The Right of Continued Protest unto the Truth

“For we [Church-officers] can do nothing against the truth, but for the truth.”

2 Cor. 13:8

“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

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Subsection

On Passive Obedience

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Order of Contents

The Right of Continued Protest
On the Duty unto Continued Protest
On Counting Heads in Causes of Truth
What if Publicly Protesting Scandalizes Some?
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 the Obligation to Preach Against the Corruptions of the Times
On Appeals
On the Barring of Those Training for the Ministry due to Continued Protest
On the RoCP & Ordination Oaths
On Losing Friends for Continuing to Protest unto the Truth
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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On the Duty unto Continued Protest

Hos. 2:2-3

“Plead with your mother, plead: for she is not my wife, neither am I her husband: let her therefore put away her whoredoms out of her sight and her adulteries from between her breasts; Lest I strip her naked…  and make her as a wilderness…”

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Guthrie, James

Protesters No Subverters…  (Edinburgh, 1658)

pp. 17-18

“…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 when they are necessarily called to give a testimony against the other;

Yea, the duty and care they owe to the preservation of the government 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 honoured 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 itself;”

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p. 27

“If (we say) there be truth at the bottom of these things, and if in speaking and writing thereof they have these good ends before them which they have professed, then may the Lord through grace therein accept, and hear, and have compassion upon them and His people, by finding out the means to purge His House, though men will not hear, nor pity, but accompt them foul slanderers and subtle subverters for discovering and complaining of these things.”

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On Counting Heads in Causes of Truth

James Guthrie

Protesters No Subverters…  (Edinburgh, 1658), pp. 23-24

“If they [the Resolutioners] say that there is a difference upon the matter betwixt that which is done by them and done by the other [side]: take the matter simply and without respect to their numbers, and we believe the protesting Brethren will be content to stand or fall by it: and if it be the plurality of the number only, we cannot accompt [account] that, especially in a time of corruption, a sufficient plea either for condemning the one or justifying the other.”

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What if Publicly Protesting Scandalizes Some?

Samuel Rutherford

The Divine Right of Church Government  (London, 1646), Appendix, ‘An Introduction to the Doctrine of Scandal’

Question 3, p. 32

“…if by scandal causelessly taken, you mean scandal-passive, only taken and not [truly] given [that is, they have no right to be scandalized], for we are not to regard such scandals.”

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Question 5,  pp. 53 & 58

“It is known that many take offence at tolling of bells, at a minister’s [civilly appropriate] gown while he preaches, at the naming of the days of the week, after the Heathen style from the seven planets… It is true, bells are abused by Papists…  But these be scandals taken, and not given, for we read not of scandals culpable in God’s word, but there be some apparent moral reason in them. 2. The object scandalizing has no necessity, why it should be.

Things that fall under an affirmative precept, and these cannot be totally omitted, for eschewing scandal: for whatever God has commanded, is some way necessary.  Therefore, it some ways, and in some cases may be done, though offence be taken at it; but branches, or parts of affirmative precepts may be omitted for eschewing of scandal, as such a particular kneeling in prayer, in such a place¹…”

[¹ This seem to be a justification for the Church of Scotland in 1645 officially laying aside what had become a somewhat common custom in the Scottish Church, for ministers to privately and silently, before the congregation, kneel and pray before entering the pulpit (or while in the pulpit) just before preaching in the public service (Peterkin, Recordsp. 422).  It appears that Rutherford had previously been favorable to the practice, though, by at least 1640 became persuaded against it.  See the section on ‘Bowing in the Pulpit’ in Fentiman, ‘The Predominant Exclusive Psalmody of the English & Scottish Churches from the Reformation through the Puritan Era…’.

To give another example illustrating Rutherford’s teaching:  At the 1640 General Assembly, when many would have prohibited private spiritual conferencing altogether for fear of the abuse of it, Rutherford argued, “What Scripture does warrant, an Assembly may not discharge; but privy meetings for exercises of religion, Scripture warrants.”  Nonetheless, the Church of Scotland’s Directory for Family Worship (1647) appears to prohibit such for reason of its abuses.  The implicit premise may have been that what may tend towards scandal may be prohibited by the Church; yet according to Rutherford’s teaching here, it cannot be prohibited absolutely if it is in fact warranted by Scripture, and therefore morally necessary in some situations.

