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Re: Calvin on schisms, separatism

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  • Thomas Britton
    Look at it in another aspect. How have Covenanting principles been sustained, and by whose agency have they been often planted on new ground? By those who
    Message 1 of 11 , Apr 30, 2003
      "Look at it in another aspect. How have Covenanting principles been
      sustained, and by whose agency have they been often planted on new
      ground? By those who have faithfully acted upon the principle we now
      advocate. Our fathers refused to hear the curates and the indulged in
      Scotland, By so doing they kept aloft and waving in the winds the
      banner of the second Reformation. They refused to hear the ministry of
      the Establishment formed at the Revolution Settlement of 1688, upon
      the ruins of the Covenanted Reformation. So doing, they kept its
      principles from passing out of remembrance. Had they been as faithless
      as the majority, Scotland, we can pretty safely say, would not have
      been honoured in 1843 by that signal act of faith?the erection of a
      Free Church. And how has the church been established and extended in
      this country? By the instrumentality of men and women, worthy
      descendants of such ancestors. Go where you will, almost, you will
      find that our congregations have originated in societies, gathered by
      degrees, around some man or household, that had withheld attendance
      upon the ministry of neighbouring churches; while, on the other hand,
      not a few yielded to the error we combat, went to hear, and were lost
      to the Covenanting Church, instead of building up, like their more
      faithful brethren, another congregation. So it was after the Union in
      1781, in which the Associate Reformed Church had its origin. In short,
      had it not been for this principle, few, indeed, would have been our
      congregations, compared to what they are now.

      [By the way, this fact meets an objection?a very plausible one. It is
      said?"Your principle is right when Covenanters have a church to
      attend, but what are the lonely to do? In the first place, we would
      inquire, Are they in the right to put themselves out of the reach of
      ordinances? If they are not, the objection amounts to nothing. And if
      they are or are not, let them be faithful and exert themselves, and
      they may form new congregations.]"

      -"Occasional Hearing"

      See also:

    • thebishopsdoom
      OK, I really didn t / don t care to be posting or interacting right now, but for the sake of a few clarifications, I will send out this one thing. ...
      Message 2 of 11 , May 2, 2003
        OK, I really didn't / don't care to be posting or interacting right
        now, but for the sake of a few clarifications, I will send out this
        one thing.
        --- In covenantedreformationclub@yahoogroups.com, "Dan Fraas"
        <fraasrd@y...> wrote:
        "Notice the Scripture makes a distinction between sins commited
        willfully, and sins commited ignorantly."
        I believe Jerry has in the past in fact delineated that there are
        degrees of idolatrous worship, and that the one who upholds the
        regulative principle of worship, but errs in application is not the
        same as one who argues that they shall worship God "however they ____
        well please" as it were. I am certain he also recognizes the
        distinction between those things added to worship under the name
        of "decorum," "good order," "enhancement," "aid," etc. that are not
        warranted and acts of worship proper that are not warranted. It was
        the addition of these such ceremonies of "decorum" etc. that led to
        the rise of the ceremonies in the early church. Such diversified
        rites, or uniform rites where they prospered uniformly thru
        Christendom, eventually began to be regarded by many (I dare say
        most) churchmen and theologians, thus blurring them with worship.

        "This sin is a violation of that law, which says that we must only
        worship God according to His appointment."
        Well, as for terminology, in the early church, there is as I say
        confusion because worship and other rites and ceremonies that had
        respect to the service of worship - whether we bathe on a fast day,
        for example, were both called by the name worship. It was at the
        reformation that greater clarification was given. One is told that
        there were those who understood that there was a distinction between
        matters of worship and matters of order, but even early in the
        reformation, one sees terms like "accidental worship" sometimes used
        for circumstances of worship. So it is not so easy to find info
        on "uncommanded worship" at a time when the term "worship" could be
        used indifferently at times between worship (which intrinsically
        glorified God by the nature of the act itself) and "indifferent
        things" which acts neither were in themselves (considered in their
        own nature) counted as righteousness if performed nor unrighteousness
        if not performed, and could legitimately thereby differ in divers
        times and places. This would include all legitimate matters
        of "decorum" and order" whether really so or only imagined to be so.
