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  • thebishopsdoom
    It is true that some of the modern debates on the issue of Reformed Presbyterians have gotten quite polemical, not just in favour of, but also against the
    Message 1 of 16 , Apr 6, 2004
      It is true that some of the modern debates on the issue of Reformed
      Presbyterians have gotten quite polemical, not just in favour of, but
      also against the views of the Reformed Presbyterians.
      Perhaps it's time to take a closer look at David Steele, since so
      much of the modern controversy seems to revolve around appeals to
      him. It seems much ado has been made about Steele for a whole lot of
      nasty things.
      Despite popular opinion, Steele was not absolutely loathed by the
      RPCNA in his day as a minister among them. J.R. Willson had
      handpicked him for a professorship at RPTS (while the controversy
      with Synod was ongoing in which Steele had taken a part), and had
      promised Steele that he already had the votes to get him in as co-
      professor. Steele declined, because he felt he was not adequately
      prepared for a professorship at that time. (This is incidentally
      notably absent from the book on RPTS history, Spare No Exertions.) He
      was during that time also called to be minister in one of the
      congregations in the Pittsburgh area, though he had declined the call
      at that time. Yes, Steele for his leaving synod did accrue some
      strong opponents in the RPCNA. But the view some of them had of him
      was not universal.
      Despite some polemical language used of a few ministers who he
      believed weree engineering what became the New Light split, and a few
      others afterwards who he believed were attempting to bring the Old
      Lights down the same road - talk of former brethren, false brethren,
      and the like, David Steele did not as a rule speak of people in that
      way, either within nor without the RPCNA. Even "false brethren"
      didn't mean "false Christian" (as some appear to have assumed) but
      rather the falsity was with claiming to be fellow covenanters when
      the persons in question were attacking the views expressed in the
      standrads themselves. In particular, it might be noted that Steele
      late in life mentioned that he never ceased all the while to regard
      Willson Sr as a godly man upon whom he had no known quarrels (in
      spite of the fact that Willson did not feel compelled to leave when
      Steele, Lusk, and several ruling elders determined just cause to
      dissent from synod). In some of the issues of the magazines edited by
      Steele, it mentions some of his travels, both preaching and
      vacations. In there you find that Steele was granted by various RPCNA
      ministers the allowance to use their buildings to preach a sermon
      while in the area. The UPC allowed members to attend Mr. Steele's
      preaching. Steele preached to vacant congregations of the RPCS and
      RPCI in Ireland and Scotland by request of the people, and in one
      case was asked to consider a call to be their pastor. In this, he
      declined, stating that he would have to join with the RPCI to do so,
      and he could not in good conscience join them in the present
      constitutional state that they were in. No talk of "you wicked
      covenant breaking apostates," no talk of "come with me and flee
      babylon" or anything like that. He did not encourage people to leave
      their churches if unconvinced with the covenanter side of the church
      splits, though he encouraged people to consider the issues, and
      inform themselves of why the churches had so broken up. If they were
      convinced, and wished to transfer themselves under care of their
      presbytery (or later, general meeting), they were free to do so. If
      they did not fully understand the issues, but did enough to desire to
      transfer over to the reformed presbytery with a willingness to be
      instructed, he would not turn them back, though they were not made
      communicants without attaining some knowledge of the reason for the
      church's existence as a separate branch of the presbyterian church.
      It seems from my knowledge of him that if any were to ask about what
      problem Steele had with their church, he would certainly oblige to
      explain as best he could the causes of splits in the church and why
      they existed as a distinct church and did not agree to the routes
      taken in the other splits, believing them to have introduced error
      into the churches and broken off from the root. Undoubtedly if they
      did not agree or were unsure, he would have encouraged the inquisitor
      to continue considering these things as they progressed in their
      understanding of the faith. This is at least the picture of David
      Steele that I have gotten from the materials I have read with
      firsthand accounts. It also agrees with the fact that the Associate
      Presbyterian magazine actually published one of his articles that
      addressed an in-house issue going on at the time among the Associate
      Presbyterians, giving his take on the controversy. I don't see they
      would have done that if he was supposedly so universally viewed as a
      theological or ecclesiastical monster.
      In one of the articles concerning Steele's travels, in one of the
      covenanter magazines, he mentions a man coming up to him after
      sermon. Steele recognized him as a former congressman who was an old
      neighbor of his. He mentions the person as having been a member of
      the Methodist church, and also states (Steele was authoring the
      article) about the man being a friend of his and old neighbor whom he
      hadn't seen in a long time. Steele gladly obliged his friend's
      request to lodge at his home for some time. This at the least shows
      that Steele was able to do what most people can do, hold friendships
      with those he disagrees with. Something I think some people in the
      way they paint Steele can not conceive of.
      David Steele also took to task elder J.J. Peoples of the reformed
      Presbytery for vitriolic language in expressing his views on
      political dissent.