Rutherford also taught that all ordinances of synods are positive law, and hence do not bind the conscience.  Rutherford was also a Protester, and publicly protested for the greater part of his life, illustrating the principle that no claim of causing a scandal can prevent the morally and Biblically warranted duty of continued protest unto the truth.]

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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. 42-56

“The question (so far as we can under∣stand them in it) is, ‘Whether such a submission be due from all the members of this Kirk, ministers and people, to the judicatories of the Kirk, and from the inferior to the superior Kirk-judicatories in matters of government and discipline, as ought upon the sentence (whether just or unjust) of these judicatories to sist [stop or delay] the proceedings of the person or party grieved therewith, and make them acquiesce thereunto, until the determination of the respective superior judicatory therein, without any counteracting to the same, unless it be to appeal unto, and follow their appeal before the superior judicatory?’

Upon this question we find the Brethren for the Protestation in their last paper at the conference, Nov. 25, 1655, expressing their judgment thus:  ‘We are willing to subject ourselves to all the just sentences of the lawful assemblies of this Kirk; and if the case were only of a few particular persons, in things of more private interest and personal concernment, and of judicatories employing their power to edification in the current of their actings, we should not much contend about it; but when it is of a great number of godly ministers and elders and professors throughout the land, who do desire to stand in the breach, and to oppose the present course of defection, and of judicatories, the plurality whereof in many places do not act unto edification and for promoving the power of godliness, but to the contrary, it alters the case.’
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It is to us, and we believe will be to all sober and unbiased men, who understand the principles of Church-government, new and strange doctrine [that of the Resolutioners], that an absolute and unlimited subjection to all sentences (whether just or unjust, or agreeable or repugnant to the Word of God) should be asserted to be at all of kin or alliance to the divine ordinance of presbyterial government, which is a part of the sweet and gentle yoke of Jesus Christ, that is far from tyranny and oppression.

If presbyterial government has (as we do believe and assert it to have) its foundation in the Testament of Jesus Christ, upon whose shoulder the Government is, then whatsoever is of the essence and being thereof, must derive itself from the fountain of Christ’s Revealed Will about the constitution and essentials of that government?  But we know no tittle in his Book that says as our [Resolutioner] Brethren say, or from which, what they say in this matter, can be deduced by good and necessary consequence, to wit, that it is essential to the government which He has appointed His House to be ruled by, that all the children of the House should submit unto, and acquiesce in the determination of the governors, without any counteracting, though their sentence be contrary to the Law and the Testimony; and therefore till our [Resolutioner] Brethren prove this, they will give us leave to deny it.

We acknowledge that power and authority, and subjection and submission are co-relatives, and that the power and authority of the superior can no more actually subsist without the subjection and submission of the inferior, than one relative can subsist without its co-relative: But all Church-power and authority is bounded by the Word of God, and is for edification only; And therefore all the subjection that is due thereunto, is in the Lord only; And when we are thus subject, the power and authority is sufficiently acknowledged and preserved.

But, say our [Resolutioner] Brethren, without this submission which they plead for, our established judicatories would be nothing but consultative meetings.  But this we also deny; because what is resolved and determined by Kirk-judicatories in a right way, does not only bind by virtue of the intrinsic lawfulness thereof, but being for matter, God’s Word, and by virtue of the reverence that is due to the gifts and endowments of brethren and friends counselling right things, which is all that can be attributed to a consultative meeting, but also by virtue of a positive law of God, by which He has commanded us to hear the Church, and those that sit in Moses’ chair, and to be subject in the Lord to Church-Governors, to whom He has given a ministerial and official authority and power to assemble in His Name in the respective courts appointed by Himself for governing His House according to the rule of His Word; And therefore as they have authority or a superiority of jurisdiction, which no consultative meeting has; So whosoever resists their power, when put forth to edification, and not to destruction, does not only sin, by despising that Word of God which is the matter of their decree, and by despising the gifts and graces of their brethren that are exercised in holding forth light unto them, but does also sin by resisting the ordinance of God: A Kirk-judicatory modeled according to the pattern showed in the mount, and clothed with authority from Jesus Christ, and proceeding according to the Law and to the Testimony, to which they ought to be subject, God having commanded us so to do.