        One word that seems pertinent that has been used for centuries
        is "superstition." This word continued to be used for such well into
        the reformation era, was frequently used by Calvin and others, and
        remains at times in use today. Superstition is a vice contrary to
        religion that involves religion in the excess. That would include the
        use of an act as worship that God has not revealed unto us, because
        it is adding something new in excess of what God has ordained. So
        Jerome renders the Latin for ethelothreskia ("voluntary worship,"
        or "will worship" from Col. 2), as well as numerous commentators from
        thence in the West, by the term superstition.
        But the reformed, while using the term superstition, as well as will
        worship, also used the term idolatry (under which species it is
        listed in the Westminster Standards by acknowledging it as a
        violation of the 2nd commandment), as exampled by the following, some
        of which gets to some degree into reasonings behind the terminology:
        Philip Melancthon: "Idolatrous worships are all they, which are
        appointed without the command of God" (Tom. 2. p. 107 cited in
        William Ames' Fresh Suit.)
        Westminster Assembly of Divines: "The sins forbidden in the second
        commandment are, all devising, counseling, commanding, using, and
        anywise approving, any religious worship not instituted by God
        John Knox: "All worshipping, honouring, or service invented by the
        brain of man in the religion of God, without his own express
        commandment, is idolatry." (Vindication of the Doctrine that the
        Sacrifice of the Mass is Idolatry)
        John Calvin: "For this is the origin of idolatry, when the genuine
        simplicity of God's worship is known, that people begin to be
        dissatisfied with it, and curiously to inquire whether there is
        anything worthy of belief in figments of men; for man's minds are
        soon attracted by the snares of novelty, so as to pollute what has
        been delivered in God's word." (John Calvin. Commentaries on the Last
        Four Books of Moses arranged in the Form of a Harmony.)
        Zacharias Ursinus: "The first commandment forbids one form of
        idolatry, as when another God is worshipped; the second forbids
        another species of idolatry, as when the true God is worshipped
        differently form what he ought to be. Reply. But still there is
        always idolatry, and another God is worshipped. Ans. There is,
        indeed, always an idol; but not always in the intention and
        profession of men. Hence, those who sin against the second
        commandment, sin also against the first; because, those who worship
        God otherwise than he will be worshipped, imagine another God, one
        differently affected from what the true God is; and in this way they
        do not worship God, but a figment of their own brain, which they
        persuade themselves is affected in this manner." (Commentary on the
        Heidelberg Catechism)
        Peter Vermigli: "But let us remember that, which we have admonished
        before, that this also doth belongeth unto idolatry, whenas we
        worship the true God by other means and rites than that he hath
        prescribed unto us. For if we otherwise do, we shall worship an idol,
        according to that second form described, by feigning to ourselves in
        our mind or heart any god, which is delighted with the worship
        invented by men: and such a god is there none. Wherefore, we shall
        not honor and worship the true God, but an idol, the which in our
        mind we have fancied." (Peter Vermigli's Loci Communes)
        Johannes Wollebius: "...idolatry is forbid, with all such rites as
        are either contrary to, or not contained in the Word of God" ( The
        Abridgment of Christian Divinity; Wollebius is commenting on the
        meaning of the second commandment - while one may state that he
        discerns between "idolatry" and things not commanded, he is intending
        that the prohibition of the second commandment - touching idolatry -
        prohibits both open idolatry in the form of images and as well as
        such rites as he defines above.)
        Heidelberg Catechism: "What doth God require in the second
        commandment? Answer. That we in no wise represent God by images, nor
        worship him in any other way than he has commanded in his word."
        William Young: "The first passage we may consider in this connection
        is the second commandment. It might be said that the second
        commandment contains an express prohibition of idolatry and nothing
        more, and thus has no bearing upon the question. From the point of
        view of historic Presbyterianism, however, this is not the case. Our
        Westminster Larger Catechism states, among other rules to be observed
        for the right understanding of the ten commandments, 'That under one
        sin or duty, all of the same kind are forbidden or commanded;
        together with all the causes, means, occasions, and appearances
        thereof, and provocations thereunto.' The Larger Catechism further
        includes among the sins forbidden in the second commandment 'all
        devising, counseling, commanding, using, and any wise approving, any
        religious worship not instituted by God Himself; ...all superstitious
        devices, corrupting the worship of God, adding to it, or taking from
        it, whether invented and taken up of ourselves, or received by
        tradition from others, though under the title of antiquity, custom,
        devotion, good intent, or any other pretense whatsoever.' The
        prohibition of idolatry is thus understood to involve the regulative
        principle. As John Knox expressed the matter pointedly: 'All
        worshipping, honoring, or service invented by the brain of man in the
        religion of God, without his own express commandment, is idolatry.'