      I will conclude by merely quoting a bio of Steele from a secular book:

      The REVEREND DAVID STEELE was ordained and installed as the third
      pastor of the Brush Creek Presbyterian Community Church of Adams
      County, Ohio on June 24, 1831. Brush Creek is an historic
      congregation due to church disputes over dogma.
      Dr. Steele was among the early settlers of Adams County, Ohio.
      Several members of his family followed him west from Pennsylvania. He
      was born in Londonderry, Ireland, November 2, 1803 of scotch-Irish
      ancestry. He was the the youngest of six brothers, whose father,
      David Steele, was the fourth generation from Captain John Steele of
      Lismahago, near Glascow, Scotland who fought on the side of the
      Covenanters in the battle of Drumclog, June 22, 1679. He was trained
      up according to the strict order of observance in Covenanting
      families. When he was about 20 years old he emigrated to the United
      States, arriving in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, June 7, 1824, where
      he stayed with an uncle and pursued his classical studies. Later on
      he taught in Edinburg Academy in Pennsylvania.
      In 1826 he was graduated from Western University of Pennsylvania and
      after studying theology with the late Dr. John Black of Pittsburg,
      Pennsylvania, he was licensed to preach the Gospel in April 1830. The
      following year he married Miss Eliza Johnson of Chillicothe, Ohio and
      one month afterward was ordained and installed as pastor of the
      Reformed Congregation of Brush Creek by the Ohio Presbytery at a
      salary of $400 a year.
      Brush Creek was then a wilderness and he and his wife found
      everything primitive and uncongenial to educated and refined living.
      Thousands of miles he travelled on horse-back yearly, having often to
      ford rivers when he had to get up on his knees in the saddle to keep
      from being saturated with water as there were few bridges in those
      days. For 29 years he labored in this congregation upon a salary
      hardly sufficient to procure the necessities of life. He also took
      care of several other community churches - one being Mill Creek,
      Although a little below medium in stature, he possessed an excellent
      constitution which enabled him to bare up under difficulties which
      would have been too great for others.
      As a scholar Dr. Steele was far above most of his compeers,
      particularly in the ancient classics as he could read the most
      difficult Latin and Greek at sight. His "Notes on the Apocalypse"
      show he was a master of Bible truth. He trained quite a number of
      young men for the Gospel ministry; and his home was the resort of all
      educated people who came to the neighborhood, and hospitality was a
      marked feature of his house.
      It is but proper to state that his wife cooperated heartily with him
      in all his plans for the elevation and culture of all who dwelt in
      the vicinity of Brush Creek. Brush Creek owes much to him as a leader
      in morality and culture.
      As an orator the Reverend David Steele was concise, clear and
      frequently eloquent and impassioned and his discrimination in the use
      of words showed his mastery of the English language. He received the
      Doctor of Divinity degree from his Alma Mater a few years before his
      After leaving Ohio he spent several years near Sparta, Illinois,
      retiring to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where he died in the 54th
      year of his ministry at the age of eighty-four. His remains lie in
      the Petersburg Cemetery in Huntington, Pennsylvania.
      -Taken from A History of Adams County, Ohio by Evans and Stivers

    • s.padbury@tiscali.co.uk
      I accept your hand of genuine Christian Fellowship. Thankyou Colin, but I guess I either forgt about that part, or else I didn t think it was worth anything
      Message 2 of 16 , Apr 8, 2004
        "I accept your hand of genuine Christian Fellowship."