Their [the Resolutioners’] second reason is, that without this submission and subordination they do not see how unity and order can be continued in the Kirk, it being in vain to think of a remedy by superior judicatories without this, the refusing thereof being the way to make all union void…

Answer [of Guthrie]:  This is the very argument and language of the advocates of the Sea of Rome, whilst they plead the Pope’s visible headship and irrefragable authority and jurisdiction over the Church, to which all ought to submit without gainsaying, or counteracting, the very thing that has set up the Man of Sin to sit as God in the Temple of God, unto the enslaving both of the Word of God and the consciences of men, by requiring of them subjection and blind obedience to his dictates, without examining the same according to the light of the Word.

If, according to the revealed Will of God, there ought to be such a submission in all cases, without counteracting, what shall we say of the practices of the prophets and apostles, and others of the servants of God who have lived before us in corrupt times?  Must all their preachings and other actings, though most agreeable to the Word of God, be condemned, because they were contrary to the [will?] of the Church wherein they lived?  [That?] were indeed to set up a power over the Word of God, a power for destruction and not for [edification?]; that would indeed make a sinful unity and order, and teach a way to avoid persecution, and readily to obtain peace with men, but with a loss of truth and a good conscience.

The way to preserve unity and order in the House of God is, not to hearken to the counsels of flesh and blood, by setting up the will of man for a law and establishing an arbitrary and tyrannical power over consciences, to which they shall be tied to submit to iniquity and injustice; for, God has said, that the throne of iniquity that frames mischief into a law shall have no fellowship with Him [Ps. 94:20]; And therefore that may destroy unity and order, it will not preserve it.  But to let the worship of God (which is both the rule and bond of unity and order) have place, Gal. 6:16, and judicatories proceeding according to this, is an effectual remedy actu primo [by the first act, or source] and objective, as in every ordinance of Christ; albeit actu secundo [by the following act] there is no efficacious remedy in either Word, sacraments, admonitions, suspension, deposition, excommunications, presbyteries, synods, or any ordinance the Church does enjoy or can exercise without the effectual blessing and influence of the Spirit of God, who is the author and appointer of these, and concurs therewith upon the consciences of men according to the pleasure of His own will.

Shall persons sentenced unjustly, submit? Yes, say our Brethren, for preserving Unity and Order.  What remedy then, say we [the Protesters], for preserving the truth?  They may appeal, say they.  But, say we, they have appealed, and have therein succumbed.  What remedy now?  No remedy, but that at one stroke the precious truths of God and interests of Jesus Christ must be born down and buried in oblivion; And the saints and ministers of the Gospel be buried under the rubbish thereof, because one assembly will have it so.

But say our [Resolutioner] Brethren, how shall unity and order otherways be preserved in the Church of God?  We answer, very well; because if the sentence be unjust, it ought to be recognized and repealed: If it be just, and of an inferior nature; If the persons will not submit, they are, after due procedure, to be cast out, as those that will not hear the Church, and so both unity and purity, both order and truth are preserved.  Will our Brethren under a pretext of order, destroy Christian-liberty, and bring-in Popish-tyranny?  It is Christ’s order and the King of Saints’ peace that every believer have the judgment of discretion, whether the judicatories of the Kirk speak according to the Scriptures, or whether they ought to obey or submit, or gainsay or counteract; and what Christ has given them, no man can take from them.

As to the judgment of our Church [of Scotland] and of her general assemblies, we do deny that ever they were of this judgment, or have declared any such thing; but upon the contrary, let the Confession of Faith, presented unto the Parliament, and ratified by them in the year 1567 bear witness, Article 21, concerning the power and authority of councils lawfully gathered; the words are these:

So far as the council proves the determination and commandment that it gives by the plain Word of God, so soo[n?] do we reverence and embrace the same: But if men, under the name of a council, pretend to forge unto us new articles of our faith, or to make constitutions repugning to the Word of God, then utterly we must refuse the same, as the doctrine of devils, which draws our souls from the voice of our only God, to follow the doctrines and constitutions of men.’

In the beginning of the Reformation, 1562, it is concluded by the whole ministry, in the assembly held that year, session 2, ‘That ministers shall be subject in all lawful admonitions, as is prescribed in the Book of Discipline.’  Likewise, it is provided in the articles agreed upon by the general assembly held at Edinburgh, in March, 1570, session 2, concerning the jurisdiction of the Kirk:

That the suspension and deprivation of ministers and others, admitted to functions in the Kirk, charge of souls, etc. shall be for lawful causes.’