        One might view the matter in the following way. Idols are the work of
        men's hands. Men make them unto themselves for the worship of God as
        fit means for the worship of God. Deeper even than the fact that the
        idol is unfit to represent the invisible God is the fact that it is
        the product of man's own brain and hand. And every product of man's
        brain and hand introduced into God's worship is, in the very nature
        of the case, an idol." (The Second Commandment)
        In addition, with respect to this thread in general, I noticed there
        were some needful distinctions that have not been mentioned, without
        which distinctions tends to express matters in a simplistic fashion
        and make liable to some misunderstandings. For example, it is
        necessary to distinguish between the separation of an individual from
        a church that has begun to backslide, and the splitting of a church
        court itself, as well as what reasons may make valid either.
        "'Tis granted, that in many Cases, a Testimony, in a Way of Church-
        Communion, is a proper, laudable and indispensible Duty. Such as,
        (1.) When a church is in an Infant-state, and wrestling out of
        Corruption, up towards Reformation; in that Case, 'tis a Duty
        incumbent on every one, in their respective Capacities, to put Hand
        to Work, and strive to strip their Mother of her Grave-clothes, and
        jointly concur, in adorning her as a Bride for the Bride-groom, even
        altho' they should meet with great Opposition, and have but small
        Success for some Time; as in the Case of our reforming Church, when
        throwing off the Antichristian, Popish, and Prelatick Vestments and
        Abominations. Or, (2.) When a Church being rightly constitute, and
        truly married unto the Lord, after Declensions and manifold
        Backslidings, is striving vigorously, in the Strength of her glorious
        Head Christ, to retrieve her lost Ground, repent, and do her first
        Works, and hold fast, that no Man, no Prelate, no King, no Parliament
        take her Crown, or rob her of these precious Jewels, which her
        Husband has vouchsafed her as a Depositum or TRUST, which she is
        bound to keep as inviolable, as a Virgin her Chastity: I say, in this
        Case, surely it is a Duty of the utmost Concern, for all Hands to be
        at Work, in order to build up the Desolations of Zion, raise up the
        Walls of Jeruslem, and Gates therof burnt with Fire, even altho'
        Tobiahs, Sanballats, and some like Elymas or Diotrephes, and others
        of that Kidney, should fight against them. Or, (3.) When a reforming
        Church, enjoying her Privileges and Judcatories in Christ's pure
        Ways, being found in Doctrine, Worship, Discipline and Government,
        honourably asserting and maintaining the Royalties of Christ, has in
        her Communion such, as are dead Weights upon her working Hand, and is
        careful to have them reclaimed and reformed, or that Leaven purged
        out; in such a Case, a Testimony against such Evils and Corruptions,
        even altho' real Scandals is to be maintained in a Way of Church-
        Communion, especially when the greatest Part is not leavened, the
        Church being still in the Exercise of the Duties foresaid; and People
        are to address themselves unto Church-Judicatories, and not withdraw
        from their Ministers (especially for ordinary Scandals) without
        making prior Application to these; yea, Protesting and Joining is a
        most commendable Duty in this Case. But I humbly conceive, none of
        these agree to the Case in Hand, in regard, (1.) This Church is not
        in an infant, but an adult State. Nor, (2.) In a growing, but
        evidently in a declining Case... Nor, (4.) Rightly constitute, sound
        in her Principles and Ordinances; nor does she enjoy her Privileges
        and Judicatories, in the Ways of Christ, nor claim them" (Andrew
        Clarkson, Plain Reasons for Presbyterians Dissenting... 1731).