        Thankyou Colin, but I guess I either forgt about that part, or else I didn't
        think it was worth anything since you refuse to retract your repeated references
        to me as wicked and ungodly and slanderous.

        You say we might not be so far apart as I might think. That may be true
        in some of the outcomes, but we arrive at them by distinctly different routes.
        But at least you're backing off from suggesting that I am somewhat an antinomian
        or a dispensationalist now.

        As for raking through past posts and engading you in these matters again,
        I can't be bothered, sorry. I've had enough of debating with (some!) Theonomists,
        because of their abusive language.

        But I do admit that you are not as bad as some in that respect, and I appreciate


        Broadband from an unbeatable £15.99!

      • gmw
        ... There is nothing new under the sun. It is sinful man s nature to say sinful things towards those with whom we disagree. Thanks for this informative post.
        Message 3 of 16 , Apr 9, 2004
          --- In covenantedreformationclub@yahoogroups.com, thebishopsdoom
          <no_reply@y...> wrote:

          > It is true that some of the modern debates on the issue of Reformed
          > Presbyterians have gotten quite polemical, not just in favour of,
          > but also against the views of the Reformed Presbyterians.

          There is nothing new under the sun. It is sinful man's nature to say
          sinful things towards those with whom we disagree. Thanks for this
          informative post.

          I'm not sure if this has anything to do with the present topic or
          not, but the following are objections and answers taken from A Short
          Vindication of Our Covenanted Reformation, published by a commitee of
          the Reformed Presbytery, Philadelphia, 1879 (the objections sound
          familiar, and the answers are refreshing):

          1. "You think nobody right but yourselves." Just so; that is, in the
          points wherein others differ from us; otherwise we will only proclaim
          our own hypocrisy. We believe, and therefore speak.

          2. "You think nobody will be saved but such as adopt your peculiar
          principles." This is an old objection. It was "cast in the teeth" of
          one of our martyred ministers, Mr. Donald Cargil, as he was "led as a
          lamb to the slaughter." He meekly answered, "No." "Well, and what
          more would you want than to be saved?" "I want a great deal more,"
          was his simple reply, "I want Christ glorified on earth." He
          understood the first question of the Shorter Catechism, of which too
          many are ignorant to-day. "Man's chief end is neither his salvation
          nor destruction." Rev. 4:11.

          3. "Your principles are impracticable." If they are scriptural the
          objection is true in one sense, but false in another. Our Saviour
          told his real disciples—"Without me (separated from me) ye can do
          nothing." Jno. 15:5. This was Paul's experience (Rom. 7:18), and he
          tells us that this is part of all believers' experience. Gal. 5:17.
          On the other hand, if our distinctive principles are scriptural, as
          we believe them to be, they are certainly practicable to a true
          believer; for of such no impossibilities are required. 2 Cor. 12:9;
          Phil. 4:13.