In the Book of Discipline, agreed upon in diverse preceding general assemblies, and recorded in the year, 1581, by order of the assembly held in April, session 9, to the defense of which discipline the King and subjects of all ranks did then subscribe and swear; which was also renewed in the year, 1638, it is expressly declared, ch. 7, concerning elderships, assemblies, and discipline, that ‘Office-bearers are to be deposed for good and just causes deserving deprivation.’

If it were needful, we could cite more of this kind: We shall only add [an]other two testimonies from very late assemblies of this Kirk.  The Assembly convened at St. Andrews, in Anno 1642, session 8, in the overture for transplantation of ministers, do declare:

That no presbytery or assembly should pass a sentence for transportation of any minister, till they give reasons for the expediency of the same, both to him and his congregation, and to the presbytery whereof he is a member; That if they acquiesce to the reasons given, it is so much the better; if they do not acquiesce, yet the presbytery, or assembly, by giving such reasons before the passing of their sentence, shall make it manifest that what they do, is not pro arbitratu vel imperio [for the judgment or command] only, but upon grounds of reason.’

And the Assembly convened at Edinburgh, in anno 1647, in their brotherly exhortation to their Brethren of England, do declare as follows; ‘We would not’ (say they)

‘have our zeal for presbyterial government misunderstood, as if it tended to any rigor or domineering over the flock, or to hinder and exclude that instructing in meekness, them that oppose themselves, which the apostolical rule holds forth; or, as if we would have any such to be entrusted with that government, as are found not yet purged, either from their old profaneness, or from the prelatical principles and practices: which were to put a piece of new cloth into an old garment, and so to make the rent worse; or to put new wine into old bottles, and so to lose both wine and bottles.’

From these passages, impartially considered, it is manifest, that the general assemblies have judged, that as it is rigor and a domineering over the Lord’s flock, for the judicatories of the Kirk to determine, or do anything pro arbitratu vel imperio [for the judgment or the command], or without giving a reason thereof from the Word; so when they do thus determine and judge, there is no reason to submit thereunto, or acquiesce therein.

Our [Resolutioner] Brethren overshoot when they say that thus to submit, has been the constant practice of all the members and judicatories of this Kirk ever since the late Reformation; If they mean of the Reformation of this Church from Popery [in 1560], they cannot but know that there was nothing more ordinary for the members and judicatories of this Kirk than not to submit unto, but to counteract the determinations and sentences of the prelates and their synods and assemblies, not only in matters of doctrine and worship, but also of discipline and government.  It was ordinary for godly men, who were deposed by them and their courts, to preach and continue in the exercise of their ministry, notwithstanding of their sentences.  Some of our [Resolutioner] Brethren themselves did it.

It’s true that the prelates were not a lawful authority, nor Church-officers agreeable to the Word of God: but our Brethren do very well know that as the prelates, according to the act of their assembly at Glasgow, did sometimes in the suspension and deposition of ministers, associate to themselves the ministry of those bounds, where the supposed delinquent served, that is, the presbytery, whereof he was a member, which was a lawfully authority; and that as they did plead for such a submission to their decrees and sentences, as these Brethren do now plead for, and upon the same grounds of its being essential to government and preserving of unity and order, and shunning of confusion, etc. so also that those who did refuse and decline that submission, did it not only upon the ground of their want [lack] of lawful authority, but also upon this ground, that no obedience nor subjection is due to ecclesiastic laws that are unjust and contrary to the Word of God; as will appear to any that shall read the treatises that were published by the defenders of the truth in that hour of temptation, concerning the binding power of ecclesiastical laws.

Their citation from the act of the general assembly, in anno 1647, concerning the Hundred and Eleven Propositions [by George Gillespie], and the seventh head of doctrine therein contained, does make against our [Resolutioner] Brethren, and not for them:

1. Because the foregoing words of that act do clear, that the Assembly speaks of ecclesiastical government, committed and entrusted by Christ to the assemblies of the Kirk: but Christ has committed no power to any assembly to tyrannize, nor has He commanded any Church-member, or any inferior Church-judicatory to subject themselves to ecclesiastical tyranny.

