Reasoning with Plain Reasons.
By Richard Bacon
Copyright 1997 © First Presbyterian Church of Rowlett

A Review of Andrew Clarkson, Plain Reasons for Presbyterians Dissenting from the Revolution Church of Scotland [Still Waters Revival Books, photocopy reprint] by Richard Bacon. See Additional material critical of the modern "Steelite" error in Answering the Steelites.

Upon the restoration of Charles II to the throne of England in 1660, a period of persecution against the Scots continued until the glorious revolution of 1688-90. The settlement which took place at that time under William and Mary established a jus humanum (as opposed to jus divinum) Presbyterianism in Scotland and an unbiblical prelacy in England and Ireland. Such a settlement was clearly in violation of the terms of the Solemn League and Covenant which both countries (England and Scotland) had signed in 1643.

Because the revolution settlement was a compromise with the beast, many dissenting Scots stayed outside the Revolution Church. The principles and reasons for their continued dissent (it would be unfair to characterize it as schism, since they were simply remaining true to covenants which the settlement was breaking. If "schism" is an appropriate epithet, then it was the settlement church that was schismatic) are set forth in this book by Andrew Clarkson.

In 1731 Andrew Clarkson wrote Plain Reasons for Presbyterians Dissenting from the Revolution Church of Scotland. Those spiritual descendants (and physical descendants for the most part) have, until recent years, been found in this country and Canada in the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America (RPCNA). However, starting in 1871 -- some would even argue earlier -- the RPCNA began backpedaling its own testimony. The RPCNA today bears little resemblance to the dissenters being defended by Clarkson.

However, a church in Edmonton, AB Canada (the Edmonton Puritan Reformed Church) has recently adopted the old testimonies of the Reformed Presbytery, i.e. the dissenters, and has constitutionally sworn to uphold the National Covenant, the Solemn League and Covenant, and the Auchensaugh Renovation of 1712. The session of the Edmonton PRC believed itself obligated to do this without and before seeking the advice of its own presbytery in the Reformation Presbyterian Church (RPC). In fact, they believed their previous association with the RPC to be so tainted and the difficulties within that communion to be so fraught with irremediable sin that they withdrew before prosecuting any overtures before the presbytery. They did submit an overture, but it came at the same time as their letter of dissociation, so it is difficult to say that they made use of more modest means before proceeding to separation.

Since I am an officer in the RPC and a frequent contributor to the Blue Banner, Still Waters Revival Books (publisher of a reprint of Clarkson's work) sent me a copy of Plain Reasons for review. The following review considers each of Clarkson's "plain reasons" seriatim as to whether they clearly justify the separation of the Edmonton PRC from the Reformation Presbyterian Church on the same grounds as the dissenters remained separate from the revolution settlement church.

Reason One: The Revolution Church was made up of office-bearers who had left the covenanted principles of the Kirk of Scotland. But the RPC has never owned those principles apart from the moral and perpetual obligations found in the documents produced by the Westminster Assembly.

Reason Two: The Revolution Church changed her constitution and adopted Presbyterianism on grounds other than a command of the divine King of the church. But the RPC has never accepted Presbyterianism in any other form than jus divinum.

Reason Three: The Revolution Church was apparently a de facto Erastian establishment. But the RPC is not so constituted.

Reason Four: The Revolution Church, it was claimed, complies with prelacy in principle and practice. But it is denied that such is the case in the RPC.

Reason Five: The Revolution Church was accused of a tyrannical spirit. But the RPC cannot justly be so accused.

Reason Six: The Revolution Church joined and approved the incorporating Union with the Prelatical constitution of England. But the RPC has not done such a thing.

Reason Seven: The Revolution Church approved toleration principles. The RPC has never done so, nor would it.

Reason Eight: The Revolution Church took oaths to a government publicly opposed to the National Covenant and Solemn League and Covenant. The RPC has pledged allegiance to no civil government.

Reason Nine: The Revolution Church does not make the covenants the rule of faith and practice. Here, the RPC is guilty. The RPC does not deny the ordinance of public covenanting, but neither does the RPC regard the SL&C or National Covenant to be binding upon the conscience. God alone is Lord of the conscience; but the fact is that the RPC does adhere to the documents that were produced by the Assembly which came about as a result of the SL&C.

Reason Ten: The Revolution Church was full of those who were unsound in doctrine and yet escaped discipline. No such charge has been brought against the RPC, though we have been charged with too strict a discipline by many.

Reason Eleven: The Revolution Church was guilty of men-pleasing in public worship. The only worship presently authorized in the RPC is the Westminster Directory for the Publick Worship of God.

Reason Twelve: The Revolution Church was negligent and partial in her discipline. This charge has not been made to or about the RPC or any of its particular kirks.

Reason Thirteen: The Revolution Church was restricted, unfaithful, and defective in government. But the RPC has constituted itself based upon the Westminster Presbyterial Form of Church Government.

Reason Fourteen: The Revolution Church was unsound and sinful in its terms of communion. But the RPC has not subscribed to the Acts of 1694 or 1711 which Clarkson claimed made the Revolution Church's terms of communion sinful.

Reason Fifteen: The Revolution Church was obstinate in her defection, and refused to be reclaimed. But the Edmonton PRC dissociated without ever calling the RPC to repentance in any particulars that would have to be proven to be shown to be defections from the transactions of the Westminster Assembly.