

Indeed, some weeks after the Assembly, he held a Communion at Raasay at which he had the assistance of a Free Church minister, Rev William Fraser of Sleat (who had not taken up Mr Macfarlane’s position and was later to be one of the Free Church constitutionalists of 1900). Mr Macfarlane’s separation from the Church did not become effective until his signing of a formal Deed of Separation on 14th August 1893.

As noted in paragraph 21, his actions contrast markedly with the position taken by the Free Presbyterian Church in the 1938 (MacQueen) case and afterwards. That the early FP Church held a more orthodox view of Protest is also exemplified in the case of Rev Allan Mackenzie who lodged a Protest against a finding of the FP Synod in 1897 and who was not regarded as thereby separating himself from the Church, but rather had his Protest received and a Committee appointed to answer it.”

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“Neither as being lords over God’s heritage, but being ensamples to the flock.”

1 Pet. 5:3

“Not for that we have dominion over your faith, but are helpers of your joy…”

2 Cor. 1:24

“And herein do I exercise myself, to have always a conscience void to offence toward God, and toward men.”

Acts 24:16

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