2.  Because the propositions themselves to which that act do relate, do confine the obedience and subjection that is to be given to the ordinances and decrees of classes and synods, to lawful ordinances and decrees; ‘It is not lawful,’ say they:

‘to particular churches, or (as commonly they are called) parochial, either to decline the authority of classes or synods where they are lawfully settled, or may be had (much less to withdraw themselves from that authority if they have once acknowledged it) or to refuse such lawful ordinances and decrees of the classes or synods, as being agreeable to the Word of God, are with authority imposed upon them, Acts 15:2, 6, 22-24, 28-29; 16:4; Prop. 32.”


…and for other Churches, we would desire them to look upon the story of the Church within the first four or five hundred years after Christ, and see whether many of the worthy servants of Christ who lived of old, such as Athanasius, etc. did not refuse submission to sentences and decrees of synods, and counteract thereunto, not only by preaching contrary to their determinations, but by preaching and exercising their ministerial function after sentences of deposition and excommunication passed against them…  but their exception was against the heterodoxy and iniquity of their decrees and sentences, upon which account they did refuse obedience and subjection thereunto, and did counteract them to the utmost of their power; and though because of their so doing, they were then persecuted and reproached by many of their brethren, and of the Kirk-judicatories of these times, as the fire-brands of the time and troublers of the peace of the Church; yet has their praise been amongst all sober and sound men in all the Churches of Christ throughout many generations, and will be so to the end of the world.  And those who did persecute them for so doing, are, and will be justly condemned as men of a malignant spirit.”

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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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Quotes

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.”

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Articles

1600’s

6 Scottish Covenanting Ministers – pp. 462-3  of ‘The Proceedings Against the Prisoners in Blackness [Castle]…  as it was Penned by Themselves…’ (1606)  in David Calderwood, History of the Kirk of Scotland, vol. 6

King James of Scotland disallowed a faithful presbyterian assembly.  The assembly declined his order and continued anyway.  The king put 14 of the Church-officers in jail.  6 ministers were legally prosecuted.  This excerpt is from the ministers’ defense, written from jail.

The ministers give five main reasons for their original declinature.  While the context is of a Church court declining a civil court, yet their reasons are excellent as to why any God-given court may decline a ruling, if need be, of any other God-given court.

For more background on the context, see M’Crie, Story of the Scottish Church…  (London, 1875), circa p. 97.  The ministers were John Forbes, John Welch, Andrew Duncan, Robert Dury, John Sharp and Alexander Strachan.

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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1800’s

Peck, Thomas – ‘The Powers of the Several Church Courts: The Action of the Assembly of 1879 on Worldly Amusements, or the Powers of our Several Church Courts’  in Miscellanies of Rev. Thomas E. Peck...  (Richmond, 1896), vol. 2, pp. 331-360.  Originally published in The Southern Presbyterian Review (April, 1880).  Also with an introduction in ed. Hall & Hall, Paradigms in Polity…  (Eerdmans, 1994), pp. 585-602.

Peck (1822-1893) was a Southern presbyterian and professor of Ecclesiastical History, Church Government and Theology at Union Theological Seminary in Virginia.  He followed in the line of polity espoused by Dabney and Thornwell.

“…this excerpt begins as a comment on an action of the General Assembly in 1879 and moves on more directly to discuss the powers of the several church courts…  [and] the power of the higher courts to regulate certain actions of members of the lower courts…  What on the surface may appear to be a trivial subject is analyzed at its roots as Peck, ever sensitive to the pervasiveness of polity, attends to these issues that persist into our own days.  Since Peck is familiar with church history as well as the history of Reformed thought–occasionally citing Voetius and Turretin–his article exhibits an excellent sense of history.  The lasting value of this article, however, is its discussion over this real question of polity–that is, the power of the courts and their interaction with one another.” – David & Joseph Hall

Peck:

“…simply a question of law in our own church, ‘the Presbyterian Church in the United States,’ the question of whether the Assembly has the power ‘to make law for the church in the matter of ‘offences,’ or to give its deliverances in thesi the force the force of judicial decisions.  It had been contended by some that the deliverances of the Assemblies of 1865, 1869, and 1877 obliged the courts of original jurisdiction to discipline for dancing, that is, to exclude every church member convicted of dancing from the privileges of the church; that these courts had no discretion; that they were not allowed to interpret the law of the church for themselves, but must accept the interpretation of the Assembly, albeit that interpretation had not been given in the investigation of a judicial case regularly brought up (that is, in hypothesi), but as an abstract and general proceeding (in thesi)…