        It is pertinent only to note that Robert Lusk and David Steele, along
        with those who with them seceded from synod did not leave the RPCNA
        until 1840, despite dissenting from some matters with respect to
        Reformation Principles Exhibited, despite faults in church
        discipline, and despite claims of ecclesiastical tyranny already
        entering into the RPCNA. Steele and Lusk (among others) attempted to
        settle matters thru the church courts until by failure of
        representation for 7 years, they determined the courts were not free
        as they had no legitimate representational voice due to some
        political shanenigans going on at synod. At that point, they declined
        Synod and formed a dissenting presbytery. So the call is not separate
        as soon as backsliding of any sort occurs. The question revolves
        around constitutional issues (not merely corruptions entering in that
        had not been dealt with, nor problems of the church failing to uphold
        what was already on the books), and lack of access to church courts
        to remedy the situation. In the case of the Resolutioner controversy,
        the dissent issued forth in declining authority of general assembly
        was not merely the question of the lawfulness of the resolutions, but
        the fact that those who dissented from the resolutions were barred
        from access to the courts of the church to remedy the situation or
        cast a dissenting vote in the proceedings. In terms of the
        covenanters during the time of persecution, there was no recourse to
        judicatories, for the church had succumbed to erastianism and their
        was no means of appeal against the erastian encroachments previously
        testified against. It effectively forced a split in the church.
        "...it may be duty, in a broken state of the Church, to withdraw from
        Ministers chargeable with defection. For, seeing this Church hath
        attained to such a high degree of Reformation; and seeing, by Solemn
        Covenants to the Almighty, we have bound ourselves to maintain and
        defend the same; Seeing by reason of the enemy's subtilty and
        cruelty, and the fainting, falling and failing of Ministers, so many
        dreadful defections have been introduced, embraced, and countenanced;
        Seeing, in these times of distempering confusions, we are now
        deprived of the remedy of settled Judicatories, where unto we might
        recur for rectifying of disorders; And seeing we are bound to witness
        against these Complying and backsliding Courses, whereby the wrath of
        God is so much kindled against the Land: Therefore we hold it as our
        duty, that when a backsliding or defection is embraced, avowed, and
        obstinately defended, in such things as have been Reformed, either
        expressly or equivalently, especially being witnessed against
        doctrinally, and further confirmed by other testimonies; We judge it
        lawful, reasonable, and necessary; in a declining, backsliding, and
        troubled state of the Church, to leave that part of the Church which
        hath made such defection, whether Ministers or Professors, as to a
        joint concurrence in carrying on the public work (according as it is
        given in Command to Jeremiah 15:19, let them return unto thee, but
        return not thou unto them) and to adhere unto the other part of the
        Church, Ministers and Professors, whether more or fewer, who are
        standing steadfastly to the Defense of the Reformation, witnessing
        against others who have turned aside and declined therefrom; until
        the defections of the backsliding party be confessed, mourned over
        and forsaken: This is no separation from the Church of Scotland, but
        only a departing and going forth from her sins, backslidings, and
        defections, as we are commanded by the Lord (James Renwick, An
        Informatory Vindication, 1687).
        Those who remained among the Society People after the fall of James
        II gave in a redress of grievances to General Assembly 1689 calling
        upon their public repentance from their dealings under Charles II and
        James II and to return to their former footing before these
        lamentable circumstances had broken the church, upon which grounds
        they would heal the breach in the church. The paper was rejected by
        the Assembly, though Linning, and Boyd drafted another paper
        promising submission to General Assembly without the Assembly's
        repentance, this paper never gained full support of the Societies
        (though their other Scottish preacher, Mr. Shields, did eventually
        accept the proposal), because General Assembly neither had repented,
        gave in promise to reform the abuses, nor gave any indication that
        such grievances would be allowed to be presented for redress at a
        later date (in fact people who attempted to do so later on were at
        various times censured, discharged from their pastorates, and at
        least in one instance, imprisoned). The actual Revolution Settlement
        itself thereafter gave further cause to harden the division as the
        RPs saw figerprints of Erastianism on the settlement of the church in
        Scotland at that time, and various controversies entering in upon the
        church thereafter only furthered the division.