          4. "You meddle with political matters;—preach the gospel and let
          civil government alone." We often meet this objection under the form
          of friendly advice; and we believe none is of deeper significance or
          more pregnant with consequences. (a) It confounds politics and civil
          government. (b) It separates between the gospel and civil government.
          (c) It excludes the Bible and its Author from the commonwealth. (d)
          It conducts us to infidelity and issues in blank atheism. But this
          objection involving, as it does, so much both of principle and
          practice, demands more consideration and a particular and
          intelligible answer. It is not true that we meddle with politics; for
          a Covenanter can affiliate with no existing political party because
          no party will consent to be governed by the Bible. The gospel, as we
          understand it, covers the whole of the Scriptures. Gen. 18:18, Gal.
          3:8, Heb. 4:2. It is "another gospel" which excludes any part of the
          Bible. That we may be more fully understood, we assert that the Holy
          Scriptures are the only infallible rule to direct mankind in
          individual and social life: that all the lawful relations of this
          life are instituted, defined and limited in the Bible. We find in the
          Sacred Oracles that God has organized society in three, and only
          three departments, both for its conservation and reformation. These
          are the family, the church, and the state, the two latter being
          auxiliaries of the first—the church and civil commonwealth to be
          helpful to the family. The plain lesson of history and experience is,
          that insubordination in the family generates contumacy in the church,
          and issues in insurrection and rebellion in the state. If there be
          no "church in the house," there will be no godliness in the church,
          nor honesty without godliness in the state. To effect a real
          reformation then, these three divine ordinances are the proper
          instrumentalities to be employed—and no other. These have the promise
          of their Author to render them effectual. Prov. 22:6; 1 Tim. 4:16;
          Josh. 1:8. Of course, we cannot co-operate in the voluntary and
          irresponsible confederacies of our time, having but one condition of
          fellowship, and demanding a pledge of fidelity. To ask or give such
          pledge involves an insult offered to our Master, to whom alone our
          pledge has been previously given, that we will be governed by that
          law in His hand, which commands every duty and forbids every sin in
          all our relations. According to our interpretation of the gospel,
          therefore, we must have scriptural and definite views of the divine
          ordinance of civil government, while we do not "meddle with politics"—
          earth's party politics, which disregard the Lord, His Anointed and
          His word.

          5. "You will admit none to your communion but those who adopt your
          peculiar principles: and does it not follow that you account none to
          be Christians but yourselves? All others, by your close communion,
          you would shut out of heaven." We have given this objection in
          greater fulness than the preceding ones, because of the frequency and
          plausibility of its utterance by the generality of professors. Well,
          we readily admit the truth of the first part of the objection: but in
          the practice of restricted fellowship we are not peculiar, and we
          think consistency, common sense and honesty, justify this part of
          Christian practice. Nor does this practise involve a denial of the
          Christianity or meetness for heaven of any others. This part of the
          objection denies, or at least confounds the necessary distinction
          between the visible and invisible state of the church—an error which
          is logically followed by many others. Consistently with our
          distinctive principles and practice, which alone exemplify true
          charity, as we sincerely believe, we doubt not many are now in heaven
          and also on earth, partakers of the "common salvation," who never
          heard of Covenanters. And, moreover, Covenanters have always, in
          private intercourse, been ready to embrace in their heart's
          affections, all who in their judgment love God in Christ. This they
          do on the principle that "every one that loveth Him that begat loveth
          Him also that is begotten of Him." 1 Jno 5:1. But this private and
          occasional intercourse the Scriptures distinguish from public,
          ecclesiastical fellowship; and Covenanters endeavor to act according
          to that supreme rule. They cannot, therefore, at the same time,
          consistently testify against the errors and sins of parties, and
          appear under an official or judicial banner as one with them. "If any
          man see thee which hast knowledge sit at meat in the idol's temple,
          shall not the conscience of him which is weak be emboldened to eat
          those things which are offered to idols?" 1 Cor. 8:10.—Not that we
          charge all others with idolatry: but there is a rule in Logic which
          the learned acknowledge to be correct, Majus et minus non variant
          speciem,—"greater or less does not vary the nature of a thing." And
          we are enjoined to "mark them which cause divisions and offences
          contrary to the doctrine which you have learned; and avoid them, Rom.
          16:17: as also to "withdraw ourselves from every brother that walketh
          disorderly"—yes, though a brother. 2 Thes. 3:6; 1 Tim. 3:5. No, no,
          we are not uncharitable. While hating Pharisaic exclusiveness, we no
          less dislike the spurious charity that "suffers sin upon a brother"
          without rebuke. Lev. 19:17; Tit. 1:13.

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