Before proceeding to vindicate the action of the Assembly [which later said that its theses were ‘only didactic, advisory and monitory’], we beg leave to remind our readers that the principle here involved is one of immense importance.  It lies at the root of all the struggles between the advocates of a constitutional government and the advocates of an ‘absolutism’…  the essence of the struggle has always been the same…  the question has always been, whether the power of the whole is over every part, or only over the power of the part; whether the whole is simply a great wheel, of which the parts are only spokes, or whether it be a wheel of which the parts are also wheels, each having a sphere and movement of its own, yet moving in subordination to the movement of the great wheel…”

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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 the Obligation for Ministers to Preach Against the Corruptions of the Times

Article

Church of Scotland, General Assembly – ‘Aug. 3, 1648, Session 26, Act for Censuring Ministers for their Silence, and not speaking to the Corruptions of the Time’

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Quote

James Guthrie

Protesters No Subverters...  (1658), p. 69

“The subject matter of these debates [surrounding the public Resolutions] is not so far removed out of the way as our [Resolutioner] Brethren do talk, but do still continue in many respects:

1.  In regard of the sin and guilt thereof, which has not been taken-with, nor repented-of till this day.  And as the resolution Brethren judge it hard for the protesting Brethren to be satisfied with nothing, unless they do repent of that, as a sin which in their consciences they judge to be a duty; So they must give leave to the protesting Brethren to judge it hard, that the Church, of which they are members and ministers, should lie under the guilt of a public transgression, and under great and sore wrath, because thereof, and they in the meanwhile not be permitted to discover her iniquity therein, that her captivity may be turned away, especially when they are engaged by Covenant so to do.”

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On Appeals

Quotes

George Gillespie

An Assertion of the Government of the Church of Scotland in the points of Ruling-Elders and of the Authority of Presbyteries and Synods  (Edinburgh, 1641), pp. 125-6

“4. He [Parker] makes a distinction betwixt the case of appellation and the case de nulla administratione mala praesumpta.  Though the particular eldership has proceeded aright, though it consist of able and sufficient men, and though it be in re propria [in a proper thing], yet if one think himself wronged, and so appeal, then is it made obnoxious to a higher consistory, for says Parker, as the Council of Sardis ordains, audience must not be denied to him who entreats for it.

So says Zepperus, speaking of the same purpose: ‘cuivis integrum quoque sit ad superiores gradus provocare, si in inferioris gradus sententia aut decreto aliquid desideret.’ (de Pol. Eccl., bk. 3, ch. 2)”

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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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Article

‘Debate on Appeals’, pp. 279-88  in ed. Hall & Hall, Paradigms in Polity…  (Eerdmans, 1994)  This section is an excerpt from the Westminster Assembly minutes.

This is a very detailed debate, expressing a variety of opinions, on the nature and warrant of appeals according to Scripture and the light of nature.

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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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On the RoCP & Ordination Oaths

James Guthrie

Protesters No Subverters…  (1658), p. 60

“But if they [the Resolutioners] will extend it [the ordination vows] further, and say that it is meaned of absolute subjection to the sentence of his brethren, whether he have offended or not, they may as well, and with more color of reason, say that he is bound by his oath, not only to give subjection, but also obedience† to all their admonitions, whether just or unjust, lawful or unlawful;

because there is no express limitation in the words of the oath, these qualifications, being as we said before, amongst the praecognita [assumptions] and praesupposita [presuppositions] of all such questions and answers, and there being no need to express them, except where there are grounds of jealousy.”

† [Notice Guthrie’s distinction between subjection in things lawful (e.g. Rom. 13), versus obedience to all commands.]

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On Losing Friends for Continuing to Protest unto the Truth

James Guthrie

Protesters No Subverters…  (Edinburgh, 1658), p. 27

“…and [they the Resolutioners] judge it a matter to be lamented before the Lord, that they should so far mistake their old friends [the Protesters] (who strive, though in much weakness, to keep the good old way wherein both were wont [accustomed] to walk for carrying-on of the work of Reformation) as to accompt them the wasters and destroyers of the Lord’s Vine, and [they the Resolutioners] become so kindly companions and patrons to men of another stamp [the malignants] that they judge themselves wounded if their sore be touched.”

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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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