        It is needful to distinguish between things entering a church and
        things entering that were previously reformed out of, and lastly,
        those that enter, though previously reformed, and maintained at a
        constitutional level. There were problems with several of the
        churches in Asia Minor addressed in John's Apocalypse. So too,
        problems in Corinth - both in terms of scandal, disorder, schism, and
        the inroads of heresy. Now it is one thing to argue that the apostles
        would not have them forsake the assembling togther of themselves in
        these churches despite some errors not yet reformed out of that crept
        into the church. Now let us assume that after they received these
        letters, they reform out of the abuses, but they are brought back
        again. Well, thus far, there may be more need for dealing with a
        church court. Now let us put the same case where they have put
        together a creed and a law whereby it is declared that women may not
        be preachers - but then there is a rise of the belief in the church
        again. Well, there may still be resort to judicatories with respect
        to dealing with the existence of these private sentiments continuing
        among church members. Now let's say the church starts publically and
        obstinately teaching these errors, in spite of their constitution.
        The case is a bit different, and a separation from that local body
        may be warranted while members attempt to appeal to church courts.
        Now what if the church then went on in response to such judicatory
        and declined the authority of the synod, and changed the constitution
        of the church to defend their heresy, whether or not they yet
        actually put women in preaching roles?
        When there are alterations made to the constitution of the
        church, "reforming" correct mattewr to that which is incorrect, when
        there is no recourse to the courts to address the wrong, or appeals
        have been made and rejected already, when the church is already
        constitutionally split into two parties and one wishes to switch
        from the new party those upholding the old side of things, there is a
        regarded a different case:
        "When the public profession and administrations of a church have been
        settled conformably to the laws of Christ, and sanctioned by the most
        solemn engagements, if the majority shall set these aside, and erect
        a new constitution sinfully defective, and involving a material
        renunciation of the former, the minority refusing to accede to this,
        adhering to their engagements, and continuing to maintain communion
        on the original terms, cannot justly be charged with schism" (Thomas
        M'Crie, Unity of the Church, 1821).
      • thebishopsdoom
        (cont.) There are some grounds for a more immediate removal from either a congregation or the communion of a whole ecclesiastical body, without attempting
        Message 3 of 11 , May 2, 2003

          There are some grounds for a more immediate removal from either a
          congregation or the communion of a whole ecclesiastical body, without
          attempting first to seek redress from church judicatories (in
          addition to what has been noted above by McCrie, etc.), as in (this
          list pretends not to be exhaustive, only examples that I think would
          tend in that direction):
          when a church professes more, less, or different persons of the
          Godhead or such like Trinitarian / Christological errors.
          When a church introduces rites and ceremonies and requires that they
          be interpreted as acts of worship. Note Clarkson mentioned that
          vestments were borne with during a time of reform, and Bullinger's
          advice to Hopoper not to forsake the church for caps and gowns is
          famous. Yet, as Bullinger expressed his grave misgivings (somewhere -
          I forget the reference, but it was in a letter addressed to some
          British divines) that some in the church were beginning to press that
          the vestments be not only worn, but understood as worn as an act of
          worship. If it be required upon the conscience of the believer that
          it be an act of worship, there may be cause for immediate separation,
          though perhaps only from the assembly while attempting yet to press
          the matter thru the courts of the church. There have been times in
          the beginnings of such things (as in Holland in the 1800s) when there
          may be cause for nonparticipation with certain acts (during the
          controversy in question, it was not uncommon for a segment of the
          church to march out of the service during the offending part, and
          walk back in when it was over - ouch!). However, if one stays, it
          would seem to me that they are duty bound to seek that the matter be
          addressed by the courts of the church and not simply atempt to
          preserve the status quo or introduce their own ideas on a private
          level to be dispersed thru a congregation person by person without
          being brought up before the officers and courts of the church.
          When a church outlaws the gospel.
          When a local assembly brings in a heresy contrary to the gospel, but
          one that has never yet been considered thru the church, it may be
          needful to separate from that local assembly while addressing
          concerns to the judicatories, in order to flee with your children
          from being taught a false gospel.
          When a church has communion with that man of sin after he has been
          revealed, the reformers were clear they needed to separate. The
          Lutherans also made clear that they would hold no joint counsel with
          the other churches if the papacy was regarded as having any authority
          in or over the council.
          There may be other reasons as well.
          Last post on this.
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